The National Post describes, with grossly naive exaggeration and the worst kind of statist prejudice, an interesting, rather pretty Bronze Age artifact with an outrageously offensive history.
The Nebra disc was found in 1999 along with two bronze swords, two hatchets, a chisel, and fragments of spiral bracelets, by Henry Westphal and Mario Renner using a metal detector.
The government of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt claims to own everything in the ground and, as knowledge of the find gradually became known to the public, confiscated all the artifacts found and charged the discoverers with “looting.” Westphal and Renner were convicted and sentenced to prison, as a reward for their discovery, for four months and ten months in 2003. When they appealed, the appeal court raised their sentences to six and twelve months.
Thus, as the National Post reports, the precious artifacts were “saved from the black market” and transferred to the custody of bureaucratic officialdom and the all-knowing administrative state.
The disc has been dated on the basis of the style of the bronze swords buried with it to the mid 2nd millennium BC. Radiocarbon dating of a bit of birchbark found on one of the swords was dated to between 1600 and 1560 BC confirming the former estimate.
The author of the article was scarcely able to breathe while describing the totally astonishing alleged scientific significance of the disc. Why, the Nebra disc represents the earliest human depiction of the cosmos!
Saxony-Anhalt’s house prehistorian & archaeologist Harald Meller (who personally confiscated the horde on behalf of the Leviathan state) has interpreted the disc as a tool used for determining when a thirteenth month – the so-called intercalary month – should be added to a lunar year to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons. When certain prominent constellations, particularly the Pleiades, lined up with the sun and moon as displayed on the disc, every 2-3 years, it would be time to add an extra month in order to bring the lunar and solar calendars into agreement.
Or maybe it was simply made as a piece of decorative art, depicting the most prominent constellations in the night sky.
There is, of course, no real reason, beyond arrogance and brute force, why any state should be entitled to lay claim to ownership of all undiscovered archaeological finds, and there is also no particular reason to believe that immediate state ownership is essential to their preservation. Art objects have been collected and preserved historically most commonly privately since Antiquity. In the modern world, art objects privately owned have a strong tendency to make their way via philanthropy into institutional collections.
These days, we read frequently of absolutely fascinating finds made by hobbyist metal collectors in Britain. In Saxony-Anhalt, I expect we will be reading about fewer of those, since the reward for discovery there is imprisonment for looting.
Meller’s theory explained