Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt
Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte
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The Pleiades

The seven daughters of Atlas

Left: Last visibility of the Pleiades on the 10th of March (of the present-day calendar), right: first setting in the western morning sky on the 17th of October (of the present-day calendar) (© LDA Sachsen-Anhalt)

The only cluster of stars on the Nebra Sky Disc is a group of seven gold dots placed closely together. It is very probable that these represent the Pleiades. In Europe, these stars are of great importance for the agricultural calendar. Their last moment of visibility in the evening sky in the west, on the 10th of March, is when sowing begins. Their setting in the western morning sky, on the 17th October, is the start of the harvest. On the Sky Disc, the Pleiades are depicted in the western sky, between the March crescent and the October full moon - a combination which can only be seen at the latitude in which central Germany lies. The Sky Disc could therefore be used as an ideal calendar for the start and end of the farmer's year.

'When the stars of the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, arise,

Then begin the harvest, but plough when they sink away;

For forty days and forty nights they stay hidden,

But when they appear again as the year circles round,

Shining brightly, then begin to whet the sickle.'

 

Hesiod (8/7th c. BC), Works and Days, lines 383-387