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Country Germany
Physical characteristics
Main source Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
River mouth Peene
53°53′57″N 13°1′57″E / 53.89917°N 13.03250°E / 53.89917; 13.03250Coordinates: 53°53′57″N 13°1′57″E / 53.89917°N 13.03250°E / 53.89917; 13.03250
Length 68 km (42 mi)
Basin features
Progression PeeneBaltic Sea

The Tollense (German pronunciation: [tɔˈlɛnzə]) is a river in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northeastern Germany, right tributary of the Peene. The river starts as the outflow of the lake Tollensesee in Neubrandenburg. The Tollense is 68 km long and empties into the river Peene in Demmin. The rivers are part of the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, with one of the largest areas of fens and about a thousand lakes, left over from the Ice Age.

Tollense battle site[edit]

Human remains from the Bronze Age have been found in the Tollense valley (Tollensetal) since 1997.[1] Many individuals showed signs of serious injury and violent death, leading to a hypothesis of some kind of intertribal conflict. Starting in 2008, archaeological study of the site zeroed in on an area of two square kilometers. Hundreds of bone fragments belonging to a very large number of persons have since been discovered along with further corroborating evidence of battle; current estimates indicate that perhaps 4000 warriors took part in a battle on the site circa 1250 BCE. These findings were possible due to the preservation of the former fen ground and the fact that the Tollense has never really changed its course. Since the population density then was about 5 people per square kilometer, this would have been the most significant battle in Bronze Age period Germany yet to be discovered. Moreover, the Tollense valley is so far the largest excavated battle site of this age anywhere in the world.[2] Further investigation of the site took place in the years 2010 to 2015.

There are a number of features that point to the Tollense's status as a battle site. Bronze weapons and armor as well as wooden weaponry and flint arrowheads have been found in abundance. Fractured skulls unearthed at the site suggest face-to-face combat, possibly between warring tribes.[3] All of the remains appear to be from young men, based on osteological analysis and preliminary genomic analysis, and many of the injuries seem to have occurred immediately before death. The bodies do not appear to have been buried in a normal ceremony and instead were dumped, or simply fell, some into the river. Horse bones were also found at the site and a fractured thigh bone suggests a fall from a horse or by a bronze spearhead.[4][5]

As of 2017, bodies of at least 140 human male individuals and 5 horses have been identified in an area of only 450 square meters; extrapolating from the excavated area, the entire battle area may contain bodies of 750 people. A rough estimate, based on a death rate of 20-50% is that in the order of 2,000 or more warriors took part in the battle.[6][7] At the time of the battle, northern Europe is believed to have had no towns and only a few small villages. Known archeological sites indicate local people lived with their extended families on farms, and the population density was less than five people per square kilometer. The nearest known large settlement was more than 350 kilometers to the southwest, in the historic Watenstedt district of current Salzgitter. Chemical tracers in the body remains indicate most of the Tollense warriors were from hundreds of kilometers away and ate millet, not grown in that part of the country at the time. Based on the difficulties of fighting in armor for novices, the warriors are inferred to have been professional fighters.[4] The authors of an article in 2017 say that the origin of some of the men may have been in Bohemia, and that "the non-local combatants are not from northern Germany and must have traveled long distance to reach the battlefield at Tollense."[8]

The battle indicates there were organized battles occurring in Bronze Age northern Europe with trained warriors and workers providing food to the warriors, which allowed the warriors to train full-time.[9]


No written records say anything about this battle. But there was a prolonged crisis further south, with the Sea Peoples attacking Egypt in 1200 and 1150 BC. The destruction of first Troy VI and then Troy VIIa occurred in this time period, though Troy VI is believed to have been destroyed by an earthquake.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Massacre at the Tollense, Spiegel Online (German)
  2. ^ Neil Bowdler (22 May 2011). "Early Bronze Age battle site found on German river bank". BBC News. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "A Bronze Age Battlefield? Weapons and Trauma in the Tollense Valley, north-eastern Germany". ResearchGate. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00067843. Retrieved 2016-03-27. 
  4. ^ a b "Slaughter at the bridge: uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Retrieved 2016-03-26. 
  5. ^ Bronze Age Battle at the River. LAES Histories
  6. ^ T. Douglas Price et al., Multi-isotope proveniencing of human remains from a Bronze Age battlefield in the Tollense Valley in northeast Germany. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. Retrieved 2017-10-23
  7. ^ "Europe's Oldest Battlefield Yields Clues to Fighters' Identities". Live Science. 
  8. ^ T. Douglas Price et al., Multi-isotope proveniencing of human remains from a Bronze Age battlefield in the Tollense Valley in northeast Germany. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. Retrieved 2017-10-23
  9. ^ "Brutal Bronze Age battle discovery changes understanding of history Interview with Chris Wolf". Public Radio International. Retrieved 2017-02-17.