During excavation work in Frankleben (urban district of Braunsbedra, Saalekreis) in 1946, 200 sickles and 16 axes were discovered. In terms of weight, the finds are one of the most immense bronze hoards in central Europe.
The deposition of large quantities of sickles is a special feature of the archaeological landscape in the middle Saale region. In the same region, enormous axe hoards were deposited 800 years earlier. This tradition appears to have outlasted a thirty generation period devoid of such finds. The sickle finds can be understood as collectively offered solicitations or thank-offerings. Each single sickle may be a person’s or group’s contribution to the great sacrificial feast. Many of the bronzes are unused and have never been used for harvest before. The sickle as a harvesting tool connects the course of the farming year with the shape of the waning or waxing moon. As an offering it unites the fertility of the Earth with the recurring course of the stars in the night sky.
Many sickles bear linear markings. The scope and order of these marks follow a fixed pattern. This sign language can be interpreted as a preliminary form of writing system. Two types of symbols can be distinguished: Linear cast marks below the knob, and character-shaped marks in the angle or at the base of the sickle body. The archaeologist Christoph Sommerfeld examined the set of rules and realised that the cast marks are composed of one to nine ribs. After four individually counted lines on the left, they are bundled as fives on the right. This creates a counting system that extends to 29. The synodic lunar orbit lasts 29 days or nights. This number and the moon shape of the sickle suggest that the groups of lines should be interpreted as the leaves of a calendar, as a point in time in the monthly cycle. The sickle marks are the oldest known system of symbols in central Europe.
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