The Nebra Sky Disk is considered the world’s oldest concrete image of the starry sky. “As the oldest possible date for its manufacture, the beginning of the 2nd millennium seems plausible to us” (Meller, 2005: 301 Harald Meller, 2005. Der geschmiedete Himmel. Theiss-Verlag.).
The star pairs marked in orange and connected by lines could indicate the ends of the extreme positions of the zodiac. (The horizon curves were appropriated only later, but they serve in the drawing for a better understanding.) The stars marked in green seem to show the five planets visible to the naked eye. From the geocentric view the internal planets, Mercury and Venus, always sit close to the sun and remain near the horizon. The external planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn follow complete orbits in the entire ecliptic in front of the zodiac, like the sun and moon.
In the southern sphere dome of the sky a large hexagonal and triangular constellation, each with additional stars, could be seen at intervals of exactly 6 hours. The higher the twelve stars marked in red are above the green horizontal horizon line, the more northerly they are at the same time.
In the northern celestial vault, the eight stars marked in light blue seem to symbolize the circumpolar stars. At that time, they orbited a starless celestial north pole whose position on the disk is thus defined for the first time.
Three of the circumpolar stars formed a star pointer when the hexagonal constellation was visible at the same time. After 6 hours another pointer formed in the north, together with the triangular constellation. After each additional quarter turn, the star pointers were upside down.
The creator of the Nebra Sky Disk had discovered the mechanism of a complete star clock.
In all probability all of the small gold elements of the Nebra Sky Disk were assigned to certain stars.
Today’s commonly used names of these stars can be taken from the illustration.
In order to represent all the figures of light of the sun and moon with only two symbols, probably intentionally contradictory details were used in the design of the crescent. The golden circular disk obviously represents the full moon, the sun and even the earth, as well. The crescent symbol shows characteristics of a 4.5-day-old moon as well as of a lunar and a solar eclipse (foto), when the Earth’s shadow created a crescent moon, and the unlit side of the moon created a crescent sun.
With the Nebra Sky Disc the stars marked orange in the illustration are particularly conspicuous because they lie approximately in the middle and before the ends of the horizon arcs.
The visible path of the sun or the ecliptic runs through the middle of the zodiac. If we look at the sun the same time every day, it always takes four minutes longer to appear. Because of this delay, we can also observe, every three months at the same time, one of the four extreme positions, the two equinoxes and the solstices,
Rather than relying on the sun, each of these four extreme positions can be recognized much more easily with the help of a bright, almost simultaneously visible pair of stars from two different signs of the zodiac (joined by red lines in the illustration). One star revealed the beginning of the ecliptic in the east and another one revealed the end of the ecliptic in west. In about 1950 B.C. in Central Germany, always two >ecliptic stars< stood almost exactly above the east and west points at the solstices when the high-level position or low-level position of the ecliptic occurred. During the equinoxes the eastern and western tilt could be observed in each case by a southern and a northern star.
Therefore, these pairs of stars symbolize all the extreme positions of the zodiac, which, however, were also to be seen on other nights, but not at dusk.
If the creator of the Nebra Sky Disc wanted to show that five planets struck him by their movements, too, he would probably place them close to the sun and moon since they are always seen in their paths, as well as within the extreme positions of the ecliptic, which are indicated in this drawing by straight lines.
The five golden stars in the middle of the Sky Disc – marked in green – represent the five planets visible to the naked eye. Two golden stars can be seen east of the sun on the edge of the horizon. – This facilitates the visibility of the inner planets, Mercury and Venus. Due to the fact that they orbit the sun in their smaller circuits faster than the Earth, they always stand, even at the farthest distance, in the same quarter of the sky with the sun and in the adjacent signs of the zodiac. Looking from the Earth towards the sun, these stars apparently oscillate only around the sun and in so doing always remain near the horizon. The three other golden planets have been placed between the sun and the moon, closer to the centre of the disc and therefore higher in the sky. – Since the Earth also belongs to the planets and is the third closest planet to the sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn go round the sun beyond the Earth’s orbit in wider radii. As we are able to see the paths of these outer planets >from the inside<, they can never stand between us and the sun. Like the sun and the moon, they follow complete orbits in the whole ecliptic. Thus, they can also be found high above the horizon in the south around midnight.
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