Nebra Sky Disc: A Most Mysterious Metal Detecting Find ~ by John Davis
When we reflect on cloud bedecked, ancient German forests we picture primitive men gathered well beyond the influence of Roman Civilization. Indeed, we speculate on the barbarians’ mystical beliefs, punctuated by mighty gods, tricky gnomes, and beauteous, blonde, heroic maidens. Of course, in Ziegelroda Forest, near the village of Nebra in Saxony-Anhalt, about 45 miles from Leipzig, Germany, metal detectors made a discovery which changed forever this stereotypical view.
In 1999, while illegally searching through tumuli, those ancient mounds of stone and earth, two searchers came upon a small, but wonderful cache of two swords, tools, ornaments, and most astounding of all, a disc of intriguing design.
Its bronze patina gave it a general greenish, in fact sea blueish green tint. Spread across its 12 inch width were golden dots, an orb, and half moons. One segment seems to indicate the seven stars of the Pleiades, the Modern Seven Sisters, which are visible to the naked eye. Sadly, the looters damaged the find, but managed to sell off the hoard which traveled through various hands until its discovery by officials in 2002.
At last in the hands of proper archaeologists, the wonder began to unfold. The Nebra Sky Disc, for so it came to be called, was in fact an observation device for the cosmos. Whereas the gold inlaid dots represented stars, the various arcs were believed to represent the moon’s phases. When at last the looters showed the court where they found the items, the orientation of the discovery’s mound aimed toward the tallest of the Harz Mountains. Metallurgists identified the origin of the component parts, discovering only later that some of the gold came from as far away as Cornwall in modern England, and another segment came from the Carpathian Mountains.
This diversity indicated that additions were made as the heavens were more comprehensively understood over the years. Oh, and the dating on this disc is believed to be from 1600 BC based on the study of the early Bronze Age other items found with it. While some scientists challenged this find as a forgery, for it brought almost a million Marks in illicit trading, the consensus now is that it is, indeed, genuine. Changes a lot of what we think of those old Germanic tribesmen, now doesn’t it?
I chanced to see this wonder of astronomy in Halle, in Germany. Although the surrounding villages are quaint beyond imagination, set like tiny gems amidst green and lush valleys, I can still imagine those ancients’ spirits, watching from within the still well preserved forests. They smile when they know we now realize that they’d created a sort of mobile Stonehenge to better understand their world.
By MW Team Writer: John Davis
John William Davis is a retired US Army counterintelligence officer and linguist. As a linguist, Mr. Davis learned five languages, the better to serve in his counterintelligence jobs during some 14 years overseas. He served in West Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands during the Cold War. There he was active in investigations directed against the Communist espionage services of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. His mission was also to investigate terrorists such as the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Combatant Communist Cells (in Belgium) among a host of others.
His work during the Cold War and the bitter aftermath led him to write Rainy Street Stories, ‘Reflections on Secret Wars, Terrorism, and Espionage’. He wanted to talk about not only the events themselves, but also the moral and human aspects of the secret world as well.
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