Monday, March 06, 2006

Decipherment of the Nebra Sky Disk as Depicting a Solar Eclipse at the Pleiades and the Vernal Equinox Point on April 16, 1699 - LexiLine Journal 394

As a bit of background information, let us say that we have been active in the decipherment of ancient astronomical artefacts for over thirty years. We pointed out some years ago (see our alleged Nebra Sky Disk Decipherment) that the key to decipherment of the Nebra Sky Disk (first discovered by fortune hunters in Germany in 1999) is determined by the fact that the Sun on that disk is NOT in the solar boat depicted on that same disk.

According to the clear and incontrovertible evidence of the Latvian Dainas, which represent an archaic status of Indo-European astronomical knowledge in northern Europe, the Sun is in the solar boat by night only, and not by day. Hence, the Nebra Sky Disk can only represent the sky by day and thus the disk can only be the representation of a solar eclipse, since the Sun, Moon and Stars are all depicted together on the disk, something which occurs only during the rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse.

The decipherment of the Nebra Sky Disk that we proposed two years ago is as follows:

Nebra Sky Disk  Deciphered

An Adventurous Calendric Theory about the Nebra Sky Disk


Nevertheless, in spite of the clear depiction of the Sun, Moon and Stars on the Nebra Sky Disk, all kinds of adventurous theories have been presented about the disk, mostly by people with little experience in astronomical decipherment.

Surprisingly, some of the most obscure theories derive from mainstream astronomers who have decided to "dabble" in ancient decipherment, even though their learning is confined generally to modern astronomy, which is a horse of an entirely different color than ancient astronomy. Indeed, the decipherment of ancient artefacts is an undertaking for which no degrees are granted and for which no discipline therefore has a right to claim non-existent expertise. Rather, experience in decipherment is the key. Yet, whenever something like the Nebra Sky Disk surfaces, many would-be decipherers suddenly surface, especially if their academic specialty bears some plausible relation to the subject at hand. It is for example plausible to think that modern astronomers are the experts to consult on ancient astronomy. But that fact is that most modern astronomers know next to nothing about astronomy prior to the ancient Greeks.

The Disk is Erroneously Alleged to be an Intercalary Object

One such newer and quite erroneous interpretation of the Nebra Sky Disk is now being propagated by the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle/Saale, Germany, where the Nebra Sky Disk is displayed. This interpretation has even been irresponsibly released to the world press as "the [alleged] decipherment" of the Nebra Sky Disk.

Nothing could be further from the truth for this inept decipherment attempt.

The Museum's current pet theory merely supplants a previously supported and equally faulty theory which claimed that the disk showed the Pleiades and the Moon as markers for the sowing and reaping seasons in the Spring and the Autumn (thereby making an inappropriate connection to Hesiod's Works and Days). The connection to Hesiod was erroneously made because he was a Greek and because the average modern astronomer's knowledge of astronomy does not go back beyond that period, so, Greek it had to be.

In the first interpretation supported by the Museum, now discarded, the Moon was erroneously alleged to be depicted on the disk TWICE, as both a Waxing Moon and a Full Moon - a dual portrayal never seen on ancient artefacts and never referred to in ancient literature anywhere.

The new alleged decipherment now supported by the Museum begins amateurishly simply by counting the number of stars found on the Nebra Sky Disk and then claiming that this number is significant for lunar calendration, based on a comparison to the MUL.APIN Babylonian texts, to which the Nebra Sky Disk has no demonstrable connection. These Babylonian texts are a shade older than the Greeks, but not much. Hence, if not Greek, then Babylonian, that seems to be the logic involved.

Look at our illustration above. Does that look like a calendar?? There is no precedent for this kind of confused calculation anywhere in ancient astronomical artefacts. No one has ever counted moons by stars in the sky. Rather, lunar mansions and moon stations in the stars (the so-called Sanskrit Vedic naksatras [cf. Latvian nakts sadalas "night divisions"]) were used to divide up the sky, but the stars themselves never "counted" the moons in this manner.

The disk has numerous stars in gold upon on it. Some of these stars were removed in the creation process of the disk (see the blank "holes" in the above illustration) and covered over by the gold horizon bow, so that determining a fixed original intended number of stars seems pointless. This fact is conveniently ignored in the current interpretation.

In addition, we find a cluster of seven stars depicting the Pleiades (see J. Black & A. Green, Art. "Seven Dots", in Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia - An Illustrated Dictionary, British Museum Press, London, 1992, p. 162.)

These stars depict the Pleiades. They are definitely NOT counters.

All of these stars, including the "seven dots of the Pleiades" are now suddenly "lumped" together in this flawed interpretation favored by the Museum to allegedly give the solar number 32, which in fact does have to do with the Moon, as I showed long ago for the Minoan Luni-Solar Calendar Stone , but this has nothing to do with the Nebra Sky Disk. That this can not be right in the instant case is shown by the fact that the creator of the sky disk then removed two of those stars to make room for the gold horizon bow leaving only 30 stars. Alleging that 32 is significant here is simply ridiculous. Moreover, it is then alleged that the entire Nebra Sky Disk represents the Sun (even though that same disk clearly also shows the Sun, Moon and Stars - on top of the Sun??) and at some point this "Sun" is also counted as "1" for purposes of further alleged calendric calculations to get the number 33 (as shown by me at the Minoan Luni-Solar Calendar Stone , 32 solar years of 365 days are equal to 33 lunar years, less two days). The Minoan Luni-Solar Calendar Stone is a calendar, no doubt about it. The Nebra Sky Disk is not.

Why were the Pleiades Important in Ancient Days?

The flawed interpretation supported by the Museum shows a complete misunderstanding of the reason for the importance of the Pleiades in ancient cultures. The Pleiades were important in ancient days not because they had any connection to the position of the Moon and the intercalation of months, but rather because the Pleiades began the moon stations at the Vernal Equinox in the era when the moon station system was created by ancient astronomers.

In this regard, Subhash Kak writes in Babylonian and Indian Astronomy: Early Connections as follows:

"There were several traditions within the Vedic system. For example, the month was reckoned in one with the new moon, in another with the full moon.... Naksatras stand for stars, asterisms or segments of the ecliptic. The moon is conjoined with the 27 naksatras on successive nights in its passage around the earth; the actual cycle is of 27 1/3 days. Because of this extra one-third day, there is drift in the conjunctions that get corrected in three circuits. Also, the fact that the lunar year is shorter than the solar year by 11+ days implies a further drift through the naksatras that is corrected by the use of intercalary months. The earliest lists of naksatras in the Vedic books begin with Krttikas, the Pleiades ... [emphasis supplied]"

That same usage both in Vedic and Babylonian astronomy could only have originated back in an era when the Pleiades marked the Vernal Equinox, thus dating the origin of the Babylonian MUL.APIN and Vedic usage back to ca. 2340 BC, contrary to the opinion of mainstream historians of astronomy who are one Sothic period in error (One Sothic Period = 1460 + 1 years).

A doubting but in argument unconvincing Michael Witzel of Harvard University in Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts writes regarding the Sanskrit Vedic Shatapatha Brahmana (SB) [which can not have been written later than ca. 1900 BC when the Sarasvati River dried up, as the text refers to the migration away from that area]:

"Vedic astronomy has been discussed since Weber (1860), Thibaut (1885), Tilak (1893), Jacobi, Oldenberg and Whitney -- all of them writing well before the discovery of the Indus civilization, at a time when nothing of Indian prehistory was known before the supposedly firm date of the Buddha. [LawPundit adds: i.e. what they wrote on ancient astronomy and chronology is thus hopelessly wrong.] Some passages in the SB have been under discussion since then [LawPundit adds: because mainstream scholars are forced by the Indus Valley Civilization to see their "evidence" differently] that seem to refer to the equinoxes, and would indicate the date observation of these celestial phenomena. SB 2.1.2.3 seems to say that the spring equinox is in the asterism Krttika [Pleiades]... 'One should found one's fires under the (moon house of the) Krttikas [Pleiades]... These, they do not deviate from the eastern direction. All other moon houses, they deviate from the eastern direction....' This statement, if taken for a literal description of the 'immobile' position of the Pleiades, is possible only for the third millennium, at c. 2300 BCE (Kak even has 2950 BCE, cf. Elst 1999: 96) . Then, the Pleiades were at the equinox point, some 60 degrees off today's position due to precession (for details see Achar, EJVS 5.2, 1999). " [emphasis added]

Witzel is not prepared to take that statement at its clear face value and doubts (for what reason?) that the Vedas or MUL.APIN, which he also discusses, go back that far in time, and he is surely absolutely wrong in his assessment. See our discussion at LexiLine about the dating of MUL.APIN, referring to the work of Werner Papke in his book, Die Sterne von Babylon [The Stars of Babylon], who also sets a date of ca. 2340 BC for this system. See also our strong critique of the later and in our opinion erroneous chronology assigned to MUL.APIN by Hunger & Pingree.

In other words, the Pleiades were important to Sanskrit Vedic Culture and to the Babylonians and their predecessors, not because they were used together with the Moon for injecting an intercalary month, but because they marked the Vernal Equinox and the start of the year.

That is the historical reason why the Pleiades were and still are seen as being important by many cultures around the world, where no intercalation of months is in evidence. Hence, a solar eclipse at this location in the heavens was of course a monumental event in ancient days, and that is what the Nebra Sky Disk most likely commemorates. Intercalation, on the other hand, was a relatively frequent minor event.

Please note in this regard our view that the Pleiades at the "Winter Solstice" rather than at the "Vernal Equinox" must have also started the year in much more ancient prehistoric times, since, as Duncan Steel writes in Marking Time, Wiley & Sons, NY, 2000, p. 36:

"In many native tongues of South America the words for "year" and "Pleiades" are the same, impressing upon one the fact this was their sign of the annual cycle." Indeed, as we show in Stars Stones and Scholars, the bird on the pole in the Cave of the Deadman at Lascaux marks the Winter Solstice at the Pleiades in ca. 9273 B.C. The stars and the Pleiades have been with mankind for many millennia, long before the Vedas and the Babylonians.

Germanic Peoples Marked Time by the Sun

The interpretation favored by the Museum makes an abstruse and contrived connection to lunar intercalation in ancient Babylonia and gives the impression that the ancient Nordic and Germanic peoples calculated time by the Moon, for which there is no evidence anywhere, as Nordic cultures were all worshippers of the Sun. Indeed, the period of the Nebra Sky Disc is known for the solar worship of the Nordic Bronze Culture in Scandinavia and northern Germany.

This period also marks the neighboring Unetice Culture (Aunjetitzkultur), to which the Nebra Disk has been assigned, where "[a]rchaeological evidence suggests that the Unetice metal industry, though active and innovative, was concerned with producing weapons and ornaments mainly as status symbols for leading persons....", and such was surely the purpose of the Nebra Sky Disk shield and swords (for a map of these cultures see here). The Nebra Sky Disk was made for a prominent person.

Moreover, the alleged intercalary lunar importance of the position of the Moon with respect to the Pleiades is found nowhere in Germanic and Nordic artefacts - there is not even a hint of such calculations in ancient days in any of the evidence available, nor is there any mythology to this effect. This contrived connection is merely an artificial invention to support this completely faulty theory. There is no way that ancient northerly Germanic peoples used a lunar method of calendration which would be the same as that still used by the more southward culture of the Muslims today. Impossible.

In the north, the Sun has always predominated astronomy, but in the south, the Moon. This was the battle at the time of the Pharaonic "Sun King" Echnaton, who displaced the AMUN "MOON cult" with solar worship. That modernization was short and ill-fated.

Moreover, the flawed interpretation supported by the Museum is based on Babylonian lunar calendration found in the MUL.APIN tablets, tablets for which our site LexiLine was for some years the main and nearly only presence on the internet about these cuneiform texts, so that we have some familiarity with their content, having translated Werner Papke's interpretation of MUL.APIN from German to English. In recent years, of course, more websites on MUL.APIN have appeared. MUL.APIN relates principally to the rising and setting of stars based upon a civil calendar of 12 months of 30 days each (plus 5 days at year-end), a calendar previously long used in Pharaonic Egypt and first adjusted to the tropical year of 365.25 days in Egypt by Pharaoh Khasekhemwy.

Lunar intercalation of the type discussed in the interpretation supported by the Museum was a very late development according to the evidence thus far available, much later in time than the date assigned to the making of the Nebra Sky Disk.

In addition, this alleged decipherment of the Nebra Sky Disk as supported by the Museum thus pretends that the ancients went to all of this trouble to make a unique and incomparable gold-studded disk merely so that it could be held up in the air by "elite priests" (what else?) to see if the Moon was newly waxing at a certain location in the sky. This is something which any child could do at any time without such a disk as a memory device. The explanation is preposterous.

Furthermore, if this intercalary practice had actually been followed regularly by the ancients in northern Europe, as alleged, then we would find many but simpler artefacts of this nature in northern Europe showing the development of this practice of calendration and sky-viewing in the eras prior to the Nebra Sky Disk. We would also see the continued use of this practice in the eras after the making of the Nebra Sky Disk. In fact, we find nothing in the available record. Rather, once the solar eclipse significance of the Nebra Sky Disk was lost to following generations, it was buried in the ground to protect the gold on it. It was not used for "Moon viewing".

The alleged intercalary decipherment favored by the Museum is nothing else but a fata morgana in the eyes of a few contemporary German scholars who want us to believe that not only did the ancient Germanic peoples use intercalary lunar months long before the Babylonians did, but that they used the same virtual identical method, one thousand years previous.

In fact, as we can read in the Encyclopaedia Britannica under "Calendar" (Macropedia, Volume 15, 15th edition), lunar intercalation in the Near East began in the 3rd millennium BC when it was still quite haphazard and was only standardized ca. 380 BC by intercalations in the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19. In ca. 432 BC the Greek Meton, known for the Metonic Cycle, calculated that one could simply insert an intercalary lunar month of 33 days every third year.

No need for a disk. No need at all, to make this calculation. Indeed, no one would make a gold disk like this for such an alleged everyday calendric intercalary purpose - a gold disk to be held up against the sky for comparison with the crescent of the moon.

In addition, the width of the Moon on the disk is far wider than it should be for the alleged purpose. Rather, this is quite a typical rendition of a crescent Moon and similar in size and shape to what any of us would draw if asked to draw the Moon. The creator of the Nebra Sky Disk was not trying to draw any particular crescent Moon. He was simply representing THE MOON next to THE SUN as found in THE STARS. Period.

Another problem with the alleged decipherment favored by the Museum is that it does not account for the presence of the Sun on the disk, nor for the solar boat. Decipherments must explain an artefact fully, and not just some part of it. The calendration theory is prima facie wrong already because of the presence of the Sun on the Nebra Sky Disk. A lunar intercalation would not require this depiction, nor would anyone depict a lunar intercalation in this manner - and, indeed, looking at all known archaeological artefacts and literature we can see that no one else has, ever.

As a matter of simple logic - and the simplest explanation is most likely to be the correct one for mankind and astronomy in the Neolithic era - it is quite clear that the unique and singular Nebra Sky Disk was specially made to commemorate an equally unique and special event, i.e. a solar eclipse at the Pleiades at the Vernal Equinox point in 1699 BC, a date which matches the estimated date of the making of the Nebra Sky Disk at ca. 1700 BC. The Nebra Sky Disk was definitely not made as a calendar functioning by a Moon count of stars on a disk in an era and for a region where there is no other evidence at all for this kind of usage.

As we have previously written concerning the previous faulty theory of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, "there is simply no evidence to support the hypothesis ... that the Pleiades were used in conjunction with the Moon for astronomical orientation... in the cultural region in which the Sky Disk of Nebra was found (Germany and northern Europe)."

Quite the contrary. Professor Dr. Rolf Mueller examined 59 megalithic sites in France (Brittany), Ireland, Scotland and northern Germany and found that the rising and the setting of the Pleiades played no discernible role in ancient times in Germany or in northern Europe. See Der Himmel Ueber dem Menschen der Steinzeit: Astronomie und Mathematik in den Bauten der Megalithkulturen [The Sky Above Neolithic Man: Astronomy and Mathematics in the Structure of Megalithic Cultures], Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1970, where Mueller writes at Fig. 64:"As far as orientation of sites by the stars is concerned ... Capella and Deneb are worthy of mention, whereas I do not hold much of the theory that the Pleiades or Orion were used for such purposes." [our translation from the German]

Similarly, the late Gerald S. Hawkins, who studied Stonehenge by computer analysis in Stonehenge Decoded, Doubleday, NY, 1965, negated the idea that the Pleiades played any role at Stonehenge (p. 132). What we know today as "Stonehenge", although there were previous constructions, dates to the same general era as the Nebra Sky Disk (ca. 1700 BC).

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