This bronze disc was found by metal-detectorists in 1999 on the Mittelberg, a hilltop near Halle in Germany, and is considered to be both the first known portable astronomical instrument and the oldest known graphic depiction of celestial objects in human history.
The disc measures 31cm in diameter and weighs more than 2kg, and has been dated to between 2000 and 1600 BC. It was discovered in a hoard alongside a selection of other high-status objects, including two swords with gold hilt-bands, two axes, a chisel and several spiral armlets.
The disc is decorated with sheet-gold depictions of a crescent moon, seven stars and the sun or perhaps a full moon. The cluster of stars is thought to be the Pleiades whose disappearance in March and reappearance in October mark the beginning and end of the agricultural cycle.
Two gold arcs, attached to either the edge of the disc (one is missing), mark the positions of the rising and setting of the sun at the solstices at the latitude where it was found. At the bottom of the disc is thought to be the ship on which the sun travelled on its diurnal cycle in Bronze Age mythology.
The disc is on display in the Halle State Museum of Prehistory (Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte) in Halle.
Many thanks to Introduction to Ancient Cosmology tutor, Stephen McCarthy, for drawing my attention to this beautiful object. Stephen also teaches Latin.