The looters, making an illegal excavation, reportedly found the disk buried along with a cache of Bronze Age weapons thought to be about 3,600 years old.
Although its authenticity was initially disputed by archaeologists, the study’s authors don’t think it is a fake. But they do dispute the conditions of its supposed discovery, suggesting instead that it was discovered elsewhere and moved to Nebra in an attempt to help the looters keep their site a secret.
The researchers believe its iconography points to an Iron Age origin, which would make it about 2,600 years old.
The Nebra disk gained worldwide fame when it was first unveiled in 2002. It was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, a list of the world’s most treasured cultural artifacts, and its image was even trademarked by Saxony-Anhalt, the German state in which it was found.
The new study is already generating its own rebuttals and debate among archaeologists eager to understand more about the iconic bronze-and-gold object.
But even if the dating issue is eventually settled, there will continue to be plenty to argue about. Is the disk purely symbolic, or was it used for ancient astronomical purposes? If it isn’t from Nebra, where is it from? Is it a stand-alone object, or are others buried in Germany? No wonder the disk puts stars in the eyes of those intrigued by the long-standing mysteries of the ancient world.