Episodic Survey of the History of the Constellations


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F: Bronze Age European Constellations

12: The Nebra sky disk enigma

Picture shows the original condition of the controversial Nebra Sky Disk prior to extensive restoration work being carried out on it. The disk weighs 2 kilograms, is 32 centimetres in diameter, and is made of bronze and gold (bronze and gold-emblazoned). The disk shows the night sky but apparently in a symbolic manner and almost without concrete constellations. A number of astronomers/archaeoastronomers believe that the disk is the earliest representation of the night sky with concrete astronomical content. The several complementary objects found with (or near) the disk enable dating to the Early Bronze Age. An early interpretation of the German disk was that it indicates the position of the Pleiades (= the cluster of 7 dots per the usual denotation of the Pleiades in Near East Cultures) at the vernal Equinox circa 1600 BCE.

The authenticity of the  "Sky Disk of Nebra" or "Nebra Sky Disk" has been the subject of considerable debate. When the existence of the disk became generally known in 2002 there were initial suspicions that it might likely be an archaeological forgery. However, it is now generally accepted that the disk is authentic. If this is correct then it is one of the oldest known depictions of the sky. (Metallurgical studies support the authenticity of the disk.)

The story of how the disk came to light runs as follows: It was discovered and excavated (i.e., looted) by 2 (previously convicted) treasure hunters (or a group) (using a metal detector (or detectors)) during an illegal dig in 1999. The disk was part of a cache of bronze goods buried within a pit inside a Bronze Age ring-wall at the site of a bronze age camp. (The reasons for it being buried are unknown and likely will remain undiscoverable.) The exact location was eventually established as the top of Mittelberg ("central hill"), in the Ziegelroda Forest, near the town of Nebra in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in central/east Germany. The Nebra Sky disk was nearly lost to the black market. The disk appeared on the illegal antiquities/art market in 2001 with its seller claiming it had been looted illegally. It was sold twice on the illegal antiquities/art market before finally being confiscated by the Swiss police in 2003 (in a "sting" operation at the Hilton Hotel in Basle, Switzerland) from a third group of owners attempting to sell it. These were two amateur archaeologists who were trying to sell the disc for US $400,000. Eventually, in order to escape prosecution, all parties involved in the illegal handling of the disk agreed to assist the authorities.

Professional excavations of the site were begun on August 20, 2005. It has been established that the disk and other objects had been deposited between stones. The local archaeologists involved in the excavations have identified a circular wall approximately 200 metres in diameter, surrounded by a complex system of trenches.

The disk is dated to circa 1600 BCE through several of the artifacts found with it (or at least in close proximity). The cache of bronze age goods taken from the pit by the group of treasure hunters were principally weapons. The cache consisted of 2 bronze swords with gold decorated hilts, 2 bronze flanged axe heads (hatchets), a bronze chisel (or dagger?), and fragments of 2 bronze arm spirals (i.e., bracelets). The 2 bronze swords were typologically dated to the mid 2nd-millennium BCE. Also, a birch bark particle that was found on one of the bronze swords returned a radiocarbon dating of between 1,600 and 1,560 BCE. The date of circa 1,600 BCE was the end of the central European Early Bronze Age.

Note: From more recent work it is estimated it was buried at the end of the 17th-century BCE - the period of the transition of the early Bronze Age to the middle Bronze Age. It is believed that at the time of burial the disk had long been in use. The actual date of its production cannot be determined with certainty.  

The bronze disk is 32 cm diameter and weighs 2 kg. The disc almost certainly shows the night sky. On the face of the disk there are a number of images comprised of gold leaf embossed on it (forming a diagram of the night sky?). The 32 small gold circles distributed over the disc are believed to indicate stars but without concrete constellations except the structure of 7 closer stars, widely interpreted as the Plejades. The interpretation of the Pleiades for the 7 closer gold circles lies with the vicinity of this open star cluster to the ecliptic and the vernal point in the bronze age, and therefore its high calendrical significance. On opposite sides of the disk there are 2 large arcs. Both are located on the edge of the disk. Both arcs span about 80 degrees each. At another edge of the disk there is an arc that looks like a boat

The apparent astronomical details of the images have provided the basis for a multitude of different explanations. It is generally accepted that the disk is more than merely ornamental and has a practical astronomical significance. However, the dots (stars) may have been largely decorative. Some 30 background dots (stars) are spread (in an apparently randomly fashion?) across the disk, with the exception of a tight cluster of 7 stars. Statistical analysis suggests that most of the stars appear to be arranged artistically with the aim of filling the empty spaces, more or less regularly, between the larger objects depicted (i.e., likely represent the general starry night sky). It is generally thought that the cluster of 7 stars could represent the Pleiades, or even the Præsepe, both open star clusters. The meaning of the other symbols is not yet clear. The full circle (central gold disk) and the crescent (gold crescent symbol) positioned between the 2 arcs might represent the sun (or full moon) and crescent moon. It has also been suggested by the German astronomer Burkard Steinrücken that the gold crescent symbol could be the partially eclipsed sun or moon.  The identification of the 3 items (2 arcs (= eastern and western horizon sectors where the sun rises and sets during the year?) and what looks like a boat (= the Ship of the Sun?) placed at the edge of the disk are still disputed. (It has also been suggested that the short arc in-between the 2 larger ones may represent a particularly bright section of the Milky Way.) It has been remarked that the only thing accurate on it is the pair of arcs - if the disk is held in a horizontal plane. The angle they cover matches the annual (apparent) swinging movement of the sun along the horizon between the 2 solstitial points, for the latitude at Saxony-Anhalt.

 There are several theories that identify the disk as a precision tool for observing the sky. One of these is the proposal that the disk was used as a complex astronomical clock for the harmonisation of solar and lunar calendars. It was used to decide when to add an intercalary month (which was basically every 3 years).

A general description tends to be: The disk contains a graphical representation of the sun, moon, and the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia, among other celestial objects of agricultural and calendrical importance, including the Pleiades. According to astronomer Ralph Hansen the disk served to coordinate the solar and lunar cycles for agricultural purposes.

The German scholar Beate Staufenbiel believes the following constellations are recognisable (by means of simple comparison with the night sky): Great Bear, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and Orion. Also, the stars Sirius, Vega, and Deneb.

There is evidence that the disk was reworked several times. It has been reasonably established that the present appearance of the disk involved 3 steps. (Other investigators consider it is evident that the production of the disk occurred in 5 stages.) At least 3 dots (stars) were (re)moved when the 2 arcs (eastern and western horizon sectors?) were placed on the disk. X-rays indicate that there are 2 more stars under the gold of one of the arcs. This makes it likely that the 2 arcs were added some time after the other features were placed. Additionally, the other ("lower") arc (boat?) does not appear to fit the aesthetic concept of the disk design. This is because the distance between 2 of the dots (stars?) and the arc looking like a boat is considerably smaller than with any of the other large gold objects on the disk. The rim of the disk has also been roughly punched at some later time.

The disk was perhaps used for religious and agricultural purposes at the time of the autumn equinox. The disk may depict the beginning and end of the planting and harvest seasons (as determined by the sun, the moon, and the Pleiades star grouping. It has been speculated that it was perhaps one of a pair. The other disk being designed for use at the time of the spring equinox. Another theory holds that it was used to determine when an intercalary month (a 13th month) was to be inserted into the calendar to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons (i.e., to keep the solar and lunar years harmonised).

The use of the disk remains unknown. There remains the possibility that the Nebra disk is simply a cult object (or became a cult object). The face of the Nebra Sky Disk is claimed to be one of the earliest astronomical representations of the night sky. It is pointed out that only in the burial chamber in the pyramid of Pharaoh Unas (at Saqqara), the last Pharaoh of the 5th Dynasty, circa 2,300 BCE, that an earlier astronomical impression of the night sky has been found (on some ceilings). However, these are simply an artist's invention and not an accurate depiction of the night sky. The ceilings of the corridors, the antechamber and the burial chamber in the Pyramid of Unas have decorative arrays of yellow stars on a blue background.

From: Archaeological Finds from Germany. Selected and annotated by Svend Hansen. Booklet to the Photographic Exhibition. 2010. Column 46. (rawings (sic) = drawings)

See: Harald Meller and Francois Bertemes. (Editors). (2010 (2011?)). Der Griff nach den Sternen. Wie Europas Eliten zu Macht und Reichtum kamen. (2 Bände). Internationales Symposium in Halle (Saale), 16. – 21. Februar 2005. Tagungen des Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte, Band 5 (Halle / Saale 2010). 1028 Seiten mit zahlreichen Farbabbildungen.

Inhalt:

Band I: S. 13 Joachim Reichstein, Nachruf auf Konrad Spindler. S. 15 Winfried Grecksch, Grußwort. S. 17 Harald Meller, Grußwort. S. 19 Frangois Bertemes, Vorwort. S. 23 Harald Meller Nebra: Vom Logos zum Mythos - Biographie eines Himmelsbildes Kulturgeschichte. S. 77 Svend Hansen, Der Hort von Nebra: seine Ausstattung. S. 91 Heiko Breuer, Untersuchung der Maßverhältnisse der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 97 Bernd Zieh, Die frühbronzezeitliche Umgebung des Fundes mit der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 119 Florian Innerhofer, Zwischen Frühbronzezeit und Hügelgräberkultur - Zum zeitlichen Umfeld der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra in Mitteldeutschland. S. 131 Frangois Bertemes, Die Metallurgengräber der zweiten Hälfte des 3. und der ersten Hälfte des 2. Jt. v. Chr. im Kontext der spätkupferzeitlichen und frühbronzezeitlichen Zivilisationen Mitteleuropas. s. 163 Christian Strahm, Die ökonomischen und ideellen Bedingungen der Formation frühbronzezeitlicher Eliten. S. 177 Carola Metzner-Nebelsick, Die Ringe der Macht - Überlegungen zur Kontinuität frühbronzezeitlicher Herrschaftssymbole in Europa. S. 199 Patrice Brun, Laurent Aubry, Cyrille Galinand, Frangoise Pennors and Pascal Ruby, Elite and prestige goods during the Early and Middle Bronze Age in France. S. 207 Mareva Gabillot, Neue Forschungen zu den frühbronzezeitlichen - armorikanischen Tumuli. S. 217 Mireille David-Elbiali und Albert Hafner, Gräber, Horte und Pfahlbauten zwischen Jura und Alpen - Die Entwicklung elitärer sozialer Strukturen in der frühen Bronzezeit der Westschweiz. S. 239 Alessandro Vanzetti, Social structure and power across the Alps in the Early and the Middle Bronze Age. S. 253 Franco Nicolis, The role of the central eastern Alps in connecting Mediterranean and central European elites during the Bronze Age. S. 261 Konrad Spindler, Wanderweidewirtschaft. S. 269 Susanne Weinberger, Bemerkungen zum Kriegswesen im österreichischen Weinviertel in der Frühbronzezeit. S. 281 Alexandra Krenn-Leeb, Ressource versus Ritual - Deponierungsstrategien der Frühbronzezeit in Österreich. S. 317 Gerhard Tmka Zur Problematik frühbronzezeitlicher Kreisgrabenanlagen im Mitteldonauraum. S. 333 Michael Schefzik, Siedlungen der Frühbronzezeit in Mitteleuropa - Eine Gegenüberstellung der Hausformen Süddeutschlands und des Aunjetitzer Bereiches. S. 351 Peter Ettel, Die frühbronzezeitlichen Höhensiedlungen in Mitteldeutschland und Mitteleuropa -Stand der Forschung. S. 381 Johannes Meller und Janusz, Czebreszuk, Bruszczewo und Lejd Male - Ein frühbronzezeitliches Machtzentrum in Großpolen. S. 397 Mike Parker Pearson, Josh Pollard, Colin Richards, Julian Thomas, Chris Tilley and Kate Welham, Stonehenge and Early Bronze Age cosmology. S. 417 Richard J. Harrison, Stonehenge in the Early Bronze Age Ikonographie und Religion. S. 431 Kristian Kristiansen, The Nebra find and early Indo-European religion. S. 439. Wolfgang David, Die Zeichen auf der Scheibe von Nebra und das altbronzezeitliche Symbolgut des Mitteldonau-Karpatenraumes. S. 487 Regine Maraszek, Ein Schiff auf dem Himmelsozean - Zur Deutung des gefiederten Goldbogens auf der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 501 Stefan Wirth, Sonnenbarke und zyklisches Weltbild - Überlegungen zum Verständnis der spätbronzezeit-lichen Ikonographie in Mitteleuropa. S. 517 Margarita Primas, Himmelskörper im Bild - Nebra und Sion. S. 521 Flemming Kaul, The sun image from Trundholm (The Chariot of the Sun) - a commented history of research. S. 537 Christoph Sommerfeld, Die Kehrseite - Anmerkungen zur Rolle des Mondes in der Ikonographie der Bronzezeit. S. 553 Marion Uckelmann, Zur Ornamentik jungbronzezeitlicher Schilde. S. 563 Eugene Warmenbol, Drowningby numbers - nine lives, twelve deaths in the Bronze Age.

Band II: Fernbeziehungen. S. 579 Henrik Thrane, Contacts between Central and northern Europe S. 591 Brendan O'Connor, From Dorchester to Dieskau - some aspects of relations between Britain and Central Europe during the Early Bronze Age. S. 603 Sabine Gerloff, Von Troja an die Saale, von Wessex nach Mykene - Chronologie, Fernverbindungen und Zinnrouten der Frühbronzezeit Mittel- und Westeuropas. S. 641 Florian Ruppenstein, Einfache Radnadeln als Indikatoren europaweiter Fernbeziehungen zur Zeit der Deponierung der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 657 Reinhard Jung, Der Charakter der Nordkontakte der minoischen und mykenischen Zivilisation um 1600 v.u. Z. S. 675 Lorenz Rahmstorf, Die Nutzung von Booten und Schiffen in der bronzezeitlichen Ägäis und die Fernkontakte der Frühbronzezeit. S. 699 Hermann Parzinger, Mitteleuropa und der eurasische Steppenraum während der Frühbronzezeit. S. 711 Anthony Harding, Discussant's commentary long-distance contacts Archäometallurgie. S. 719 Ernst Pemicka, Archäometallurgische Untersuchungen am und zum Hortfund von Nebra. S. 735 Gregor Borg, Warum in die Ferne schweifen? Geochemische Fakten und geologische Forschungsansätze zu Europas Goldvorkommen und zur Herkunft des Nebra-Goldes. S. 751 Daniel Berger, Roland Schwab und Christian-Heinrich Wunderlich, Technologische Untersuchungen zu bronzezeitlichen Metallziertechniken nördlich der Alpen vor dem Hintergrund des Hortfundes von Nebra. S. 779 Barbara Regine Armbruster, Tauschiertechnik im bronzezeitlichen Nord- und Mitteleuropa. S. 791 Claus-Stephan Holdermann und Frank Trommer, Verfahrenstechniken und Arbeitsaufwand im frühbronzezeitlichen Metallhandwerk -Technologische Aspekte der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra -Ein Erfahrungsbericht. S. 807 Knut Rassmann, Die frühbronzezeitlichen Stabdolche Ostmitteleuropas - Anmerkungen zu Chronologie, Typologie, Technik und Archäometallurgie. S. 823 Tobias L. Kienlin, Zu Herstellung, Eigenschaften und chronologischer Stellung der frühbronzezeitlichen Randleistenbeile des Sächsischen Typs. S. 845 Rüdiger Krause, Bronzezeitliche Kupfergewinnung in den Alpen -Überlegungen zur Organisation des Metallkreislaufs. S. 865 Martin Bartelheim, Schmiedefürsten oder Großbauern? Elite und Metalle in der Frühbronzezeit Mitteleuropas. S. 881 Vicente Lull, Rafael Micö, Cristina Rihuete Herrada und Roberto Risch, Macht und Metall im 3. und 2. Jt. v. u. Z. im Südosten der Iberischen Halbinsel. S. 903 Helle Vandkilde, Metallurgy, inequality and globalization in the Bronze Age -discussant's commentary on the papers in the metallurgy Session Astronomie. S. 913 Wolfhard Schlosser, Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra - Astronomische Untersuchungen. S. 935 Burkard Steinrücken, Die Dynamische Interpretation der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 947 Armin Wirsching, Das Himmelsgewölbe auf der Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 953 Rahlf Hansen, Sonne oder Mond? Verewigtes Wissen aus der Ferne. S. 963 Felix Schmeidler, Archäologie und Astronomie in den frühen Hochkulturen und die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra. S. 969 Hermann Hunger, Möglichkeiten und Grenzen früher Astronomie in Mesopotamien. S. 973 Felix Blocher, Gestirns- und Himmelsdarstellungen im alten Vorderasien von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des 2. Jt. v. Chr. S. 989 Joachim Friedrich Quack, Altägyptische Himmelsdarstellungen. S. 1003 Alexandra von Lieven, - Er kennt die Geburt des Re und seine Verwandlung in der Flut... -Altägyptische Vorstellungen über den Sonnenlauf. S. 1011 Andreas Hänel Waren europäische Megalithgräber frühe Sternwarten? S. 1021 Wolfhard Schlosser, Diskutantenbericht Astronomie.

Anhang. S. 1029 Die Himmelsscheibe von Nebra - Koordinatennetz und Sternnumme.

Appendix 1: Bronze Age Cone Shaped Gold Hats

Two sets of photographs of the 4 Bronze Age gold cones recovered to date.

The 4 gold cones are rare archaeological finds dating back to the Bronze Age, which lasted from 3300-700 BCE. The cones all appear to have been made sometime around the middle of this period or later, ranging from 1400-800 BCE. They were each discovered separately, over the course of 160 years, in different geographic locations. There is a possibility that more gold cones will be uncovered in the future.

To date 4 Bronze Age gold pointed "wizard hats," representing a high level of technical achievement, have been found in Central Europe (1 in Switzerland dated circa 1,300 BCE; 2 in southern Germany; and 1 in west France). (According to one source 3 of them were found in Germany and 1 was found in France.) They are very rare archaeological objects. The 4 gold hats presently known are:

(1) The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt, found in 1835 at Schifferstadt near Speyer, dated circa 1400-1300 BCE. The first cone was discovered in 1835 at Schifferstadt, Germany and is called the Golden Hat of Schifferstadt. It was uncovered by a farmer, and appeared to have been intentionally buried. It is the shortest of the 4 cones, standing at 29.6 cm high. It is divided into bands that run the full length of the cone, with each band decorated with one of several designs including circles, disc shapes, and eye-like shapes. It is believed to have been manufactured sometime between 1400-1300 BCE.

(2) The Avanton Gold Cone, incomplete, found at Avanton near Poitiers in 1844, dated circa 1000-900 BCE. The 2nd cone discovered is the Avanton Gold Cone, discovered in Avanton, France in 1844. It is believed to have been manufactured between 1000-900 BCE, and is the only one missing a brim. However, signs of damage indicate that it did have a brim at one time. The cone stands at 55 cm. It is also banded, with repeated circle symbols.

(3) The Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, found near Ezelsdorf near Nuremberg in 1953, dated circa 1000-900 BCE; the tallest known specimen at circa 90 centimetres. The 3rd cone discovered is the Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, discovered near Ezelsdorf, Germany in 1953. It stands as the tallest of the 4 cones, at 88 cm tall, and contains the same banded design with repeated circles, discs, and eye-like shapes. It is believed to have originated between 1000-900 BCE.

(4) The Berlin Gold Hat, likely found in Swabia or Switzerland, dated circa 1000-800 BCE; acquired by the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin, in 1996. The provenance of the 4th gold cone is unclear but is believed to have been found in either southern Germany or Switzerland - it was noticed in the international arts trade in 1995. The cone originates from 1000-800 BCE, and is known as the Berlin Gold Hat because it was purchased by the Berlin Museum. It stands at 75 cm tall, with the same banded pattern as the others.

Although discovered in different locations and at different times, the 4 gold cones share many similarities in size, shape, design, and construction. Their conical design mimics the popular image of a witch’s or wizard’s hat. The purpose of the gold cones is unknown. Whilst they were each found in different geographic areas, speculations have developed around the cones as a group, the assumption being that they were all used for similar purposes. However, while the 4 cones bear striking similarities, they are also somewhat unique in their specific features. The gold artifacts are constructed of sheets of gold, with intricate designs (believed by some to be astronomical) and demonstrate superb craftsmanship. All were produced (hammered) from one piece of sheet gold and testify to the high skill level of Bronze Age craftsmen.

The Golden Hat from Schifferstadt was found in an upright position in the ground. The 3 bronze axes found with the hat enabled the find to be dated to the 14th- or early 13th-century BCE. The hat is 29.6 cm high, weighs 350 grams, and its wall thickness varies between 0.1 and 0.25 cm.

Professor Sabine Gerloff, a German archaeologist at Erlangen University, has found evidence that 5 similar gold hats (cones) were unearthed by peat diggers in Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries. Unfortunately, all of them were melted down.

The hats are associated with the pre-Proto-Celtic Bronze Age Urnfield culture.  Their use as head-gear is strongly supported by the fact that three of the four objects have a cap-like widening at the bottom of the cone, and that their openings are oval (not round), with diameters and shapes roughly equivalent to those of a human skull. It is assumed that the gold cones served as religious insignia for the deities or priests of a sun cult then widespread in Central Europe. The figural depiction of an object resembling a conical hat on a stone slab of the King's Grave at Kivik, Southern Sweden, strongly supports the association of the gold cones with religion and cult.

In 2001, May 17 - 20, a colloquium "Goldenes Sakralgerät der Bronzezeit" ("Golden sacral equipment of the Bronze Age") was organised by the "Germanisches Nationalmuseum," and the papers presented were published in 2003 in the "Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums." A critique of the thesis of Menghin was contained in these published papers. However, 2 years later an exhibition "Gold und Kult der Bronzezeit" with the Golden Hats as the central focus was organised by the "Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg, 22. Mai bis 7. September 2003." In the catalogue and in the exhibition, and therefore also in the public view, only the thesis of Wilfried Menghin was presented ("Goldene Kalenderhüte - Manifestationen bronzezeitlicher Kalenderwerke" ("Golden Calendar Hats - manifestations of Bronze Age calendar works"), Pages 220-237), claiming identification of "calender calculator", "Metonic cycle" etc. 

In his article "Von Hüten, Kegeln und Kalendern oder das blendende Licht des Orient" (Pages 27-34, "From hats, cones and calendars or the blinding light of the Orient") Mark Schmidt writes (rough draft translation): "lnspired by the work of Jens May and Reiner Lumpe, Wilfried Menghin recently suggested the gold plate cone "hats" can be interpreted as calendars. This interpretation is quite complex, however, and subject to a number of methodological problems. Firstly, these have to do with the "merkmaltypisierender arguments" ("number rhythm" or the "counts" of the 4 investigated gold cones). Menghin wants to identify differently, each equally self-contained, cone sections containing ornamentation. It needs to be stated that there are divergences between the respective absolute number of zones a certain range and that assigned by Menghin with his "counting" analysis, which is based on the use of the so-called "switching and special zones." Looking at the respective treatment of the "switching and special zones" in determining the counts of the Berlin cone the arbitrariness in the analysis method cannot be overlooked. The areas in question are only optionally included in the count. This procedure is continued in the other analysis of the other gold cones."

The cones are made of thin gold leaf and all are covered with sun and moon symbols (1735 on 1 hat; 1737 and 1739 on 2 of the others). The Berlin gold cone is 88 centimetres high and is dated to the late Bronze period circa 1000-800 BCE. The Berlin gold cone is the only one that is fully preserved. According to Wilfried Menghin (Director of the Berlin Museum) the symbols form a code corresponding almost exactly to the Metonic cycle. The symbols and their number are a day/month Metonic cycle code. (See his journal article: "Der Berliner Goldhut und die goldenen Kalendarien der alteuropäischen Bronzezeit." Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica, Volume 32, 2000, Pages 31-108.) Supporters of this viewpoint suggest that Bronze Age "wizards" would have been able to make long-term empirical astronomical observations. According to Wilfried Menghin the 1,739 sun and half-moon symbols decorating the Berlin cone's surface comprise a scientific code - explaining the relationship between moon and sun years - which corresponds almost exactly to the Metonic cycle discovered by the Greek astronomer Meton in 432 BCE. This date is circa 500 years after the Berlin cone was made. According to Wilfried Menghin: "The symbols on the hat are a logarithmic table which enables the movements of the sun and moon to be calculated in advance."

However, according to Andreas Fuls (Technische Universität Berlin, Institut für Geodäsie und Geoinformationstechnik): "The interpretation of astronomical and calendrical symbols is often criticized as incidentally (sic) [= incidental]. The fortuity depends on the number of possible combinations as well as the exepted (sic) [= excepted] [= not including, but mistake for accepted?] tolerance of the astronomical period. In this paper, the astronomical interpretation of iconographic symbols on golden hats from the Bronze Age will be analysed to check its statistical significance. The four golden hats (Schifferstadt, Avanton, Ezelsdorf, and Berlin) have 10 to 20 zones with a different number of symbols. The number of circles of each symbol and the number of symbols from one or more zones are multiplied in a first step. The total amount is interpreted as a number of days. In a second step the number of days is compared to mean astronomical cycles like the synodic month or the tropical year (Menghin 2000, Fuls 2004), but the results are often criticized as incidentally [= incidental]. Do the circular symbols on the golden hats represent sophisticated astronomical knowledge during the Bronze Age? Or is it just artistic decoration? ("Astronomic-statistical Analysis of Circular Symbols on Golden Hats (Bronze Age)." Astronomische Nachrichten, Band 328, 2007, Number 7, Page 1.)" See also: Fuls, Andreas. (2004): "Archäoastronomische Anmerkungen zu bronzezeitlichen Goldhüten und ostfriesischen Kultbauten." In: Huber, Florian and Rottländer, Rolf. (Editors). ORDO ET MENSURA VIII, Scripta Mercaturae Verlag, St. Katharinen (2004), Pages 39–57.

With any small and unusual group of finds, such as the Bronze Age gold foil cones, it is inevitable that even the most intense efforts to find a functional and "ideological" interpretation will not be successful. In such cases it would seem a good idea a good idea to give an indefinite conclusion in preference to a too speculative interpretation.

Interestingly, at her Blogsite, Christine Sterne makes the observation (2011) that the gold hats are exactly the same shape as the straw hats worn by the women of Yemen.

The gold hats, or more specifically, the sun cult they appear to have been an expression of, are also believed to be connected with a number of other prominent works of Bronze Age or early Iron Age art. These include the Nebra Sky Disk, which pre-dates the gold cones but possibly implies similarly advanced astronomical knowledge; the Mold cape (dated circa 2000 BCE), one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working, and likely to have been worn by a priest or similar special individual; the Trundholm Sun Chariot, a clear representation of sun-related beliefs, a variety of Scandinavian petroglyphs; and assemblages like the Bernstorf Gold Hoard, with golden elements originally attached to clothing; or the Eberswalde Treasure, which features similar decorative motifs to those on the hats. It is thought the widespread distribution of the Sun Cross and similar motifs in Bronze Age Central and Northern Europe may also be connected.

The symbols on the gold caps are also found on weapons such as swords and helmets. The most recent interpretation is they are a ceremonial hat or crown. It is generally assumed that the west European gold hats are based upon prototypes in the eastern Mediterranean. A possible concept behind the gold caps is they were the crown of a deity, as were gold caps in the Hittite Empire.

From: Archaeological Finds from Germany. Selected and annotated by Svend Hansen. Booklet to the Photographic Exhibition. 2010. Column 52.

Appendix 2: The claim for early constellation patterns in the ground at Magdeleneberg, Germany

The 1990s work of the Dutch archaeologist Linda Therkorn (University of Amsterdam), and also the 2011 analysis by the German researcher Allard Mees (Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum) has led to some remarkable claims.

The Press Release, 11th October 2011, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum states (in part):  "The order of the burials around the central royal tomb fits exactly with the sky constellations of the Northern hemisphere. The position of the burials at Magdeleneberg represents a constellation pattern which can be seen between Midwinter and Midsummer. ... With the help of special computer programs, Dr. Allard Mees, researcher at the Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum, could reconstruct the position of the sky constellations in the early Celtic period and following from that those which were visible at Midsummer. This archaeo-astronomic research resulted in a date of Midsummer 618 BC, which makes it the earliest and most complete example of a Celtic calendar focused on the moon." The broad claim is the constellation pattern identified from the order of the burials around the central tomb is dated to the 7th-century BCE.

The key claims are: (1) the star groupings/constellation patterns can be identified from the order of the burials around the central tomb, (2) they comprise a Northern sky constellation set, and (3) the matching of the 'star' grouping patterns of the constellations on the ground with the positions of the star groups in the sky forming constellations gives a date in the 7th century BCE. The constellations claimed to be identified identified comprise a Greek set: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Delphinus, Cygnus, Sagitta, Lyra, Hercules, Corona Borealis, Boötes, Coma Berenices, and Snake-Head. Okay, the early Celts knew the Greeks. However, the existence of Coma Berenices dates to the Hellenistic period circa 3rd century BCE.

An apparent assumption indicated is the acceptance of a generic set of Northern sky constellations/patterns (or generic set of Northern sky star groupings) as illustrated by the Greek constellation set familiar to us. Also, an apparent assumption is the dot and line indulged in justifies the Greek constellation pattern set. No proof of a Celtic constellation set is given. The decision to connect tombs = 'stars' in dot and line manner to suggest Greek constellation patterns is not discussed in the Press Release.

A number of key problems exist. The existence of Coma Berenices dates to the Hellenistic period circa 3rd century BCE. (The constellation Coma Berenices refers to a classical story concerning the hair of Berenice, the wife and queen of Ptolemy III of Egypt during the 3rd century BCE. It was named and introduced into the Greek constellation set by the astronomer Conon circa 245 BCE. It was previously an asterism belonging to the constellation Leo. Coma Berenices was not one of the 48 constellations listed in Ptolemy's star catalogue (which standardised the Western constellation scheme).) Perhaps the assumption is that the early Celts had star groupings similar to those of the Greeks. In the Celtic Ursa Major there are 25 tombs = 'stars.' The Greeks listed between 22 and 27 stars forming Ursa Major. However, there is no reason to believe this was the case in Greek uranography circa the 7th-century BCE. For 'Homer,' Ursa Major consisted of 7 bright stars only. 'Homer' is usually dated to the 8th-century BCE but has also (somewhat controversially) been dated to the 7th-century BCE. A number of things do appear to be somewhat odd. It appears they have chosen to use a late Greek constellation/pattern set as the Northern constellations of an earlier date.

Extending to ancient Germanic tribes; apart from some scattered references of later writers we have no record of the indigenous constellation/star names of the ancient Germanic tribes.

Appendix 3: The claim for early constellation patterns in the ground at Muggenburg, The Netherlands

The method of pattern matching/comparison between earth and sky was a feature of the work of Linda Therkorm in the 1990s. She is an archaeologist who is still at the Amsterdam Archaeological Center, University of Amsterdam. (2012: Senior Researcher, University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities, Archaeology.) Her (burial) pit-zodiac theory (first publicly set out in "Stars fell on Muggenburg" by Govert Schilling (New Scientist, December 16, 1995, Number 2008, Pages 32-34)) makes the claim for the possible early knowledge of the Classical zodiacal constellations (and others) being recognized in 'The Netherlands' circa 300 CE (and also perhaps circa 500 BCE!). At the date of this article Linda Therkorn claimed recognition of Taurus, Canis Major, Pegasus, and Hercules at Muggenburg circa 4th-century CE, and Taurus and Pegasus at Velserbroek circa 6th-century BCE. (She has since investigated the possible cosmic significance of other Dutch landscapes.) Her 2004 PhD thesis (University of Amsterdam) in which she fully discusses her idea is titled: Landscaping the Powers of Darkness and Light: 600 BC-350 AD settlement concerns of Noord-Holland in wider perspective.

The comparative method(s) of identifying star groupings/constellations from the nature and/or order of burials (pits or tombs) has the advantage(s) of possibility of obtaining new insights not forming part of recorded historical material. However, it has the disadvantage(s) of being subjective. Further problems include: (1) the assumption that the dot and line pattern indulged in justifies the Greek constellation pattern set for comparison purposes, (2) the acceptance of a generic set of Northern sky constellations/patterns (or generic set of Northern sky star groupings) as illustrated by the Greek constellation set, and (3) the use of a late Greek constellation/pattern set as the Northern constellations of an earlier date.

Appendix 4: A Bronze-Age Armenian solar system?: The creation of pseudo-history

An Armenian bronze artifact is often being claimed as a Bronze Age geocentric model of the solar system. (The terms 'considered' and 'interpreted' are also variously used.) This claim is apparently only made on popular web sites rather than in professional journals/publications. However, the names of several professional persons are mentioned as supporting the claim. (As example see http://www.armeniapast.com/prehistory/bronze-age/ This is a web page by Andrew Selkirk, the Editor-in-Chief of the British magazines Current Archaeology and Current World Archaeology. He states: "I originally studied Classics ("Greats") at Oxford where I was President of the Oxford University Archaeology Society.") The information and photographs on the web page are based on a visit that Andrew Selkirk made to Armenia in June 2013. In the About (Visiting Armenia) page Andrew Selkirk writes: "My main source of information has been a guide to the Archaeological Heritage of Armenia, edited by Hakob Simonyan for the Borsa and published in Yerevan in 2012. My thanks also go to the authors of the excellent Bradt Guide book to Armenia, by the late Nicholas Holding, and to his wife Deirdre who has taken on the task of updating the guide book. I have cribbed from it in a number of places! The two most useful books on Armenian archaeology are both somewhat out-of-date – 'Urartu' by Boris Piotrovsky the excavator of Karmir Bur, and subsequently Director of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, who provides an an excellent account, even though it was published in 1969. 'The Peoples of the Hills' by Charles Burney and David Marshall Lang was published in 1971 and gives a rather academic survey of the archaeology." Andrew Selkirk's caption "This masterpiece of bronze workmanship is often considered to be a model of the solar system. It is one of the treasures of the National Museum in Yerevan." Why exactly it is considered to be a masterpiece of bronze (bronze age?) workmanship is not explained.

Note 1: In astronomy, the term "geocentric system" is usually used to designate a geometric and specifically ordered plan of the "spheres" of the planets and stars. The Armenian object does not depict such a system.

Note 2: There is also a claim for later Iron Age depictions of the solar system, from around Lake Sevan, being on display in the History Museum (National Museum) in Yerevan. https://journals.worldnomads.com/krodin/story/137374/Armenia/Armenian-Impressions The reference to Armenian Iron Age artifacts depicting solar systems is most likely a mistake for the particular bronze artifact.

In October 2015 Ed Krupp saw the object in the National Museum in Yerevan, Armenia. He remarked (Hastro-L, March 2016) that he was surprised to encounter it. Ed Krupp further remarked that the astronomical interpretation in the object's caption at the museum is minimal and neither persuasive nor detailed. The museum catalogue gives the object height as 24.8 centimetres. There is no readily obvious way of being certain that it is as old as claimed or that it was found where claimed (according to some sources). Whatever its function the appears as a model of the solar system implying geocentricity. The exhibition includes a 'temple adornment' showing a similar depiction of the 'earth' but with three rings.  It's not clear how it would be used, there is nothing for attaching it to clothing. The museum catalogue states that that "such a representation of the geocentric system is also found in medieval Armenian manuscripts." Ed Krupp also commented that he had not encountered any critical commentary on this object, and that it would be interesting to know if the same emblem appears in later manuscripts, as claimed.

One source indicates the location of the relevant medieval manuscripts as Yerevan. (No other details are given but these document date for circa 5th/7th century CE.) The situation regarding referencing/accessible referencing is ridiculous and the status of the claims is indicated as pseudo-history. The pattern is for Armenian authors to simply repeat early claims and give usually inaccessible references. Any modern discussion is avoided.

Regarding the claim for medieval Armenian manuscripts. No information is given where to find these particular examples. It's a bit like the historical dictionary that for the entry Noah stated See Flood and for the entry Flood stated See Ark and for the entry Ark stated See Noah. If professional Armenian historians can't present clear information on the issue then likely there is nothing but a historical hoax. It is now some 70 years since the supposed discovery of the object yet almost no information about is discoverable. However, the original source for the ancient manuscripts claim is apparently Benik Toumanyan. Others simply seem to repeat the claim. The location of the "ancient manuscripts" seems to be the Matenadaran (Museum of Ancient Armenian Art and Manuscripts). Note: The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, commonly referred to as the Matenadaran, is a repository of ancient manuscripts, research institute and museum in Yerevan. The Matenadaran Museum contains chiefly Armenian manuscripts dating from Late Antiquity through the Early Modern Era.

Some important observations by Ed Krupp include the design of the object does not suggest geocentric ordering of the sun, moon, and five naked-eye planets. Although Ed Krupp was skeptical of the museum guide's claim for a bronze-age geocentric model of the solar system in the museum, when he saw the object, he thought it was possible the symbols on stems could represent the sun, moon, and five naked-eye planets with an earth emblem at the bottom. This is not the same thing as a representation of a geocentric system. Also, although recognition of the 7 'wanderers' in the 12th-11th centuries BCE is possible, there is no explicit confirming evidence for that particular claim. It is Ed Krupp's belief that any interpretation of the object is highly speculative and unlikely to be confirmed. It is difficult to disagree with this judgment. Also noted by Ed Krupp: The object is relatively large and heavy and does not seem to be well adapted to practical use.

Attempting to obtain accurate information concerning the discovery, dating, and interpretation of the artifact has proven to be difficult. There is a lack of English-language information. (This does not necessarily mean that there is wealth of Armenian-language information. However, it is obvious that most of the key discussions remain in the Armenian language.) What English-language information does exist is somewhat contradictory. The origin of the rather fantastic claims for the artifact - in the apparent absence of suitable standards of proof - is likely persons connected with the History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan (= National Museum in Yerevan). The Yerevan State University was established in 1919 and my understanding is it has a very good reputation. Leaving aside interpretation for the moment .... Unless there is suitable evidence that can establish a bronze age date for the artifact then why believe the claim for that date? It would be interesting to know how long the artifact has been on display with the particular astronomical interpretation. It has been there prior to 2007. An image of the artifact is also depicted on a stained glass window in the museum. Stephen Scourfield writing a tourist article in The West Australian for July 27, 2013: "There is a model of the solar system, in bronze, from perhaps the 12th century BC showing, significantly, the Earth as round."

Among the artifacts on display in the Historical Museum of Armenia is a bronze object found, according to one source, in 2015 (this late date obviously one of many errors that are encountered) after the water level of Lake Sevan lowered. The artificial draining of Lake Sevan was started in the Joseph Stalin era and resulted in the water level falling about 20 metres. (One source simply states it was recovered from the Lake Sevan region.) It is frequently described as having "pride of place" as an exhibit (one of the treasures of the National Museum in Yerevan) and being the symbol of the museum. It is claimed by Armenian experts that its manufacture dates to the 2nd-millennium BCE and it is a complex model of the solar system. There are no convincing reasons why these assertions by some Armenian academics are to be be readily accepted. Indeed information related to it is somewhat contradictory.

It is claimed that the artifact is mentioned in ancient (Armenian) manuscripts. What this apparently actually means is that it is depicted - or at least the symbols are - in early medieval Armenian manuscripts. Interpretation per the orientation shown in the photograph: In the centre of the lower part is the planet Earth, depicted as a semicircular battle-axe blade with a cruciform base. It is surrounded by 2 rings, marking the layers of water and atmosphere. The comparatively larger 'radiant' disk in the upper part symbolises the Sun. There are 5 planets symbolised: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and also the Moon. It is also stated that it is claimed to be evidence that the ancient Armenians considered the Earth was round - something also claimed to be confirmed in ancient Armenian manuscripts. One of the issues is how far back the Armenians date. The Armenians, an Indo-European people, first appear in history shortly after the end of the 7th-century BCE. The oldest known ancestors of modern Armenians, the Hayasa-Azzi tribes, also known as Proto-Armenians, were indigenous to the Armenian Highland in Eastern Anatolia.

Bronze artifact claimed to be a Bronze-Age geocentric model of the solar system. (Somewhat strangely it appears to be one of a kind; sui generis.) It is generally described in Armenian sources as a Chased Bronze Plate with a Symbolic Model of Geocentric Solar System, 12th-11th centuries BCE. (Chasing is used to refine the design on the front of the work by working from the front to sink the metal.) However, http://www.armeniapast.com/prehistory/bronze-age/ states "It is a casual find from an unknown source, but is generally considered to be Bronze Age." (This statement may not be correct. Information though remains contradictory.) How and exactly where it was found may likely never be explained. It is generally identified as being recovered from the Sevan Basin. The interpretation of the object is based mostly on depictions of astronomical symbols in Armenian astronomical literature. (Apparently a late astrological significance is not considered. Neither apparently has the question "Is it a fake?" been asked.) In the orientation of the object shown the lower end of the object is identified as the symbol of planet Earth. (But why view it with the circle at the bottom and not at the side or the top? According to the English language catalogue available at the Moscow exhibition: "The circles in the lower part of the model symbolize the Earth, surrounded with atmosphere and water. The radiant Sun crowns the model. Representations of planets visible from Earth were arranged on a rod between them.") The 2 surrounding rings are interpreted to depict layers of water and atmosphere. The upper end of the object is identified as the symbol of the Sun. In the centre between the Sun and the Earth are identified the symbols of the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and the symbol of the Moon. It is also stated that it is claimed to be evidence that the ancient Armenians considered the Earth was round - something also claimed to be confirmed in ancient Armenian manuscripts. Apparently there have been no attempts by Armenian academics proposing an ancient astronomical explanation to explain what purpose it was used for and how it 'worked.' Note: In astronomy, the term "geocentric system" is usually used to designate a geometric and specifically ordered plan of the "spheres" of the planets and stars. The Armenian object does not depict such a system. Note: There is also a claim for later Iron Age solar systems from around Lake Sevan being on display in the History Museum (National Museum) in Yerevan. See: https://journals.worldnomads.com/krodin/story/137374/Armenia/Armenian-Impressions

For a bronze artifact to be claimed to be a Bronze-Age geocentric model of the solar system one would expect the evidence to be robust and have wide expert agreement. It is obvious that this is not the case with this particular object. In fact it is almost impossible to find any literature providing evidence for the discovery, dating, and interpretation of the artifact. Interestingly, there have been only a few critiques of the claims for this object - either from inside or from outside Armenia. In 2105 the object was on display in the National Museum in Yerevan, Armenia (at least in October 2015). Sometime later it was on display in Moscow until 13th June, 2016. Ed Krupp, who saw the object displayed in the museum in Yerevan, commented (Hastro-L, March 2016): "Astronomical interpretation in the object's caption at the museum is minimal and neither persuasive nor detailed. I have not encountered any critical commentary on this object, and it would be interesting to know if the same emblem appears in later manuscripts, as claimed." Nothing had changed when the object was on display in Moscow. The display catalogue described it as a Bronze-Age geocentric solar system model. Little other information was given. The English the title of the Moscow exhibition was 'Armenia, The Legend Of Being, Country Radiating All The Circles of History' (sic). It is claimed many of the advances in metallurgy took place in the 'Armenian Highland' and drove Indo-European expansion and so appears to correspond to the Armenian hypothesis of the Proto-Indo-European-Urheimat. (See: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_hypothesis) It appears this hypothesis is relatively little known in the West. But whether the civilization of the 'Armenian Highland' is a possible significant link between those of Mesopotamia and ancient Greece, for the history and prehistory of astronomy, is unknown. It is known that the Caucasus region was greatly influenced by Greek culture.

Part of the issue is not what the catalogue states (which does not comprise direct evidence) but exactly who is claiming: (1) the dating and why, and (2) the interpretation and why. Lots of "interesting" (exaggerated) astronomical and historical claims have been originating out of Armenia for decades. If you want to put a lot of weight with speculation (extrapolation from what you believe is credibly established or what you believe is likely to have been known) then it's hard to identify a stopping point. If you want to put a lot of weight with evidence then at present we don't seem to have a starting point with this artifact. Speculation does not qualify as evidence. The lack of evidence does not mean the claim is not true. The lack of evidence being presented for the claim means there is no basis for any meaningful discussion of the claim. Speculation needs to be identified as speculation. This does not mean that it equals dismissal. It also does not mean that all sorts of speculative theories are credible and have legitimacy. That would be mistaking what is logically possible for what is historically possible and reasonable given what sources we have to work with. Also, a disturbing trend would be accepting speculation without the requisite of evidence. Hopefully we are looking for claims that are supportable and not wanting to build a house with a stone. As previously remarked, the paucity of information and evidence is fascinating for the claim that is being made.

Interestingly, there are 2 other artefacts shown with the controversial object, which show related features, and the Moscow exhibition catalogue contains discussion of solar symbolism and the wheel. Apparently the organisers of the Moscow exhibition (the aim of which is to promote Armenia) have not made the English-language catalogue available in electronic form.

Excursus: The object appeared on a postage stamp dated 1995, see: http://www.stampdata.com/stamps.php?format=catalog&fissuer=32&ffunction=postage&offset=200 It was on display in Moscow until 13th June 2016, see: http://www.shm.ru

Finding professional references for the claim that the object is a bronze age (geocentric) solar system model is difficult. When they are located there is a lack of suitable information for the claim. It has been suggested that Irakli Simonia, who is very familiar with historic Armenian astronomical references, would know more details about the object. But Ed Krupp (Hastro-L, March 2016) identifies the object is not mentioned in Irakli's papers, written in English, on ancient and historic astronomy in Armenia. Some details were published in "Armenian Astronomy in the Bronze Age." by Joseph Ouzounian (Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of the Center for Archaeoastronomy, Volume VII, Numbers 1-4, January-December, 1984, Pages 105-109). The article is interesting but somewhat speculative. (It is unfortunate that the editors of the journal in which this speculation first appeared did not ask the author relevant questions.) It appears the artifact was unearthed in 1946 near Lake Sevan (which is located 1900 metres above sea level). See specifically page 107 for a brief discussion and pages 10-12 of reference 9 (Bronze Dari Goti-Orats'uyts by H. Mnats'aganian and R. T'umanian  (1965: Mitk Publications, Everan Museum of Natural History in Armenia). (Excursus: When the level of the lake was lowered in the 1950s, an extensive barrow cemetery was revealed on the reclaimed land just below the Lchashen hillfort.) For the Everan Museum of Natural History see: The Directory of Museums & Living Displays (multiple editions ) edited by Kenneth Hudson. It appears the dating information and reasons for the astronomical interpretation are made in this publication. I cannot find the title or the author names on the internet. Likely now an obscure/rare publication. The paucity of information and evidence is fascinating for the claim that is being made. The reference to Armenian Iron Age artifacts depicting solar systems is obviously a mistake for the particular bronze artifact. An important (somewhat recent) English-language professional publication on Armenian archaeology is Bronze and Early Iron Age Archaeological Sites in Armenia. I. Mt. Aragats and its Surrounding Region by R. S. Badalyan and P. S. Avetisyan ((2007); BAR International Series 1697). The research carried out for the book included the study of the collection in the National Museum of History, Yerevan. Nothing resembling the particular artifact is either mentioned or appears as an illustration/photograph in the book. This is somewhat odd unless there is no provenance for the object and/or no legitimate evidence for the claims made about it. "New Standards in the Analysis of Archaeological Metalwork Using LA-ICP-MS: A Case Study from the South Caucasus Archaeometallurgy Project" by Clayton Meredith, et al. (2011) was published by the Idaho State University (based on analysis carried out there). It carries a picture of the object and the claim that it is a Late Bronze-Age II period (circa 15th to 11th centuries BCE) symbolic representation of the solar system. (See: Analysis of Archaeological Metalwork.pdf) It is a Poster displayed at the 76th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Sacramento, 30 March - 3 April, 2011. No other information is known. Even this article does not make matters clear.

A previous reference cited from (Archaeoastronomy (1984): Bronze Dari Goti-Orats'uyts [but also given as Bronzé dari goti-oratsouits] by H. Mnats'aganian and R. T'umanian  (1965) = The Belt-Calendar of the Bronze Age, Yerevan by Benik Tumanyan [an Armenian astronomer at the Yerevan Observatory and historian] and Haroutyun Mnatsakanyan [also given as A. O. Mnazakanian, Russian archaeologist]. (Note: Also referenced as Belt Calendar of the Bronze Age, Yerevan by B. E. Tumanian and A. O. Mnazakanian (1965); but there is no English-language translation.) It is indicated that Mnazakanian spent about a decade excavating at Lake Sevan. The 56 page publication deals with: (1) the belt calendar [also described as a geocentric model of the universe]; (2) the old solar calendar; and (3) the so-called solar system artifact. It appears the artifacts were unearthed circa 1946-1948 in the vicinity of Lake Sevan. For at least several pages of discussion with illustrations see: UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] Undergraduate Science Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, 1967. I can't readily access the journal but the article covers at least pages 12 & 13. Also, "Notes on the Sculpture of the Church of Akhthamar" by Armenag Sakisian (The Art Bulletin, Volume 25, Number 4, December 1943, Pages 346-357), is indicated as discussing similarities between medieval Armenian khachkar (khach'k'ar) iconography and bronze age artifacts. I can't readily access this journal.

It is stated that: "Among the ancient artifacts found in Armenia during several decades of archaeological excavations by scientists from Armenia's National Academy many of them are identified to possess astronomical features. According to B. E. Toumanyan this particular belt contains ornaments of the sun, moon, animals, and different geometrical shapes and points. He apparently claims (The History of Armenian Astronomy by Dr. B. E. Toumanyan (1985, Yerevan State University Press)): "A study of the belt (sic) of the calendars of neighboring countries of those days and of old Armenian manuscripts show that the belt served as a calendar, and that the lunar-solar calendar was used in ancient Armenia." According to an article in a 1974 issue of the magazine Soviet Union, the days of the week marked on it are named after the sun, the moon and five visible planets. Also claimed is an archaeological examination has proved that it was used by priests who lived in the Armenian Highlands at the end of the second and the beginning of the first millennium BCE. I have never seen an explanation of how this was supposedly determined. There is the claim that it was found in the tomb of a priest dating to the 2nd-millennium BCE. Bronze belts have all been found in graves and worn by both men and women, hence the interpretation of jewellery. This sort of speculation about archaeological objects and sites found in Armenia is taken as sufficient to imply that the Armenian Highlands was busy centre of astronomical activity during the bronze age.

According to the article in a 1974 issue of the journal Soviet Union the bronze so-called calendar-belt was recovered from an ancient burial ground near the Armenian village of Sanait (Senait?). Where this village is in relation to Lake Sevan I do not know.

Conference, At the Northern Frontier of Near Eastern Archaeology: Recent Research on Caucasia and Anatolia in the Bronze Age, 9-11 January 2013, UnisersitàCa Foscari Venezia (Ca' Foscari University of Venice). Arianna Sofia Zischow (Humboldt Universität Berlin – Germany) presented a poster session: "Caucasian Bronze Belts in Context." Abstract: "Bronze belts are recurring features of Late Bronze-Early Iron Age burial sites of the Southern Caucasus. In the course of time they have been the object of several studies, most of which comprise stylistic analyses carried out with the scope of establishing a chronological order or to distinguish geographical groups. Various scholars have devoted themselves to an interpretation of the depictions on the figuratively ornamented belts. In my presentation, however, I would like to focus on the specific contexts in which these belts occur. Based on data from a small number of sufficiently well published burial sites (e. g. Tli, Kalakent and Narekvavi) I will address - among others - the following questions: How frequently do belts appear in the burials of a given site? Are they found together with a certain set of grave goods on a regular basis? Are there variations between sites? Are especially the richly ornamented belts confined to exceptional burials in terms of construction or number and quality of grave goods? The answers to these questions might contribute to the understanding of these objects thereby allowing conclusions on their possible function and meaning within the social context of the Late Bronze-Early Iron Age societies." There is no suggestion of support for the Bronze Age Calendar-Belt interpretation.

An interesting discussion of 4 Armenia bronze belts in the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale of Saint-Germain-en-Laye - with a proposed date of 9th-7th century BCE - is: "Observations on Four Bronze Belts from the Alaverdi Area, Armenia." by Manuel Castelluccia (Iran and the Caucasus, Volume 17, Issue 4, 2003, Pages 359-369). Present-day, the town of Alaverdi is part of the northeastern Armenian province of Lori. See also: The Archaeology of the Caucasus: From Earliest Settlements to the Iron Age by Antonio Sagona (2017, Page 398): "Among the most string items of jewellery across the Caucasus are the ornamented bronze belts. The total number of bronze belts with a known provenance stands at 349." Both publications have illustrations of bronze belts.

Also published nearly a decade later by Benik Tumanian: "Measurement of Time in Ancient and Medieval Armenia." by Benik E. Tumanian (Journal for the History of Astronomy, Volume 5, Issue 2, 1974, Pages 91-98). The astronomer author was with the Yerevan Observatory.

Exaggerated astronomical claims for Armenia appear in the recently published "Ancient Astronomy in Armenia" by Elma S. Parsamian (2017). In: Non-Stable Universe edited by Areg M. Mickaelian, et al. (Pages 279-285). Note: 2016 international conference proceedings. Once again no useful details are given for the object.

Note: Recently (29 November 2017) identified by me as providing some valuable information is: Recent Advances in Laser Ablation ICP-MS for Archaeology edited by Laure Dussubieux, Mark Golitko, and Bernard Gratuze (2016). See especially pages 117, 118, 120. Page 117: The metalwork objects from Horom were analysed by Aram Gevorkyan in the 1990s but the results have only been published in this 2016 book. Arc optical emission spectroscopy was the principal method of archaeometallurgical analysis in the southern Caucasus and throughout the former Soviet Union until the 1990s. Page 118: The object was one of several (including 3 pins interpreted as representing the solar system) recovered by the Nor Kyank salvage operations from the Horom necropolis site and interpreted as representations of the solar system. [Archaeological investigations were initiated at Horom due to the construction of the Nor Kyank dam and reservoir in 1987-1989, creating flooding of the area. The bronze age archaeological site of Horom is opposite the dam and reservoir.] Page 120: The original analysis was done by A. V. Gevorkyan using the Arc (Spark) OES instrument at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Yerevan. This instrument no longer works. (Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) is a well trusted analytical tool that offers fast, accurate elemental analysis for metal composition. It is not used for dating. The Bronze Age starts at different areas of the world at different times. Radiocarbon dating is used to date the bronze age. (Synchronisms derived from datable objects can also be used. Also, the new method of Bayesian modelling, a method of statistical analysis, applied to Radiocarbon dating, has led to a shift in the chronology of the Early Bronze Age up to 200 years earlier than previously thought.))

Note: Also recently (29 November 2017) identified by me as providing some relevant information is: Archaeozoology of the Near East by Marjan Mashkour, Mark Beech (2017). Page 82: "Horom burials are located in the Artik region. They are dated to the 1st millennium BC (9th-8th centuries BC). This suggests there has been improvements in modern standards of radiocarbon dating of the Bronze Age. The excavations [at the Horom burials which recovered the object in question] were made by the archaeologist R. Badalyan." This seems to contradict dating that falls within the 2nd-millennium BCE. (Rubin Badalyan is now at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, NAS-RA (established 1959). In the scientific studies of the Institute are involved Departments of Early Archaeology (directed by Dr. R. Badalyan). The Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, NAS-RA is an Armenian Institute.)

In Armenia there is a close collaboration between science and tourism i.e., between science institutions/scientists and academics and travel agencies/experts in tourism. The promotion of "science tourism" has been established for several decades. A lot of claims originating out of Armenia seem to be aimed at bolstering their economically important tourist industry. The 1980's saw the beginning of nationalist mythmaking in Armenia. It was influenced by the belief that the Soviet Armenian historians were intent on undermining the national consciousness of the Armenian people by promoting the idea of a common Caucasian history. Needless to say this is a controversial viewpoint. The centre for the Armenian nationalist project has been Yerevan. During the 1970's Armenian historians at the University in Yerevan wrote the 4-volume History of the Armenian People; which is a history that is acceptable to them (and to be used with caution). For a reasonable discussion of Armenia scholars perpetuating pseudo-history (Armenian nationalist project) see: The Armenians From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars by Razmik Panossian (2006). Armenian independence was achieved in September 1991. The standard English-language history of Armenia The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times edited by Richard Hovannisian (2 Volumes, 1997). It is a general survey of Armenian history. The editor is Professor of Armenian and Near Eastern History, University of California, Los Angeles; and also the Holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Its scholarship stands outside of the Armenian nationalist project. For an excellent explanation of Armenian nationalism and archaeology/history see: "Nationalism, politics, and the practice of archaeology in the Caucasus." (Pages 149-174) In: Nationalism, Politics and the Practice of Archaeology edited Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett (1995).

Were the bronze object and the bronze belt interpreted/categorised simply within an Armenian perspective of history (i.e., ideological framework)? Was the bronze age being used as a broad category? Was radiocarbon dating used or was dating made through stratigraphic relatiuonships or stylistic dating of objects?

Armenian astronomical publications dealing with historical maters can contain numerous mistakes and at times a low level of scholarship. Exaggerated and patently false claims to great antiquity appear in popular and professional articles by Armenian authors. Many claims are doubtful and can be dismissed as lacking suitable levels of proof. The various claims warrant critical scrutiny. Being critical does not mean that one is leaving out consideration of possibilities. The issue is the possibilities being presented are so far indicated as unpersuasive. Without satisfactory and irrefutable answers about the object we are safe in saying that we have uncertainty and speculation. Speculation is speculation and establishes nothing. It is important to have some firmly established details about the object before one speculates that it is a model of a geocentric solar system.

It seems to be accepted/assumed that the particular bronze artifact originated in Armenia. However, perhaps it came from western Iran. According to The Cambridge History of Iran (1983, See the discussion pages 506-536): During the Early Bronze Age, north-western Iran formed a single cultural zone with Armenia and southern Georgia, which entered into the orbit of what is known as the Kuro-Araxes culture. That said, when comparing it to various images of the Armenian medieval khachkar (cross) I tend to think there are similarities. It appears it existed in one form or another before its Christian employment. Perhaps something interesting can be found in "A History of Archaeology in the Republic of Armenia." by Ian Lindsay and Adam Smith (Journal of Field Archaeology, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer, 2006, Pages 165-184).

The 'Armenian Highland' has been home to a culture that until recently has been thought by some to be little known in the West. This is not quite correct. (When Armenia was part of the Soviet bloc most Armenian scholars wrote either in Russian or one of the local languages, which most Western scholars do not read.) Regarding dubious claim for the West being isolated from knowledge of Armenia astronomy and claims for ancient astronomical artifacts; pages 14-17 of the Armenian Astronomical Society Newsletter, Number 82, provides a list 69 references related to Armenian archaeoastronomy and history of astronomy in Armenia. For a bibliography of Armenian rock art research see: http://www.armrockart.nt.am/books.htm One last example ("Rock Carvings of Armenia" by K. S. Tokhatyan (Fundamental Armenology, Number 2, 2015): http://www.fundamentalarmenology.am/datas/pdfs/180.pdf Unfortunately the Armenians scholars who now seek to inform the West about their culture have created the demonstrable problem that what they claim is biased. It is likely not a good idea to consider that somehow Armenian claims for the history of their astronomy may be informative. Indicated as examples of recent popular claims: (1) Armenian Astronomical Society Newsletter, Number 78, February 28, 2015, Pages 12-17: http://www.aras.am/ArasNews/arasnews78.pdf; and (2) Armenian Astronomical Society Newsletter, Number 82, June 30, 2015, Pages 12-17 (also interesting is Page 11 regarding the promotion of scientific tourism): http://www.aras.am/ArasNews/arasnews82.pdf  To access the paper presented by Elma Parsamian at Oxford VI/SEAC 99 see: ftp://ftp.vhs-gilching.de/SEAC1999-OXFORD-searchable.pdf  (Pages 77-82). On page 77: "On Armenian territory , a belt calendar and geocentric model of the universe were discovered from the Bronze Era, dating back to the XI century BC (Tumanian, Mnazakanian, 1965)." Pages 80-81 advocates the astronomical interpretation of Zorac' K'arer (Karahunj). For a rather comprehensive "mixed bag" bibliography of publications on ancient Armernian astronomy see: http://www.aras.am/Books/books_en_historical.htm  None of these particular files are accessible despite download instructions indicating otherwise. As a means of filtering out the more enthusiastic claims: Indicated as examples of professional benchmarks: (1) "Historical Astronomy of the Caucasus: Sources from Georgia and Armenia" by Jefferson Sauter, et al., in: New Insights From Recent Studies in Historical Astronomy edited by Wayne Orchiston (2015, Pages 103-118). (2) "Astronomy in the Ancient Caucasus" by Irakli Simonia and Badri Jijelava, in: Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy edited by Clive Ruggles (2015, Pages 1443-1451).

The best (most comprehensive) bibliography is: A Bibliography of Articles on Armenian Studies in Western Journals, 1869-1995 by Vrej N. Nersessian (2013). It also needs to be noted that when Armenia was part of the Soviet bloc most Armenian scholars wrote either in Russian or one of the local languages, which most Western scholars do not read.

When it comes to knowledge of the origin of the constellations the Armenian literature (popular and sometimes professional) shows a continuing dependence on dated popular books by Edward Maunder and William Olcott (and even Carl Swartz), and such (and misunderstands who they were); which I find surprising. Also interesting is the constant astronomical interpretations made by Benik Tumanyan. It would be interesting to know more about him. My understanding for his life dates are: 1917-1980.

Professional historians and lay/hobby historians

Some individuals are engaged in fringe history. Their aim is to promote a version of Armenian history that makes it appear more ancient. Included in their aims is the intention to cast doubts on the concept of the settlement of the Armenians in the Anatolian plateau and the Southern Caucasus as a result of migration. Interestingly, there is no compelling reason offered why these individuals have the competence to decide conclusively about Armenian history. There is a disconnect between academic historians/archaeologists and self-promoted lay/hobby historians regarding Armenian history. Entry into the field is easy through the popular media. The lay/hobby historians reject criticism of their constructed world views.

Vahán Setyán

An interesting example of a person promoting the idea of Armenia as an ancient key civilisation having a unique place in history is Vahán Setyán:

Vahán Setyán has been identified as a psychologist. At https://www.linkedin.com/in/vahan-setyan-msc-phdc-9a45b798 he is identified as a Healthcare Development Consultant working out of Scottsdale, Arizona. Obviously he is not a professional historian/archaeolgist/anthropologist/linguist. At https://jimmychurchradio.com/tag/vahan-setyan/ "Vahan Setyan has been examining world mythology, language and civilizations for the last decade. He is an independent researcher and regularly collaborates with scholars and researchers in various fields including anthropology and Armenology. He continues with his collaborations with Armenologists and historians around the world to further examine, decipher and reveal most of the prehistoric elements that continue to be hidden within the Armenian highlands, the Armenian language and their revolutionary effects on human civilization and languages. ..."

At http://www.abrilbooks.com/vahan-a-setyan "Vahan Setyan arrived to the United States in 1988. After completing his undergraduate degree in 2002, he continued in pursuing a graduate and doctoral degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. This provided the opportunity to examine contemporary organizations and ancient civilizations, further examining the aspects of altruistic behaviors and how they are perceived and utilized. This opened the door to further examine ancient mythologies and civilizations from the end of the Last Ice age to the fall of the Roman Empire and with it, allowed him to understand the hidden, neglected and forgotten history of the Armenian people. All of his examinations are primarily based on logical and evidential perspectives, attempting to understand the natural explanations of human history. Setyan has been on numerous TV interviews and video conferences, speaking about the historicity of the Armenian people. ..." The real issue of course is peer reviewed/refereed papers in high-ranking professional journals. Professional peer review is the regulatory mechanism/process used by publishers and editors of academic/scholarly journals to ensure that the articles they publish meet the accepted standards of their discipline. Manuscripts being considered for publication are sent to independent experts in the same field (the author's scholarly or scientific peers). They evaluate the quality of the scholarship, reliability of findings, relevance to the field, appropriateness for the journal, etc. Peer review cancels individual biases. I am presently not aware of any English-language (North American or European) journal publications by Vahán Setyán on his particular views of Armenian history that meet this criteria.

It appears that after only 10 years of informal (apparently part-time) self-study Vahán Setyán believed he was competent to deal with historical, archaeological, anthropology, religious, and linguistic matters dealing with the history of Armenia (and refute formally trained specialists with expert knowledge).

The (prehistoric?) standing stone complex at Zorac' K'arer (Karahunj)

It is usual now to misdescribe Zorats K'arer as a prehistoric megalithic structure. Walled stone fortresses situated on mountain slopes are the dominant settlement type of the late 2nd-millennium/early/1st-millennium southern Transcaucasia, including northeastern Armenia and the Sevan Basin and the Ararat and Shirak plains. "The era [Late Bronze Age] is marked most conspicuously by the reappearance of numerous permanent settlements in the form of variably sized stone-masonry fortresses built atop hills and outcrops. These fortified settlements are often associated with large cemeteries ...." (The Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, Volume I by Adam Smith, Ruben Badalyan, and Pavel Avetisyan (2009, Page 29).)

Karahunj (Zorac' K'arer) is located on rocky promontory at the deep canyon of Dar river, 1,770 m above the sea level. Archaeologists identify it as an ancient fortification and settlement. The nearby grave yards persisting over generations are one reason the the stone structure is identified as a fortress and settlement. Archaeological dating methods make it most likely this is a settlement and megalithic necropolis from the Middle Bronze Age - Iron Age. According to German research (by Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie der Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität München, in 2000), this site served for the burials in the Middle Bronze Age - Iron Age (the 3rd - 2nd millennium BCE). However, according to a poorly argued alternative theory that appeared in 1984 this is purportedly the world's oldest astronomical observatory, built in the 6th-millennian BCE. The standing stones with large diameter holes were supposedly used as astronomical instruments. It was a prehistoric astronomical observatory, similar to Stonehenge in England. The comparison was obviously made when it was believed that Stonehenge was an astronomical observatory. Such an idea no longer exists. The further claim is that Armenians from Karahunj were involved in the implementation of Stonehenge - they built Stonehenge. Why such landmarks are repeatedly compared to Stonehenge in England? Prehistoric stone circles are found in many places around the world - e.g. in Brazil, Australia, Egypt and elsewhere, sometimes these landmarks are older than Stonehenge. The dating is arrived at by assuming monument is ancient observatory and then, based only on this assumption, calculate the age of the monument after the positions/alignments of stars in ancient times.

Some persons put a lot of weight with speculation (extrapolation from what they believe are credibly made speculative claims involving an astronomical interpretation of the prehistoric standing stone complex at Zorac' K'arer (Karahunj)) such as the late Armenian academic Paris Herouni does. Among the numerous ancient monuments in Armenia there is a megalithic monument complex 250 kilometres south-east of Yerevan that is known as Zoraz Kar and which dates back to 2nd-millennium BCE. Vertical megaliths many of which are more than 2 metres in height form stone rings resembling the ancient stone monuments (-henges) in Great Britain and Brittany. The main stone ring of Zoraz Kar is more than 30 metres in diameter. Some stones found in the eastern part there have well polished round holes, which some people like to speculate could have been used to make astronomical observations. The village of Karahunge is in the same region about 40 kilometres from Zoraz Kar.

Some people think that perhaps a suitable starting point is the prehistoric standing stone complex at Zorac' K'arer (Karahunj). The late Armenian academic Paris Herouni thought so. See his English-language book, Armenians and old Armenia: archaeoastronomy, linguistics, oldest history (2004). See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorats_Karer But also see: "Astronomy in the Ancient Caucasus" by Irakli Simonia and Badri Jijelava; in: Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy edited by Clive Ruggles (2015, Pages 1443-1451). It has some valid cautionary remarks concerning interpreting the standing stone complex at Zorac' K'arer (Karahunj). Interestingly, it does not mention the so-called "bronze age solar system artifact." Apparently there is a longer version of "Armenian Astronomy in the Bronze Age" by Joseph Ouzounian available (implied as approximately 13 pages). See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Armenian-astronomy-Bronze-Joseph-Ouzounian/dp/B00073CP4E Hopefully people are looking for claims that are supportable and not wanting to build a house with a stone.

Frequent reference is made to the prehistoric standing stone complex at Zorac' K'arer (= Zorats Karer = Carahunge = Karahunj). (There is no mention of Karahunj, the 'Armenian Stonehenge' in the Moscow exhibition. But then the artefact is from a later period.) The Armenian academic Paris Herouni (1933-2008) thought it was an ancient observatory. See his English-language book, Armenians and old Armenia: archaeoastronomy, linguistics, oldest history (2004). His discussion is completely uncritical and he follows the pseudo historical claims of Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. Even the occult pseudo-historians Lytle Robinson and Edgar Cayce are given credence. So-called belt-calendars are not mentioned by Herouni. (Paris Herouni's book Armenians and old Armenia (2004) is almost completely unreliable and is best avoided. It is one of the few English-language books with an archaeoastronomy subject matter. It is simply a mess of bad astronomy and bad history.) See also:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zorats_Karer But also see: "Astronomy in the Ancient Caucasus" by Irakli Simonia and Badri Jijelava; in: Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy edited by Clive Ruggles (2015, Pages 1443-1451). It has some valid cautionary remarks concerning interpreting the standing stone complex at Zorac' K'arer (Karahunj). Interestingly, it does not mention the so-called "bronze age solar system artifact." Apparently there is a longer version of "Armenian Astronomy in the Bronze Age" by Joseph Ouzounian available (implied as approximately 13 pages). (See: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Armenian-astronomy-Bronze-Joseph-Ouzounian/dp/B00073CP4E)

According to Ed Krupp (Hastro-L, March 2016) an avenue of standing stones does extend northeast from the primary chambered cairn at Zorats Karer, and it is said to be aligned with the major standstill northern moonrise. Lunar alignments have been attributed to megalithic monuments in western Europe but the case for most of them remains problematic. Ed Krupp notes that he included major and minor northern and southern moonset lines on Griffith Observatory's Lower West Terrace in the $93-million renovation and expansion completed in 2006, and personal experience has demonstrated how difficult it is to observe the standstill moon and establish its limit with any precision. A variety of practical problems complicate the observation even when one knows what the moon is doing.

Ed Krupp states (Hastro-L, March 2016) that in his October 2015 visit to the Caucasus he reached Lake Sevan. His conclusion is that most of the astronomical claims made for it make no sense. Among the issues is the meteorology - the viewing conditions or poor due to the adverse weather and clouds. Copies of Paris Herouni's book, Armenians and Old Armenia were on sale at Lake Sevan. In Ed Krupp's assessment the book contains some interesting cultural material, but its astronomical analysis is labored and unpersuasive. Regarding the stone ruin. Ed Krupp importantly points out the ruin is a mix of many epochs, and the primary astronomical "alignments" involve relatively large holes - useless for astronomical observation - in stones that were actually part of a Hellenistic wall and not part of the original prehistoric site. Furthermore, the extraordinarily archaic date argued by some for the site was astronomically calculated from the very implausible alignments of the holes in the stones. Genuine archaeological examination of the site provides a more recent and more reasonable date for the site. Even the most superficial examination of the site confirms it was a prehistoric necropolis with numerous chambered cairns, at least one of which is encircled by standing stones. Another point made by Ed Krupp is the most remarkable thing about Zorats Karer is that it exists at all in this region. He remarks he visited other prehistoric standing stones, stone rows (for example, at Hartashen a village in the Syunik Province of Armenia), dolmens, and such in Armenia, but as far as could be ascertained, nothing else on the scale of Zorats Karer has been reported. Its apparent singularity, not its alleged astronomy, is what requires attention.

Note: Cloudy skies predominate 7-8 months of the year in the territory of Armenia. A greater frequency of cloudy skies is characteristic of the high-mountain areas of Armenia. With mountainous elevation cloud cover increases. A characteristic of cloud cover is that is the fact that variations of the frquency of cloud cover from one month to the next are small. The annual variation of the number of clear days is naturally opposite to the annual variation of cloudy days. With some exceptions, throughout the entire territory of Armenia, the maximum number of clear days fall in August-September. (Manual on Climate of the USSR, Issue 16, Armenian SSR, Part V. Cloud Cover and Atmospheric Phenomena. (Foreign Aerospace Science and Technology Center, 1992. Translation of USSR document published in 1969.))

It is reasonable to conclude that it is not possible to defend Armenian claims about Zorats Karer and that skepticism towards those claims would be quite reasonable. See: "Carahunge - A Critical Assessment" by A. César González-García In: Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy edited by Clive Ruggles (2014, Part VIII, Pages 1453-1460). "Abstract: Carahunge is a megalithic monument in southern Armenia that has often been acclaimed as the oldest observatory. The monument, composed of dozens of standing stones, has some perforated stones. The direction of the holes has been measured and their orientation is related to the sun, moon, and stars, obtaining a date for the construction of such devices. After a critical review of the methods and conclusions, these are shown as untenable."

Perhaps useful is: "A History of Archaeology in the Republic of Armenia." by Ian Lindsay and Adam T. Smith (Journal of Field Archaeology, Volume 31, Issue 2, 2006, Pages 165-184).

On the subject of Armenian calendars. Benik Tumanian, in his uncritical article "Measurement of Time in Ancient and Medieval Armenia" (JHA, 5, 1974, 91-98) states (Page 91): "The seven-day week was current here [in bronze age Armenia] as in Babylon. There is every reason to believe that the week-days were given the names of the seven "planets"." The concept of the 7-day week is wrongly believed to have originated in Mesopotamia/West Asia. The continuous weekly cycle of 7 days only became a standard unit for the measurement of time during the period of the Roman Empire. The (7-day) planetary week is a Hellenistic invention.

The origin of the Armenians

Little is known about the origin of the Armenians. The Armenians did not originate in Anatolia/Armenian Highlands. Nor is it indicated that they lived there 4000 to 3000 years ago. Nor is it indicated that they had a common origin. They are not native to the Armenian Highlands. On the available evidence it is thought likely that the Armenians belonged to the same migratory waves of (Indo-European) Balkan immigrants that started moving into Anatolia in the late 2nd-millennium BCE. They originally settled in the region around Lake Van. The Armenian nation was formed from Bronze Age mixing of multiple (and diverse) Eurasian population groups (various native and migrating people), between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE.

Brief approximate chronology/bibliography of professional publications mentioning the object

Finding professional references for the claim that the object is a bronze age (geocentric) solar system model is difficult. The paucity of information and evidence is fascinating for the claim that is being made. When references are located there is a lack of suitable information for the claim. Note: The reference to Armenian Iron Age artifacts depicting the solar system is obviously a mistake for the particular bronze artifact.

(1) Some details were published in "Armenian Astronomy in the Bronze Age." by Joseph Ouzounian (Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of the Center for Archaeoastronomy, Volume VII, Numbers 1-4, January-December, 1984, Pages 105-109). The article is interesting but somewhat speculative. (It is unfortunate that the editors of the journal in which this speculation first appeared did not ask the author relevant questions.) It appears the artifact was unearthed in 1946 near Lake Sevan. See specifically page 107 for a brief discussion and pages 10-12 of reference 9 (Bronze Dari Goti-Orats'uyts by H. Mnats'aganian and R. T'umanian  (1965: Mitk Publications, Everan Museum of Natural History in Armenia).

(2) Regarding Bronze Dari Goti-Orats'uyts by H. Mnats'aganian and R. T'umanian  (1965: Mitk Publications, Everan Museum of Natural History in Armenia.) It appears the dating information and reasons for the astronomical interpretation are made in this publication. I cannot find the title or the author names on the internet. Likely now an obscure/rare publication. A previous reference cited from (Archaeoastronomy (1984) is indicated as the source of the claims for the object: Bronze Dari Goti-Orats'uyts [but also given as Bronzé dari goti-oratsouits] by H. Mnats'aganian and R. T'umanian  (1965) = The Belt-Calendar of the Bronze Age, Yerevan by Benik Tumanyan [an Armenian astronomer at the Yerevan Observatory and historian] and Haroutyun Mnatsakanyan [also given as A. O. Mnazakanian, Russian archaeologist]. (Note: Also referenced as Belt Calendar of the Bronze Age, Yerevan by B. E. Tumanian and A. O. Mnazakanian (1965); but there is no English-language translation.) It is indicated that Mnazakanian spent about a decade excavating at Lake Sevan. The 56 page publication deals with: (1) the belt calendar [also described as a geocentric model of the universe]; (2) the old solar calendar; and (3) the so-called solar system artifact. It appears the artifacts were unearthed circa 1946-1948 in the vicinity of Lake Sevan. Note: It is usual to describe the bronze belts as jewellery.

(3) For at least several pages of discussion with illustrations see: UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles] Undergraduate Science Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, 1967. I can't readily access the journal but the article covers at least pages 12 & 13. (Also, "Notes on the Sculpture of the Church of Akhthamar" by Armenag Sakisian (The Art Bulletin, Volume 25, Number 4, December 1943, Pages 346-357), is indicated as discussing similarities between medieval Armenian khachkar iconography and bronze age artifacts. I can't readily access this journal.)

(4) The late Armenian academic Paris Herouni, following the pseudo-historians Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, made numerous erroneous claims for Armenian archaeoastronomy. See his English-language book, Armenians and old Armenia: archaeoastronomy, linguistics, oldest history (2004).

(5) "Astronomy in the Ancient Caucasus" by Irakli Simonia and Badri Jijelava; in: Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy edited by Clive Ruggles (2015, Pages 1443-1451) interestingly does not mention the so-called "bronze age solar system artifact."

(6) "Armenian Astronomy in the Bronze Age" by J. G. Ouzounian (Archaeoastronomy, Volume 7, 1984, Pages 105-109). Apparently there is a longer version of "Armenian Astronomy in the Bronze Age" by Joseph Ouzounian available (implied as approximately 13 pages).

(7) It has been suggested that Irakli Simonia, who is very familiar with historic Armenian astronomical references, would know more details about the object. But Ed Krupp (Hastro-L, March 2016) identifies the object is not mentioned in Irakli's papers, written in English, on ancient and historic astronomy in Armenia.

(8) An important (somewhat recent) English-language professional publication on Armenian archaeology is Bronze and Early Iron Age Archaeological Sites in Armenia. I. Mt. Aragats and its Surrounding Region by R. S. Badalyan and P. S. Avetisyan ((2007); BAR International Series 1697). Note: Badalyan also appears as Badalyn i.e., Rubin Badalyn. The research carried out for the book included the study of the collection in the National Museum of History, Yerevan. Nothing resembling the particular artifact is either mentioned or appears as an illustration/photograph in the book. This is somewhat odd unless there is no provenance for the object and/or no legitimate evidence for the claims made about it.

(9) "New Standards in the Analysis of Archaeological Metalwork Using LA-ICP-MS: A Case Study from the South Caucasus Archaeometallurgy Project" by Clayton Meredith, et al. (2011) was published by the Idaho State University (based on analysis carried out there). It carries a picture of the object and the claim that it is a Late Bronze-Age II period (circa 15th to 11th centuries BCE) symbolic representation of the solar system. (See: Analysis of Archaeological Metalwork.pdf) It is a Poster displayed at the 76th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Sacramento, 30 March - 3 April, 2011. No other information is known. Even this Poster does not make matters clear.

(10) Recent Advances in Laser Ablation ICP-MS for Archaeology edited by Laure Dussubieux, Mark Golitko, and Bernard Gratuze (2016). See especially pages 117, 118, 120. Page 117: The metalwork objects from Horom were analysed by Aram Gevorkyan in the 1990s but the results have only been published in this 2016 book. (Optical Emission Spectroscopy (OES) is a well trusted analytical tool that offers fast, accurate elemental analysis for metal composition. It is not used for dating. The Bronze Age starts at different areas of the world at different times. Radiocarbon dating is most usually used to date the bronze age. Human skeletal material when existing, is used. (Synchronisms derived from datable objects can also be used. Also, the new method of Bayesian modelling, a method of statistical analysis, applied to Radiocarbon dating, has led to a shift in the chronology of the Early Bronze Age up to 200 years earlier than previously thought.)) Measurements of radiocarbon in some types of human skeletal remains and other materials are complicated by a number of influencing factors comprising what is called the "reservoir effect/s" = spurious radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon dating efforts must take reservoir effects into account and adjust for them. The stylistic form of ceramic and metal artefacts were perhaps used for dating periods.

Arc optical emission spectroscopy was the principal method of archaeometallurgical analysis in the southern Caucasus and throughout the former Soviet Union until the 1990s. Page 118: The object was one of several (including 3 pins interpreted as representing the solar system) recovered by the Nor Kyank salvage operations from the Horom necropolis site and interpreted as representations of the solar system. Page 120: The original analysis was done by A. V. Gevorkyan using the Arc (Spark) OES instrument at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Yerevan. This instrument no longer works.

(11) Exaggerated astronomical claims for Armenia appear in the recently published "Ancient Astronomy in Armenia" by Elma S. Parsamian (2017). In: Non-Stable Universe edited by Areg M. Mickaelian, et al. (Pages 279-285). Note: 2016 international conference proceedings. Once again no useful details are given for the particular object.

(12) Archaeozoology of the Near East by Marjan Mashkour, Mark Beech (2017). Chronological discussions of the bronze age era have been framed around the material record that has been recovered from mortuary contexts. Page 82: "Horom burials are located in the Artik region. They are dated to the 1st millennium BC (9th-8th centuries BC). The excavations were made by the archaeologist R. Badalyan." This suggests revisions in radiocarbon dating methodology (or some other dating methodology).

Especially since Armenia declared its independence in 1991 archaeological sites and artifacts have been re-imagined to support a range of agendas including nationalism (i.e., an imagined ancient Armenian nation), historical (i.e., ancient age of Armenian astronomy), tourism (attracting overseas visitors, especially to re-imagined archaeological sites), and consumerism (i.e., branding of consumer items). From 1959 there was a move towards a national archaeology of Armenia. "The difficulty archaeologists and historians face in examining the ancient worlds of the Caucasus is reading against the grain of this tendency to render contemporary sociopolitical orders as inherent in place rather than generated within complex histories of place ...." (The Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, Volume I by Adam Smith, Ruben Badalyan, and Pavel Avetisyan (2009, Page 4).)

It appears the single source for the astronomical claim for the object (and also the bronze belt) is Bronze Dari Goti-Orats'uyts by H. Mnats'aganian and R. T'umanian  (1965: Mitk Publications, Everan Museum of Natural History in Armenia.) It appears the dating information and reasons for the astronomical interpretation are made in this publication. The astronomical interpretations of the bronze jewellery items comprising the so-called 'solar system' and 'belt-calendar' are likely to be ingenious but strained attempts. (There is every indication that some historical/archaeological information provided by some Armenian professionals is simply fiction.) It also appears its analysis and assessment of the object, made over 50 years ago, has never been reviewed unless perhaps recently (circa 2011). An interesting recent source of information is Recent Advances in Laser Ablation ICP-MS for Archaeology edited by Laure Dussubieux, Mark Golitko, and Bernard Gratuze (2016). This has some additional and different information about the object. No solar system interpretations have apparently been made for any bronze age artifact recovered from other archaeological sites. The particular artefact, but not the 3 pins, is sui generis. Many Armenian academics are now part of the promotion of Armenian pseudohistory. The root of all human history and civilisation is claimed to be Armenian; to originate in the prehistoric Armenian highlands some 1,000,000 years ago. Examples of fantasist Armenian astronomical claims are: (1) Bronze age geocentric models of the solar system, (2) bronze age belt calendars, (3) Karahunj is a 7000 year old astronomical observatory, (4) use of a 9000 year old lunisolar calendar, and (5) the constellations and zodiac originated in Armenia some 5000 years ago. Extreme claims about Armenian history/archaeology can be expected to continue. These unscientific claims (or rather myths) are now difficult to dispel. They now appear to be integrated into the Armenian national identity.

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