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Mapping the Past

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The Nebra Sky disc

When the Nebra Sky Disc was buried, it had already been in use for 200 years. While its raw materials were imported from as far away as Cornwall, the knowledge required to create the object was entirely local, drawn from observing the heavens from atop Mittelberg, a mountain near the modern village of Nebra. The bronze disc—the world’s oldest representation of a specific astronomical phenomenon—had five phases over its history. In the first phase, the disc showed the night sky with 32 gold stars, including the Pleiades, a gold orb representing the sun or a full moon, and a crescent moon. It served as a reminder of when it was necessary to synchronize the lunar and solar years by inserting a leap month. This phenomenon occurred when the three-and-a-half-day-old moon—the crescent moon on the disc—was visible at the same time as the Pleiades. “The astronomical rules that are depicted wouldn’t be imaginable without decades of intensive observation,” says Harald Meller, director of the State Museum for Prehistory in Halle. “Until the Sky Disc was discovered, no one thought prehistoric people capable of such precise astronomical knowledge.”

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I fell down the rabbithole again. I love weird xmas ornaments.

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