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"Nebra Sky Disk is 1,000 years younger than previously assumed"

Informations and press material for the article "Critical comments on the find complex of the so-called Nebra Sky Disk" by Prof. Rupert Gebhard & Prof. Rüdiger Krause

The Nebra Sky Disk probably does not originate from the early Bronze Age (circa 2200 – 1600 BC), but from the Iron Age (circa 800 – 50 BC). It is thus no longer the oldest known concrete depiction of the sky. This statement is the view of Prof. Dr. Rupert Gebhard and Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Krause. They have carefully analysed the documents relating to the discovery of the Sky Disk by two looters, included the statements from the two sets of court proceedings against the looters, and scientifically examined all the research results published so far. They now present three powerful lines of argument which they are convinced strongly contradict the previous interpretation of the Sky Disk.

The Sky Disk before conservation works were performed at the State Museum Halle, ca. Jan. 2002. Photo: H. Burri-BayerThe Sky Disk before conservation works were performed at the State Museum Halle, ca. Jan. 2002. Photo: H. Burri-Bayer
Their analyses lead Rupert Gebhard, Director of the Archäologische Staatssammlung München and Professor of Pre- and Protohistory at Munich University (LMU), and Rüdiger Krause, Professor of Pre- and Protohistory at Frankfurt a. M. University, to conclude that the site and circumstances of the discovery of the Sky Disk, which were investigated in 2002 in a subsequent scientific excavation, cannot have been correctly described and depicted in the specialist literature. In particular, the two archaeologists are convinced that the Sky Disk cannot belong together with the other finds which seemed to facilitate the dating of the world-famous object in the first place. Its symbols and its style of depiction mean that the Sky Disk probably originates from the Iron Age, which comes after the Bronze Age, and is 1,000 years younger than previously thought. Gebhard and Krause thus fundamentally call into question the bases of the previous interpretation of the Sky Disk. Their research findings have now been published in the specialist journal "Archäologische Informationen".

The research paper (Open Access):
Gebhard, R. & Krause, R. (2020). Critical comments on the find complex of the so-called Nebra Sky Disk. Archäologische Informationen 43, Early View, published online 3 Sept. 2020. [PDF]

resp. identically in German: Gebhard, R. & Krause, R. (2020). Kritische Anmerkungen zum Fundkomplex der sog. Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. Archäologische Informationen 43, Early View, online publiziert 3. Sept. 2020 [PDF]

Press material:

The full press release of the DGUF with further information and backgrounds, including also on looting and the oldest concrete representations of the night sky [PDF]

Photos (Use only for press purposes and if the source is named)
0. Portraits of the authors:
Rupert Gebhard. Photo: private [TIF]
Rupert Gebhard (photo as b/w version). Photo: private [TIF]
Rüdiger Krause. Photo Barbara Voss [JPG]
Rüdiger Krause. Photo: Photo: Uwe Detmar [JPG]

1. Drawing of the Nebra Sky Disk with damages and dirt adhering before it was delivered to the Landesmuseum Halle. Left: the previous interpretation, where the bigger damage was assigned to the finders. The red arrow indicates the direction of impact of the minor, fresh damages, where the handle of the digging hoe would have been under the surface of the earth. Right: the position of the disc according to the description of the finders. The direction of the minor, fresh damages caused by the finders corresponds to their description. The bigger lateral damage covered with corrosion must have occurred before their excavation. Picture: R. Gebhard. [JPG]

2. New reconstruction of the finding situation of the Nebra Sky Disc according to the description of the two finders. The direction of impact corresponds to the fresh minor damages. The bigger lateral damage covered with corrosion already (now turned to the top right) does not come from the finders and must be older. Picture: R. Gebhard. [JPG]

3. Early Celtic iron sword from the 5th century B.C. from Munich-Allach with inlaid gold sheets representing the crescent moon, full moon and five stars. Photo: State Archaeological Collection Munich, Manfred Eberlein. [JPG]

4. Drawing of picture (3): Sword of Munich-Allach. Picture: R. Gebhard. [JPG]

5. Compilation of latène-age (celtic) swords similar to the sword of Munich-Allach. Below the Nebra Sky Disk, orientated in such a way that it corresponds to the picture motif of the swords. The gold inlay on the sky disc, interpreted by H. Meller as a "ship", turns out to be a rainbow. [JPG]

6. Early picture of the Nebra Sky Disk. This is one of the few photographs showing the condition of the sky disc (approx. January 2002) before it was taken over by the Landesmuseum Halle and before the conservation work carried out there. Important are the traces of corrosion, which are still easily recognizable here. A part of the allegedly fresh damages (see picture 1) caused by the two finders in 1999, show recognizable old traces of corrosion, which could hardly have been caused in the period 1999-2002. Photo: Hildegard Burri-Bayer. [JPG]

7. Further early pictures of the Nebra Sky Disk and the find complex. Above: The Nebra Sky Disc. Below: Bronze Age swords, axes and arm jewelry, allegedly found together with the Nebra Sky Disk. Condition (like picture 6) before the Landesmuseum Halle took them over, ca. Jan. 2002. Photo: Hildegard Burri-Bayer. [JPG]

Clipping report

(Without claim to completeness; some formerly linked contributions are no longer accessible)

  • Urs Willmann: "Die dunkle Seite. Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra gilt als größter archäologischer Schatz Deutschlands. Nun bezweifeln zwei Forscher ihre Geschichte" (ZEIT, 2.9. (Online-Fassung) / 3.9. (gedruckte Ausgabe) 2020) [mehr]
  • Pascal Kiss: "Himmelsscheibe von Nebra deutlich jünger als gedacht?" (NDR info, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Forscher zweifeln Alter der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra an" (MDR Sachsen-Anhalt, 3.9.) [mehr]
  • Pascal Kiss: "Zweifel am Alter und am Fundort der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra" (SWR2 Impuls, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Himmelsscheibe von Nebra eisenzeitlich? Eine Richtigstellung". Erwiderung des Landesamts für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt - Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte Halle zum Artikel von R. Gebhard und R. Krause (3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Zweifel an Alter: Landesarchäologe kritisiert neue Analyse zur Himmelsscheibe" (Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Pascal Kiss: "Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: Zweifel am Alter und am Fundort" (SWR Wissen, 3.9.) [mehr]
  • "1.000 Jahre jünger? Forscher bezweifeln Alter der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra" (Der Standard, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Karin Beck-Loibl: "Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: Bisher galt die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra als frühbronzezeitlich und damit als älteste Himmelsdarstellung der Welt. Neue Analysen legen jetzt nahe, dass sie rund 1000 Jahre jünger ist als angenommen. Auch den Fundort zweifeln Forscher an" (3sat Kulturzeit, 3.9.2020; Video, 2:28 Min.) [mehr]
  • "Forscherstreit: Himmelsscheibe von Nebra deutlich jünger?" (MDR Jump, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Archäologen zweifeln Alter der weltberühmten Himmelsscheibe von Nebra an" (Welt, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Verena Greb: "Neue Erkenntnisse über die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. Wie alt ist die berühmte Himmelsscheibe von Nebra wirklich? Ein Forschungsbericht legt nahe, dass sie jünger ist als angenommen - und zwar um 1000 Jahre" (Deutsche Welle, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Uwe Freitag: "Echt, aber viel jünger? Experten zweifeln am Alter der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra" (BILD, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Guillermo Caso de los Cobos: "Dos expertos arqueólogos cuestionan la antigüedad del famoso disco celeste de Nebra" (Terrae Antiquae, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Forscher streiten um das wahre Alter der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra" (Der Sonntag Sachsen, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Julius Lukas: "Sensation oder Retourkutsche? Attacke auf die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra" (Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, 3.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Julius Lukas: "Zweifel an Einzigartigkeit der größten Kostbarkeit Sachsen-Anhalts" (MItteldeutsche Zeitung, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Nadja Podbregar: "Ist die Himmelsscheibe falsch datiert? Neuen Analysen zufolge ist der berühmte Fund 1.000 Jahre jünger als gedacht" (Scinexx, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Alicia McDermott: "Bombshell Study Calls Astronomical Theories of the Nebra Sky Disk 'Obsolete'" (Ancient Origins, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Krimi mit uralter Hauptdarstellerin. Um die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra gibt es gerade einen heftigen Streit" (ZDFtivi Kinderprogramm, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Una redatación cuestiona la representación más antigua del cosmos" (Notimérica, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Blick in die Feuilletons vom Tage: Wie alt ist die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra wirklich" (MDR Kultur, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Rupert Gebhard, Archäologe: Scheibe ist 1.000 Jahre jünger" (Bayern 2; Audio, 6:16 Min., 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Sensational Findings About Nebra’s Celestial Disc: It is 1000 years younger than previously thought" (Soul:Ask, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Tim Sumpf: "Streit um Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: Forscher zweifeln Fundort und Alter an" (Epoch Times, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Forscher streiten um das Alter der Himmelsscheibe. Archäologen aus München und Frankfurt datieren die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra 1000 Jahre jünger als bisher angenommen. Kollegen aus Halle widersprechen" (Tagesspiegel, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Cryptic Nebra sky disk might not be so ancient after all, say scientists. Is it really the world's oldest depiction of the cosmos? Maybe not" (cnet, 4.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Pascal Kiss: "Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: doch nichts Besonderes? Zwei Archäologen bezweifeln die bisherige Datierung in die Bronzezeit. Wäre die Himmelsscheibe tatsächlich 1000 Jahre jünger, würden vielen Spekulationen zusammenfallen." (3sat nano; Video, 4:25 Min., 4.9.2020 [mehr]
  • "Ist die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra doch jünger, als bisher gedacht?" (MDR Aktuell; Video, 1:32 Min., 4.9.2020)
  • Oliver Moody: "Oldest map of the cosmos is brought down to earth" (The Times, 5.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Científicos alemanes dudan de antigüedad de disco celeste de Nebra" (AYRE Venezuela, 5.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "科学家称神秘的内布拉星象盘可能并不那么古老" (Sohu, 5.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Lars A. Fischinger: "Neue Untersuchung zur Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: Ist sie in Wahrheit 1.000 Jahre jünger und wurde falsch gedeutet? +++ Video +++" (Fischinger Online, 6.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Bernd Lähne: "Streit um Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: Landesarchäologe widerspricht neuer These. Interview mit Sachsen-Anhalts Landesarchäologen Harald Meller zum aktuellen Disput" (Leipziger Volkszeitung, 6.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Karin Bojs: "Historien om Himmelsskivan är spektakulär – även om den spricker" (Dagens Nyheter, 6.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Archäologenstreit: Wie alt ist die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra" (Berliner Zeitung, 7.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Bernadette Arnaud: "Le disque de Nebra serait 1000 ans plus jeune qu’on ne pensait" (Sciences et Avenir, 7.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "A németek szerint a nebrai csillagkorong ezer évvel fatalabb, mint eddig gondoltuk" (Múlt-kor, 7.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Nueva datación del Disco celeste de Nebra" (El Reto Histórico, 8.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Debatte um Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: 'Kein Zweifel an Datierung'" (MDR, 8.9.2020).
  • Pavel Houser: "Disk z Nebry je prý mladší – a tudíž ne tak výjimečný" (Sciencemag.cz, 8.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Matthew Rozsa: "A new analysis of the Nebra sky disk could rewrite Bronze Age history" (Salon, 8.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Himmelsscheibe: Meller lehnt internationale Untersuchung ab" (MDR, 8.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Başak Emir: "Nebra Gökyüzü Diski Yeniden Tarihlendi!" (Arkeofili, 9.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Trang Phạm: "Hé lộ bí mật về niên đại của đĩa đồng mô tả vũ trụ cổ xưa nhất" (Dân trí, 9.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "วิจัยครั้งใหม่หาอายุของโลหะวงกลมเก่าแก่" (Thai Rath, 9.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Edwin Baumgartner: "Die Zweifel an der Himmelsscheibe. Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra muss neu datiert werden. Manche halten das Objekt gleich ganz für eine Fälschung" (Wiener Zeitung, 11.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "L'ancienneté de l'exceptionnel disque de Nebra remise en cause. Deux chercheurs allemands estiment que cette plaque, considérée comme la plus vieille représentation du cosmos, daterait de l'Âge de fer et non de celui du bronze. Ils s'opposent en cela à la première datation connue" (Le Figaro, 13.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Becky Ferreira: "How Old Is This Ancient Vision of the Stars? It’s a tale of bronze, iron, looting and archaeological conflict" (The New York Times, 13.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Mojca Andreja: "Koliko stara je ta starodavna vizija zvezd?" (Long Play, 13.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Renato Mora: "Representação mais antiga do céu pode não ser tão antiga assim. Datado de mais de 3,6 mil anos atrás, o Disco de Nebra é considerado a representação mais antiga do firmamento noturno - mas arqueólogos estão colocando em xeque a sua descoberta" (Olhar Digital, 14.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Tom Metcalfe: "Study casts doubt on 'sky disk' thought to be oldest representation of the heavens" (LiveScience, 14.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Idealisa Masyrafina: "Ilmuwan Ragukan Usia Artefak Cakram Langit Tertua" (Republika, 15.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Disco di Nebra: proviene dall’età del bronzo o dall’età del ferro?" (Reccom Magazine, 15.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Garry Shaw: "Is the Nebra Sky Disc a millennium younger than we thought? Analysis by German archaeologists suggests that the piece was not part of the Bronze-Age hoard looted in 1999" (The Art Newspaper, 15.9.2020) [mehr]
  • André Luis Dias Custodio: "Representação mais antiga do céu noturno é datada por pesquisadores" (Mega Curioso, 17.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Erin O'Hare: "Is This Ancient Map of the Cosmos Younger Than Previously Thought? A controversial new analysis of the Nebra Sky Disc suggests the artifact dates to the Iron Age, not the Bronze Age" (Smithsonian Magazine, 17.9.2020) [mehr]
  • "Da li misteriozni nebeski disk otkriva istoriju čovečanstva" (Sputnik Srbija, 18.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Marcia Wendorf: "Nebra Sky Disk Might be Younger Than First Thought. Was it Bronze Age men or Iron Age men who created the Nebra Sky Disk, and what was its purpose?" (Interesting Engineering, 18.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Iseult Cahen-Patron: "La date et l’origine du disque de Nebra contestées" (Connaissance des Arts, 18.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Erin Blakemore: "Nebra sky disk supposed to be oldest depiction of cosmos. Study disputes that established view" (The Washington Post, 19.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Lauren Kent: "Nebra sky disc: Prehistoric star map's Bronze Age pedigree in question -- by 1,000 years" (CNN, 21.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Emil Bergløv: "Forskere udløser hidsig debat om alderen på verdens nok ældste afbildning af kosmos. Himmelskiven fra Nebra er et af Tysklands vigtigste fortidsminder. Forskere påstår, den slet ikke er så gammel som først antaget og sætter gang i hidsig arkæologisk debat" (Politiken, 22.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Dirk Lorenzen: "Archäologie & Astronomie: Nebra-Himmelsscheibe 1000 Jahre jünger als gedacht?" (Deutschlandfunk, 24.9.2020) [mehr]
  • Becky Ferreira: "A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos." (New York Times, 19.1.2021) [mehr]

Status: Press review only updated selectively after 25 September 2020.

Further information

  • Gebhard, R. & Krause, R. (2020). Kritische Anmerkungen zum Fundkomplex der sog. Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. Arch. Inf. 43, Early View, online publiziert 3. Sept. 2020. [PDF]
  • Gebhard, R. & Krause, R. (2020). Critical comments on the find complex of the so-called Nebra Sky Disk. Arch. Inf. 43, Early View, published online 3 Sept. 2020. [PDF]
  • Pernicka, E., Adam, J., Borg, G., Brügmann, G., Bunnefeld, J.-H., Kainz, W., Klamm, M., Koiki, Th., Meller, H., Schwarz, R., Stöllner, Th., Wunderlich, Chr.-H. & Reichenberger, A. (2020). Why the Nebra Sky Disc Dates to the Early Bronze Age. An Overview of the Interdisciplinary Result. Archaeologia Austriaca, 104, 89-122. [PDF]