One Of The Earliest Known Representations Of The Cosmos
Found in Germany a few years ago, a celestial disk made in the Bronze Age represents the sky and some of the celestial bodies.
In 1999 near the German city of Nebra, a most dazzling and valuable treasure of humanity was discovered. It’s the oldest map of the sky thus far known: a bronze disk with gold inlays made some 3,600 years ago. The astronomical relic projects abstract forms evocative of circles and moons —and it reminds us that geometry, even at its simplest, is part of the soul of the universe.
The object, known today as the Nebra sky disk, was found by two treasure hunters in the forest of Ziegelroda, in Germany’s north-east. The discovery circulated on the black market and when an attempt was made to sell it to a German museum, the precious disk along with weapons and tools from the same period were recovered by the police.
The celestial disk is portentous: a bronze slightly concave plate, it’s nearly circular and weighs about two kilos with a diameter of a little more than 30 centimeters. On its surface, one can see circles and figures which obviously represent the heavenly bodies. Upon examination, it was concluded that these represented the sun, a crescent moon, 30 stars and the two arched horizons characteristic of the Neolithic period and oriented to the east and the west, that is, where the sun rises and sets.
The disk wasn’t just an ornamental object but was used to anticipate phases of the moon and the schedule of the year according to the stars. One of the most important archaeological discoveries of the last century, today it’s on display at the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany. But the disk is also a time machine. Like the medieval astrolabe, it’s a guide to navigating the cosmos, speaking in its own mysterious language of that which has fascinated humankind since time immemorial: the universe and its overwhelming secrets.
The relationship between the cosmos and humankind is age-old. The celestial vault has been fundamental to situating ourselves within the physical universe. It’s also a sort of an ontological mirror and one through which, perhaps, we might perceive that most transcendental exercise of all: knowledge of ourselves.
Images: 1) Creative Commons – Anagoria 2) Creative Commons – Dbachmann
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