Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt
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From copper ore to the image of the heavens

All indications suggest that the Sky Disc and the other objects from the hoard were produced in central Europe. The copper used in the alloy of all the objects came from the same deposit of ore, probably in the eastern Alps. Around 1600 BC there were a number of coppermines there, the largest of which was the Mitterberg.

Production technique

Scoring grooves
Grooves to hold metal inlay are scored using a bronze chisel (© LDA Sachsen-Anhalt)
Beating the rim
The rim of the grooves is beaten flat, wedging the gold plate in place (© LDA Sachsen-Anhalt)

Large quantities of bronze objects from the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC are known from Europe, but only a very few pieces of evidence for the craft of casting and smithing itself have been found. From the beginning of the bronze age in central Germany, all that has survived is a few small clay tuyeres (nozzles that connect bellows to the furnace), like the ones found in Sachsenburg, but no remains have been found of furnaces, or moulds for casting, or tools such as hammer and anvil.

The technique of inlay consists of fitting coloured precious-metal plate or wire into a background of a different material. At the time the Sky Disc was produced, this technique was already highly developed in the eastern Mediterranean and was applied with a high level of craftsmanship. However, neither the objects from the Mediterranean area nor the decorations on them offer a useful parallel to the few known examples of inlay work from western and central Europe in the early and middle bronze age.

The pieces of gold plate on the Sky Disc were only attached at their edges, a technique called damascening. Using tools of hard bronze, grooves were scored in the disc, and the gold plate was set into these grooves; the rims of the grooves were then hammered flat to wedge the gold in place.