At some point in ancient history, a starry scene was immortalized on a disc of bronze. That artifact is an enigma today. Recovered by treasure hunters in 1999, it's been named the "Nebra Sky Disc" after the town of Nebra, Germany, near the site where the disc was found.
Cosmic artwork is nothing new; some experts say this object might be the first surviving attempt to portray astronomical objects (like stars) in a realistic way. But we're missing some important context. While the Nebra Sky Disc is undoubtedly valuable, its age is open to debate.
A Scene of Celestial Wonder
The artifact measures about 12 inches (30 centimeters) wide and weighs 4.6 pounds (2 kilograms). A series of 39 to 40 tiny holes were made along the perimeter. Color-wise, the disc has a bluish-green backdrop punctuated by golden symbols.
Extra attention has been paid to seven tightly-packed dots. They most likely depict Pleaides, a star cluster visible from both hemispheres.
There's also a large golden circle thought to represent the sun or moon. It faces a crescent-shaped object that might be an artist's take on some eclipse or lunar phase. Finally, we've got 25 other dots, a curved line toward the bottom — and two long arcs hugging the sides.
The latter evoke horizons, a possible reference to the solstices. Who knows? Perhaps the disc helped farmers time their harvests in accordance with the changing seasons. It could've had religious value as well. Though the arcs, stars and other ornaments were made of gold, the disc itself is corroded bronze (hence its blue-green color).