| 1 July 2007
Questioning the claims about the Nebra Star Disk
Archaeologists have revived the debate over whether a spectacular Bronze Age disc from Germany is one of the earliest known calendars. The Nebra disc is emblazoned with symbols of the Sun, Moon and stars and said by some to be 3,600 years old. Writing in the journal Antiquity, a team casts doubt on the idea the disc was used by ancient astronomers as a precision tool for observing the sky. They instead argue that the disc was used for shamanistic rituals. But other archaeologists point to features which, they say, helped Bronze Age people to track four key dates during the year.
While many scholars support the Nebra Disk status as an object from the Bronze Age, it is claimed to be a fake by others, notably the German researcher Peter Schauer from the University of Regensburg. "German archaeologists don't say clearly that this is a fake. They hide, thinking that the thunderstorm will blow over," Dr Schauer said.
In the latest study of the artefact, Emilia Pasztor of the Matrica Museum in Hungary and Curt Roslund of Gothenburg University in Sweden, examined the possibility that the 32cm-wide disc could have been used as a precise calendrical device. Two golden arcs on the outside of the disc may show how far the sunrise and sunset move along the horizon between winter and summer solstices. "I do not think it was used as an instrument used for observing objects in the sky," Curt Roslund, an astronomer at Gothenburg said. "I can't find any evidence for this," he added.
Roslund and Pasztor argue that few features on the disc tend towards exact representation and that it is more likely to have been of symbolic value - perhaps used in shamanic rituals. "We have searched about a dozen different types of evidence for indications of a fake. In the absence of any positive results, the probability that the disc is authentic is multiplied each time," said Dr Pernicka.
Source: BBC News (25 June 2007)
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