Archaeological and scientific analysis has proved that the famous Nebra sky disk is made of copper from the Mitterberg area in the Land of Salzburg. During the Bronze Age, in the 2nd millennium BC, the Salzburg region was one of the main centres of the world. The copper deposits in the Mitterberg region around Bischofshofen, Mühlbach am Hochkönig and St. Johann im Pongau supplied large parts of Europe with the valuable raw material, bringing economic prosperity to the region.
From about 1800 BC, the coveted raw material was mined in the Mitterberg region to make weapons, tools, other devices and jewellery. Traces of this prehistoric mining activity can still be seen today. Complete mines have been preserved and some of them are even still. Inside of them unique finds such as wooden timbering, tools and utensils have been preserved for 3,400 years. Building a mine like this, up to 200 metres deep, was extremely sophisticated. After the copper ore had been laboriously extracted, it was processed and smelted in an equally time-consuming procedure involving several stages. There is archaeological evidence of this, too, in the form of huge slag heaps and countless smelting furnaces in the mining area.
The Mitterberg region was one of the most important European mining centres of the Bronze Age. This is confirmed by the hoard of objects found on the Lueg Pass: a lavishly decorated, precious helmet, mining tools and raw materials were found in a single depot on this important transport route. A reconstruction of the famous Pass Lueg helmet can be seen in the special exhibition. The sky disk was found about 600 km away from the place its materials came from. The network of the elite groups in the Bronze Age obviously extended over considerable distances, and presumably technological developments, mental ideas and new concepts also spread along the trading routes.
Through finds made in the prehistoric mining area of the Mitterberg region, the special exhibition traces the route taken by the copper – from the original deposits to northern Europe, from a raw material to a finished product. It shows us once again the astonishing technical and organisational achievements of which Bronze Age people were capable. Their mastery of mining and the complex business of smelting, as well as their mathematical and astronomical knowledge – as reflected in the sky disk – was knowledge which brought dominance for elite Bronze Age groups, securing their power and control.