Another lunar landing controversy. In 2020 a new claim was made doubting the Sky Disk narrative.
To be clear, the Sky Disk is thought by mainstream archaeologists to have been created within the context of the Unetice Culture (and very locally within Central Germany). It has enough odd features to keep people talking, so let's dive right in.
But first, a pre-2019 everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know about the Nebra Sky Disk from Archaeosoup, including the original pre-2020 doubters...
With that background, let's fast forward to 2020.
Rupurt Gebhard and Rudiger Krauss published this paper "Nebra Sky Disk is 1,000 years younger than previously assumed" and Here's an article from The Slimes regarding the controversy..."A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos" The New York Times"
The two German scientists try to make the case that the Sky Disk is an archaeological oddball only because it doesn't belong to the Bronze Age Nebra hoard site. They argue that the disk becomes less of a weirdo when rightfully placed in the Celtic Iron Age of the local area.
And of course, Nebra supporters Harald Meller and Ernst Pernicka's fire back... "Why the Nebra Sky Disk Dates to the Early Bronze Age. An Overview of the Interdisciplinary Results" Meller and Pernicka review the preponderance of evidence exhaustively; how the disk was found, the significance of the site, why it is unlikely to be an Iron Age object based on current interpretations. They reply point by point, which I find very reasonable. But the doubters have gained traction, and so the discussion has become very heated.
One argument Gebhard and Krauss make is that the isotopic character of the disk differs from the other metallic Nebra hoard objects, and this being unusal for Bronze Age hoards, is a red flag for dating. They also focus on the looter testimony regarding the supposed orientation of the disk as it was struck with the looter pick axe. Gebhard and Krauss think that the puncture damage is not consistent with the testimony about how it was supposedly oriented when hit.
In their view a simple explanation awaits - the looters are lying about which looter dig site the disk came from, had financial incentive to do so, and by-the-way, are lying theives. The authors even go so far to suggest that the state's archaeologist was played and placated by two sly floxes that told him what he wanted to hear in exchange for liniency. This is probably the most direct slight, as they insinuate Meller's idea of a sophisticate Unetice principality in this area is nothing more than a boyish fantasy. Not just that Meller's interpretation of the area's Bronze Age is inflated, but that his pet theory obscured his understanding of the facts.
Countering this, Meller and Pernicka point out that the Sky disk had a developmental history where things were added, moved and removed. The sequence suggests the disk was remanufactured and repurposed several times. As you see below, in one particular modification the disk was perforated around the edge and through the lower arc, which was added after moving one of the gold stars in its way. The development of the disk wasn't within a single manufacturing phase, but it was put to use and later refashioned numerous times with isotopically different metals in a drawn out period of time, perhaps generations. The fact that it does not match the metal artifacts of the Nebra hoard is inconsequential because its isotopic profile would not have matched anything, in any context, of any period.
Meller and Pernicka continue with the exhaustive testimony, reinactment, and all the scientific analysis of the site. It's technical, so you can read that for yourself. Let's return to the Unetice Culture's abilities in a moment.
Whatever its original purpose, by the time it was buried it may have decorated an ornamental shield. (Fantastic paper Pasztor and Rozlund, 2007) It was plaustibly a religious standard or sacral ornament and eventually passed down and repurposed as a boss on a heroic shield. And if you have trouble with that, read an excerpt from Pasztor and Rozlunds paper quoting Homer's description of Achilles's celestial shield, song XVIII, lines 478-479 of the Iliad.
First fashioned he a shield, great and sturdy, adorning it cunningly in every part, and round about it set a bright rim, threefold and glittering, and therefrom made fast a silver baldric. Five were the layers of the shild itself; and on it he wrought many curious devices with cunning skill. Therein he wrought the earth, therein the heavens, therein the sea, and the unwearied sun, and the moon at the full, and therein all the constellations wherewith heaven is crowned - the Pleiades, and the Hyades and the mighty Orion, and the Bear, that men call also the Wain, that circleth ever in her place, and watcheth Orion, and alone hath no part in the baths of Ocean.Given some similarities between Achille's shield and the Nebra Sky disk (likely part of a shield), let's transition to interpretation of the disk...
On the left, Ursa Major (great bear) faces the direction of Orion (not shown), at his feet Eridanus. Lupus (the wolf) hangs over Pleiades and over all else, not insignificant for imagery involving death and the solstices. Ursa Major does not descent below "the water", or a water line on the boat.
Pleiades, which is often subject to lunar and inner-planetary occulations, sandwiches Mercury, Venus and Mars, opposite the Moon because of its distance to the ecliptic. It was at heliacal rising in ancient times peaking around Halloween.
We have two firmaments with a solar boat transitioning from the right side to the left side, towards the Sun. I assume the bronze patina would have originally been dark, highlighting the gold and giving the impression of a night sky.
So is the imagery of a solar boat transitioning across the sky consistent with Iron Age Celtic fascinations or something much older? By the Late Bronze Age it seems that solar boats (death ferries, whatever) were being superceded by another celestial vehicle. That's not too different from a general trend Crecganford discusses in the previous post regarding the disappearance of an active solar/death boat in Indo-European religions generally. So although Meller didn't explicitly state this, I think his argument of the Sky Disk being part of an older motif fits the same model.
|Trundhold solar chariot
Meller and Pernicka make another argument regarding the numerical appearance of Pleiades. My understanding is that the number of the stars is subjective, but nevertheless... "Why the Nebra Sky Disk Dates to the Early Bronze Age. An Overview of the Interdisciplinary Results"
In the La Tène period, only six stars of the Pleiades were visible, as the Greek astronomer Aratos of Soloi (c. 310– 245 BC) testifies in his Phainómena (celestial phenomena):“Close to his (i.e. the constellation Perseus’) left knee, all the Pleiades travel in a swarm. The place, which is not very large, holds them all, and they are only faintly visible. Seven pathways are called those among the people, although only six of them can be seen with eyes. After all, the star was not lost without news from the house of Zeus, after we heard about its creation, rather it is spoken of in exactly the same way.”Again, you may look at all the gold dots and see naked ladies, but it appears that Pleiades lost visibility of its seventh star by the Iron Age, or at least in the popular imagination and lore of Iron Age peoples of Europe.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that the ship in particular, which was added in phase III of the Sky Disc,125 is an element that does not appear in the Iron Age but is a central motif of the Bronze Age.12
And the key word here is "central motif". Like the Trundhold Chariot, and new motif had really begun to occupy the minds of Iron Age people, the idea of solar chariots. Now we can see that it had already taken root in Late Bronze Age Scandinavia. Given the solar crosses of the Beaker period, it's not impossible that it was already developing as a motif at that time in parallel with, or budding from, solar boats.
The holes around the perimeter suggest it was attached to a support of some kind, but at 2kg the disc is perhaps too heavy to be worn. It could, however, have been nailed to a shield or standard made of wood. In song XVIII, lines 478-89 of the Iliad, Homer describes in detail how Hephaestus makes a shield for the great hero Achilles: ‘First fashioned he a shield, great and sturdy, adorning it cunningly in every part, and round about it set a bright rim, threefold and glittering, and therefrom made fast a silver baldric. Five were the layers of the shield itself; and on it he wrought many curious devices with cunning skill. Therein he wrought the earth, therein the heavens, therein the sea, and the unwearied sun, and the moon at the full, and therein all the constellations wherewith heaven is crowned – the Pleiades, and the Hyades and the mighty Orion, and the Bear, that men call also the Wain, that circleth ever in her place, and watcheth Orion, and alone hath no part in the baths of Ocean’.
Here, it is important to point out that Achilles' shield is lamenated with numerous layers of animal skin that support this metallic motif. The Yetholm Shield below is probably an example of how the metal was used as the final layer in a build up, for appearance and weight savings, but importantly for effectiveness (composite skin layers being the most effective at stopping projectiles)
Back to the idea of Unetice Principalities...
Harald Meller has written about the larger society in which the Sky Disk emerges. It is a society that is doing very large things. There is the contemporary Bornhock mega-mound, which might have some similarity to Silbury Hill in Britain. Likely indications for fairly large and organized military units. Principalities. See "Princes, Armies, Sanctuaries: The Emergence of Complex Authority in the Central German Unetice Culture"
Also, I previously blogged about the Dermsdorf barracks. To me, Meller's ideas are total genius, replicatible and make sense anthropolgically.
But I think one of the most important aspects of the Sky Disk that has not been discussed...and why it should date to the Early Bronze Age instead of a later period. It is that the Unetice People of that era were buried like this...
You can see several examples of this in both Bell Beaker and Nordic Bronze Age depictions in the second half of Mary Cahill's paper "Here Comes the Sun"