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Rebuilding Germany's Temple of the Sun

DW staff (nda)June 4, 2005

A project to faithfully reconstruct a 7,000 year-old solar observatory, the oldest of its kind in Europe, began this week at Goseck in the German state of Saxony.

Ancient farmers may have used the observatory to check the seasonsImage: AP

The reconstruction, which is estimated to cost a total of 100,000 euros ($122,830) at its completion, should be finished by the end of the year and the restored observatory will join the growing list of increasingly popular "Sky Way" attractions of ancient sites related to the study of astronomy.

The observatory was first discovered in 1991 when the 75 meter diameter circular outer ring was unearthed by archeologists after an aerial photograph revealed the site.

Sonnenobservatorium von Goseck
The observatory sits next to the small town of Goseck in Saxony-Anhalt in eastern GermanyImage: dpa

A good 12 years later, the team of experts under the direction of Professor Francois Bertemes uncovered the main hall area which led them to believe that this was a major find.

An insight into the life of ancient farmers

They were right. The observatory was not only the largest of its kind on the continent and an important discovery in the quest to understand ancient astronomical exploration but it gave the archeologists further insight into the spiritual-religious world of Europe's first farmers.

Sonnenobservatorium von Goseck
The observatory is taking shape againImage: dpa

The sun was worshipped as the bringer of life and the orchestrator of the changing seasons and the observatory may have had played a part in the farmers' understanding of nature and crop growth.

Experts say that the southeast gate of the observatory corresponds to the exact point the sun rose at the beginning of the winter solstice on Dec. 21 almost 7,000 years ago. The southwest gate is believed to be the corresponding point to the sundown on that date.

An area rich in astronomical finds

Himmelsscheibe von Nebra
The sky disc of NebraImage: Lipták/Archlsa

Its discovery is also significant due to the fact it is situated only 23 kilometers from the place where the 3,600 year-old sky disc of Nebra was discovered in 2002, an example of one of the earliest astronomical representations of the night sky.

The solar observatory, situated in an area rich in ancient heritage sites in Saxony-Anhalt is estimated to have been originally built sometime around 5,000 years B.C.