Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt
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Dating

The Nebra hoard
The Nebra hoard: the Sky Disc, two swords, two axeheads, two spiral armbands and one chisel (© LDA Sachsen-Anhalt, Foto: Juraj Lipták)

Typological comparison

Because there is no item comparable to the Sky Disc itself, the other finds provided the first points of reference: swords, axeheads, chisel and spiral armbands.

Simple arm spirals such as those from Nebra are known from many bronze age finds. This type of arm jewellery was common for a long time and is therefore not suitable for establishing a more precise date. The axeheads, on the other hand, belong to a known group - flanged axes with a shallow ledge in the centre - that is a typical form in the area of the Elbe and Oder at the end of the early bronze age around 1600 BC. Bent-edged chisels (Knickrandmeißel) like that from Nebra are a type which is likewise characteristic of this period.

The form of the Nebra swords is a one-off creation that mixes elements of southeastern and northern European sword-types; this kind of combination of traditions is also found in some less luxurious weapons from Germany between 1700 and 1500 BC.

Scientific dating

It is possible to distinguish between modern and antique bronze through scientific tests. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and the distinction in age is based on the fact that copper, like most metals, is weakly radioactive after it is smelted from the ore. The radioactivity derives from naturally radioactive lead (Pb-210) and can be identified until about 100 years after smelting. The bronze Sky Disc exhibits no measurable radioactivity and must therefore be older than this. Further indications that the object is old are the chemical composition of the metal and the structure of the corrosion layer, which is made up of large crystalline forms that need a very long time to grow.

The sword-hilts from Nebra contained remains of birch bark from the 16th to 15th century BC. Thanks to radiocarbon dating (the C-14 method), their age could be identified very precisely.