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The World of the Nebra Sky Disc – New Horizons

Films

In a short film tour, we take you through the state exhibition ›The World of the Nebra Sky Disc – New Horizons‹. We present the staging of the exhibition, introduce the highlights of the central installation, tell the stories of selected exhibits and dive into the Bronze Age – connecting the whole of Europe and the Near East. Come with us on a journey into the world of the Nebra Sky Disc!

You can find more films about the state museum and its exhibitions in our Archaeofilm section!

Staging an exhibition

The start of our tour through the state exhibition is dedicated to the imposing central installation, at the heart of which is not only the Nebra Sky Disc, but four other highlights of the Bronze Age of Europe. But which image does the central installation allude to? What associations immediately come to mind when you see the large, black display cases? And how do you show that knowledge is power?

On the way to the exhibition: the block excavation from Magdeburg-Diesdorf

Whether the staging of an archaeology exhibition is successful or not depends entirely on the quality of the exhibits. A speciality of the State Museum of Prehistory is the presentation of finds in their original situation. For this purpose, they are recovered in a block in the course of the excavations. The block is then excavated in detail in the laboratory. Once everything has been scientifically documented, the block is prepared in the conservation department so that it can be displayed in its entirety in an exhibition. We show you the various intermediate steps here using the example of the extraordinary multiple burial from Magdeburg-Diesdorf from the time between 2200 and 2125 BC. It was uncovered and recovered during preliminary archaeological investigations in 1994 in the area of an open-cast sand and gravel mine. A child and five adults, including a female and probably four males, were placed in this grave. The burial on top has largely been preserved. The bones underneath are scattered, the skeletons cannot be reassembled completely. Either older burial remains were repeatedly cleared to the side or the lower area is an older grave that has been completedly reburied. Grave goods included clay pots as well as a dagger and arrowheads made of flint.

On the way to the exhibition: the depot III from Dieskau

293 axes, three open rings, one closed ring, six arm spirals, two so-called double axes, as well as one halberd and other bronze fragments were concealed in a large vessel. With around 45 kilograms of bronze, this depot is the largest hoard find in Central Germany. It dates from the period between 1975 and 1850 BC and was excavated in 1937 in an open-cast lignite mine. The original find circumstances could therefore not be completely documented. The state exhibition offers the opportunity to present the hoard in a different way than it is usually shown in the permanent exhibition of the state museum. All 306 components are hung and aligned individually, and the lighting is adapted for each object. Thus, with time-consuming diligence, the exhibition showcase is gradually filled.

The Mold cape

Far to the west of Europe, in North Wales, on the coast of the Irish Sea, this magnificent outer garment was found in a woman's grave in 1833. The Cape of Mold was wrought from wafer-thin gold and weighs only a few 100 grams. The showpiece was made between 1900 and 1600 BC. It is actually on display in the British Museum in London. However, it can be admired in Halle until 9 January 2022 as part of the current national exhibition. What was the cape used for? What does it reveal about its manufacturing process and its wearer?

The Caergwrle ship

The ship was discovered in 1823 by a workman digging a drainage ditch in a boggy field near Caergwrle Castle in north Wales. When it was donated to the National Museum Wales in Cardiff in 1912, only half of the slate shell with rich gold ornamentation remained. Nevertheless, the ship model from Caergwrle is a highlight not only of the European Bronze Age. Why is the ship model so important for research? For what purpose might it have been used?

The Nors boats

In 1885, more than 100 miniature ships were found by chance in a clay jar sealed with a stone slab near a burial mound at Nors in Northwest Jutland (Denmark). Their core consists of thin bronze strips wrapped in gold foil. Furthermore, some ships bear stamped concentric circles. Some of the ships, which are on display at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, can be visited until 9 January 2022 at the state museum.

The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt

The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt was discovered by chance in 1835 during fieldwork in what is now Rhineland-Palatinate. Weighing only 350 grams, the cone is richly decorated with a strictly laid out ornamental canon consisting of circles and horizontal decorative bands. Next to the hat, three so-called palstaves were found leaning against it. So far, we know of only four such distinctive golden hats in total - but what makes this one even more unique? What is the significance of the palstaves for the dating of the Golden Hat? What possible purpose did this outstanding loan from the Historical Museum of the Palatinate serve?

The Nebra Hoard

The Nebra Sky Disc is only one component of a so-called hoard. It also includes two swords, two arm spirals, two axes and a chisel. Normally, the Sky Disc is exhibited separately from the other finds in the permanent exhibition. At the moment, the complete hoard can be admired together in a display case in the current state exhibition. What ›problems‹ arise when the Sky Disc is exhibited together with the rest of the hoard finds? Which detail on one of the swords possibly connects the Nebra hoard with the Near East?

Where does the knowledge on the Sky Disc come from?

At first glance, the depictions on the Nebra Sky Disc seem easy to understand. In reality, however, it carries complex information that is encoded on it like a mnemonic. The knowledge hidden in the design of the Sky Disc was probably brought to Central Germany from the Mediterranean region and Mesopotamia. How did this transfer of knowledge possibly take place and what archaeological evidence supports this assumption? What ideas did this bring to Central Germany?

The Leubingen tumulus

The Leubing tumulus was excavated in 1877 by Friedrich Klopfleisch and documented in an exemplary manner for the time. To this day, it is one of the most important graves of the early Bronze Age. Inside the grave mound, a man lying on his back was discovered with rich grave goods. What objects were given to the dead man in the grave? What special features do they have and what do they indicate?

The Dermsdorf house

The early Bronze Age house from Dermsdorf was discovered during road construction work and uncovered by the Thuringian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archaeology. Its site is in direct sight of the Leubing tumulus and it has an impressive size. For what possible purpose was the house built? What was found in the immediate vicinity of the Dermsdorf house?

The armies of the princes

At the beginning of the Bronze Age, only a few men in Central Germany received a weapon as a burial gift. In contrast, the Aunjetitz princes were even buried with several weapons. At the same time, large hoard finds consisting of jewellery objects, rings and especially weapons are known. What social structure does the distribution of weapons in graves and hoards indicate? How did the Aunjetitz culture end?

 

The hoards from Domsen and Oberding

The hoard from Domsen is one of the few Bronze Age hoards that was uncovered during an archaeological excavation and documented under laboratory conditions. A ceramic pot contained remnants of weapons as well as various chains. The pot rested on several eyelet neck rings. These were considered a sought-after trade item and were replaced around 1750 BC by the so-called rip ingots. A particularly rich hoard of rip ingots was discovered in Oberding (Landkreis Erding) in 2014. What was the use of the eponymous eyelet at the end of the neck rings? What is the connection between the hoard from Oberding and the Nebra Sky Disc? What do the weights of the individual rip ingots and their arrangement suggest?

On the way to the exhibition: the hoard from Domsen

The Domsen hoard (2050 to 1900 BC) was recovered in an archaeological excavation in 2012 as it was originally hidden – a rare stroke of luck for archaeology. This makes it easy to understand how the objects were stacked inside the vessel. Most of the hoard finds of the Bronze Age are unfortunately only discovered by chance and survived incompletely. In contrast to the depot III from Dieskau, the vessel could be pre-examined in the laboratory after it was recovered intact, opened and its contents removed in a controlled manner, as the photo documentation shows.

Wessex culture stately graves

The grave of Manton Down in the English county of Wiltshire was excavated in 1906 by Maud Cunnington under the name of her husband Ben. Although the grave contained a miniature halberd and an additional miniature dagger with amber decoration, it is a woman's grave. The censer also found in the grave connects the grave of Manton Down with the man's grave of Glandon Barrow, which was already discovered and excavated in 1882. Both graves can be attributed to the so-called Wessex culture (2000 to 1600 BC). Which golden find connects the men's graves of Glandon Barrow and Bush Barrow? What were the similarities and differences between the Wessex culture and the Aunjetitz culture?

El Argar stately graves

In the late 19th century, the two mining engineers and brothers Siret came across the remains of the so-called El Argar culture (2200 to 1550 BC) in south-eastern Spain. They discovered hundreds of pithos graves at the site of the same name, some with rich grave goods. How was the El Argar culture socially structured? What special grave goods were discovered in five women's graves? What similarities and differences existed compared to the contemporary Aunjetitz culture?

The Mycenae shaft graves

In 1876, Heinrich Schliemann discovered the so-called Grave Circle A in the castle of Mycenae. Exactly 75 years later, Grave Circle B was uncovered. In both necropolises, numerous deceased were buried with magnificent grave goods. These include metal vessels, gold plates or the famous gold masks and amber necklaces. What do the amber necklaces found in the grave circles prove? What connects the shaft tombs of Mycenae with the rich man's grave of Bush Barrow in Wiltshire?

The statue menhirs from Seehausen und Dingelstedt

The word menhir is borrowed from the Breton language and means ›long stone‹. A particular variant are the so-called statue menhirs. These first appeared in the northern Black Sea region and were also erected in Central Europe in the distribution area of the Corded Ware Culture (2800 to 2200 BC). The statue menhirs of Seehausen (Landkreis Börde) and Dingelstedt (Landkreis Harz) are well-known examples from present-day Saxony-Anhalt. What was the purpose of the statue menhirs? What depictions can be found on the representatives of Seehausen and Dingelstedt?

The menhirs of Val Camonica

Located in the Southern Alps, the Val Camonica with its numerous rock art images has been part of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy since 1979. In addition to these petroglyphs, there are also statue menhirs. These have a rich and complex pictorial programme. What different representations can be found on the menhirs of Val Camonica? What changes in social and religious ideas can be seen on the menhirs?

Combat in the Bronze Age

At the beginning of the Bronze Age, only a few men in Central Germany received a weapon as a grave good. The representation as a warrior played an important role in the burial customs for the upper class. The princes are even equipped with a number of weapons. At the same time, large hoard finds are known, which mainly contain axes, rings, but also daggers, halberds, and jewellery. If the axe is interpreted as a weapon, there are enough of them to assume the existence of an army. Axes have a standardised form, have been handed down in large numbers, and usually show some traces of use. The number of axes in the larger hoards suggests a military order system with approximate troop sizes of 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 300 soldiers, each led by officers equipped with certain weapons. Such armed troops under the orders of the princes could have served to secure the land and the trade routes. Using experimental archaeology and inspired by medieval textbooks on the fighting methods of the time, an attempt is made to reconstruct the Bronze Age combat styles with axe, halberd, lance and sword.

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