Friday, 6 July 2007

Following the heavens

Sachsen-Anhalt has a new tourist route; the Heavenly Road (Himmelswege). Various monolithic remains and museums have been linked, together with the fantastic new museum, the Arche Nebra.

This museum was built to hold the Nebra sky disc, a  bronze and gold disk showing the sun (or full moon), crescent moon, and constellations.Dated about 1600 bc, it's a unique Bronze Age work - beautiful in itself, but also demonstrating the fascination with following the course of the heavens that led to the creation of stone circles and alignments.

And the design of the museum is a wonder. Its bright slab side is curved upwards at the ends like the 'sun boat' or inverted rainbow on the disk, and seems to float over the glass ground floor.

The Arche Nebra museum only opens to the public on 21 July, so I can't tell you about the exhibits other than the sundisk, and the spearheads found with it. (There's some dissension over the authenticity of the find, since it was made by metaldetectorists who tried to market the treasure privately - and illegally; the state of Sachsen-Anhalt only managed to acquire the treasure as part of a plea bargaining process. However, most archaeologists now seem to think the disk is real Bronze Age work, not a fake.)

But the museum design, and the coherent marketing of local megalithic sites (including the Goseck circular ditch, probably a solar observatory) by the local tourist board, are impressive. It all makes me wonder what the hell English Heritage is doing with Stonehenge - a real opportunity missed....

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