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Scientific analyses

Scientific analysis
There is hardly any relevant scientific method which has not been used to examine the Nebra hoard.
The Sky Disc in the BESSY electron storage ring
The Sky Disc is examined in the Berlin electron storage ring for synchrotron radiation (BESSY). The aim is to collect information on the chemical composition of the gold plate.

The scientific studies of the Nebra hoard are probably among the most thorough ever carried out on any archaeological find. Study began when the objects were first impounded in 2002 and continued until the end of 2007. A number of well-known research institutes were involved. The investigations included the chemical and physical characterisation of the material, using the analytical techniques of x-ray fluorescence (XRF), synchrotronic XRF, x-ray diffraction (XRD), computer tomography, isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS), metallography, and with both optical and scanning electron microscopes, among many other methods.

The investigations focused on the production technique and history of production, and on the 'authenticity' and origin of the objects and their raw materials.

The Sky Disc is a work of the smith's craft. From a rough-cast flan of soft bronze, a smith beat out the disc until it was 32 cm in diameter, which was no easy task. But the skilled craftworker knew how to make it easier and already had some technological tricks to make the tough, resistant metal more malleable....

In their metalworking technique too, the Nebra finds, with their metal inlays, are almost unique in central Europe. How the disc was worked from a metal ingot, how the inlays were attached, and how these differ from the slightly more recent inlay-work on the swords, can be discovered here....

The Sky Disc was not created in a single round of work. It was altered again and again and each different generation of smiths left a particular signature on the cult object. The alterations were probably made to fit the disc into different ritual requirements and a changing understanding of the world. How these changes have left their trace in the metal can be discovered here...

The Nebra hoard consists of about 4 kg of bronze and 50 g of gold: a substantial amount. Where did the material come from? There are copper deposits in the region around Nebra, but the results of the analyses point to a different source, and to extensive long-distance trade connections. The clues lead into other parts of Europe, to Austria and England...

Is the hoard genuine or a modern forgery? How can scholars be so sure of the age and origin of such a sensational discovery? Answers can be found in scientific methods of analysis...