Tollense valley battlefield

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
battle site is located in Germany
battle site
battle site
Location of the site in Germany

The battlefield of the Tollense valley (German pronunciation: [tʰɔˈlɛnzə]) is a Bronze Age archaeological site in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern at the northern edge of the Mecklenburg Lake District. The site, discovered in 1996 and systematically excavated since 2007, extends along the valley of the small Tollense river, to the east of Weltzin village, on the municipal territories of Burow and Werder.

Thousands of bone fragments belonging to many people have been discovered along with further corroborative evidence of battle; current estimates indicate that perhaps 4,000 warriors fought in a battle on the site in the 13th century BC. As the population density was approximately 5 people per square kilometer, this would have been the most significant battle in Bronze Age Central Europe known so far and makes the Tollense valley currently the largest excavated and archaeologically verifiable battle site of this age in the world.[1]

Discovery and Excavation[edit]

The Tollense valley. The find site is near Burow, in the upper half.

In 1996, a voluntary conservationist reported finding a humerus bone at the Tollense riverside at low water with an embedded arrowhead made of flint.[2] Preliminary archaeological excavations began the same year around this site and further human and animal bones were found.[3] During the following years, a club made of ashwood was discovered as well as a hammer-like weapon made of sloe-wood and more bones.[4][5]

The Tollense near Burow today

Since 2007, the area has been excavated systematically under the direction of the local State Office for Culture and Conservation, the State Office for Conservation of neighbouring Lower Saxony, and the University of Greifswald. Divers of the local Society for Underwater Archaeology carefully searched the Tollense riverbed and -bank and found more human remains.[6][7] Since 2009, the MV Ministry of Culture has supported research in the area and on the findings, joined since 2010 by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.[8] The primary focus lies on exploring the extent of the site and excavating the main site covered by about 1 m (3.3 ft) of peat. Until late 2017, 460 m2 (5,000 sq ft) had been excavated but the whole battlefield is estimated to be at least ten times that size.[9] Volunteers have surveyed the grounds with metal detectors, investigating mainly the dug-out material from the Tollense.[10] Greifswald's Department of Geography examined the geological make-up of the valley and determined the river's former course and laser scanning was used to chart the terrain surface.[11] The human remains were analysed at Rostock University.

Site[edit]

Situated in the North German plain, 120 km (75 mi) north of Berlin, the site stretches for several hundred meters on both sides of the small river. Within the plain, the Tollense meanders in a relatively narrow valley between marshy meadows and low hills. During the last millennia, the river's course has been only slightly modified. In the Bronze Age, the landscape was relatively open; human influence was small as the population density at that time is estimated to have been only 3 to 5 people per sq. km.[12][13] "In 2013, geomagnetic surveys revealed evidence of a 120 m (390 ft) long bridge or causeway stretching across the valley. Excavated over two dig seasons, the submerged structure turned out to be made of wooden posts and stone. Radiocarbon dating showed that although much of the structure predated the battle by more than 500 years, parts of it may have been built or restored around the time of the battle, suggesting the causeway might have been in continuous use for centuries—a well-known landmark."[14]

The valley of the Tollense during a winter flood, close to Kessin and Weltzin

Results[edit]

As of late 2017, the remains of some 140 men had been identified.[15] Most of these were young men between the ages of 20 and 40.[16] Before March 2016, about 10,000 human and 1,000 animal bones had been found;[17] by March 2018, that number had risen to a total of about 13,000 fragments.[18] The total number of dead is estimated between 750,[19] to more than 1,000.[20] The total number of fighters might have ranged between 3,000[21] and more than 5,000,[22] assuming a casualty rate of 20-25%.[23] In one spot, 1,478 bones were found within just 12 m2 (130 sq ft), potentially the remnants of a pile of corpses or a final pocket of resistance.[24] Radiocarbon dating indicates a timeframe between 1300 and 1200 BC, the Nordic Bronze Age.[25] As no clear traces of healing have been found on any of the wounds, the whole encounter seems to have taken place in not much more than a day.[26] A quarter of skeletons "show signs of healed traumas from earlier fights, including three skulls with healed fractures", so many trained and experienced warriors seem to have taken part.[27]

Initially, alternative explanations were considered, in part because "[b]efore Tollense, direct evidence of large-scale violence in the Bronze Age was scanty, especially in this region".[28] However, the location in a swamp and the lack of any ornaments or pottery made a cemetery unlikely (as local preference at the time was for dry ground). Furthermore, the victims were mostly male and between 20 and 40 years of age, killed by a variety of weapons and wounds; therefore mass human sacrifice seemed unlikely.[29][30]

Spears, clubs, swords, knives, sickles and arrows were used during the battle. Many of the skulls (of which over 40 were found) show signs of battle wounds, with a bronze arrowhead found in one of them.[31] By late 2017, about 50 bronze arrowheads had been found. Remnants of the arrows' wooden shafts provided a further possibility for dating with more than a third dating to the same time as the bones.[32] Contrasting these arrowheads with others made from flint and with wooden clubs, it has been surmised that two differently-equipped groups confronted each other.[33] No swords have been found so far, but bones show cutting traces typical for this type of weapon.[34] Some combatants rode into battle as evidenced by horse bones (of at least five horses) found on site. The original arrowhead's position in the initially found humerus bone shows that an archer on foot wounded a horseman.[35][36]

The fact that almost no material finds were made between the bones except for single arrowheads, suggests that the corpses were robbed after the battle. Given that most remains are no longer in anatomical connection, the victors probably threw the dead into the river, which carried them downstream. They were then deposited in a calmer part of the river, covered by turf and thereby partially conserved.[37]

In 2010, a golden spiral ring was found on the banks of the Tollense; then in June 2011, a similar one, 2.9 cm (1.1 in) long and weighing 10 g. The material was identified by X-ray diffraction as tin. These findings are of special importance because of their rarity and because tin was vitally needed for making bronze.[38] In fact, these are the oldest known tin items in Germany.[39] The chronologically closest similar find is one from Hallstatt (Austria) - 600 years younger.[40]

Research on the remains by Aarhus University suggested that the combatants stemmed from two populations. Fighters of one of the groups were thought to have come from a distant region, as they had a diet including millet, which was allegedly not widely known in the North at that time; but this latter claim has been refuted. Palaeogenetic and strontium analyses were used to shed further light on the combatants' geographical origin[41] but revealed no decisive evidence, according to State Archeologist Jantzen[42] It has been speculated that a better-armed group from the South or West wanted to cross the river on their way north- or eastwards on a strategic, long-established causeway.[43][44] This road might well have been used for long-distance trade in tin and luxury goods (e.g. pearls from the Persian Gulf, found near Halle, or Mediterranean glass pearls found close to nearby Neustrelitz; both from 1200 BC). The battle seems to coincide with a period of heightened militancy 3,250 years ago, as metal became increasingly scarce north of the Alps and populations seem to have moved.[45]

Significance[edit]

The overseeing State Archaeologist Detlef Jantzen claims this to be the oldest archaeologically verifiable battlefield in Europe and one of the 50 most important find sites worldwide.[46] He also said: "The Tollense site has a dimension that nobody would have deemed possible for our region." Helle Vandkilde, archeologist at Aarhus University commented "Most people thought ancient society was peaceful, and that Bronze Age males were concerned with trading and so on [...] Very few talked about warfare."[47]

A group of 5,000 combatants implies that they had been gathered, organised, fed, briefed, and led into battle. According to the researchers at the site, this would have been an astounding feat for the time, probably enabled by a central government. This would mean that socio-political development in Central Europe was more advanced and more bellicose than previously assumed,[48] roughly at a time when Egypt and the Hittites concluded their famous peace treaty. "The well-preserved bones and artifacts add detail to this picture of Bronze Age sophistication, pointing to the existence of a trained warrior class and suggesting that people from across Europe joined the bloody fray."

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Roughly contemporaneous finds:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bowdler, Neil (22 May 2011). "Early Bronze Age battle site found on German river bank". BBC News. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  2. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Archäologische Untersuchungen". Universität Greifswald (in German). 28 April 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  4. ^ "Entdeckung des Fundplatzes und Verlauf der Erforschung". Universität Greifswald (in German). 15 February 2011. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  5. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Tauchprospektionen". Universität Greifswald (in German). 30 June 2011. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Tollensetal - Welzin". Landesverband für Unterwasserarchäologie Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (in German). Landesverband für Unterwasserarchäologie Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Archived from the original on 29 May 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Entdeckung des Fundplatzes und Verlauf der Erforschung". Universität Greifswald (in German). 15 February 2011. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  9. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Geländebegehungen mit Metalldetektoren". Universität Greifswald (in German). 28 April 2016. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  11. ^ "Geowissenschaftliche und paläobotanische Untersuchungen". Universität Greifswald (in German). 30 June 2011. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Geowissenschaftliche und paläobotanische Untersuchungen". Universität Greifswald (in German). 30 June 2011. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  13. ^ "Tollensetal - Schlachtfeld aus der Bronzezeit". NDR (in German). 7 March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  14. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  15. ^ Seewald, Berthold (28 November 2017). "Fernhandel provozierte größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit". WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Tollensetal - Schlachtfeld aus der Bronzezeit". NDR (in German). 7 March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  17. ^ Seewald, Berthold (16 March 2016). "Die Invasoren der Bronzezeit kamen aus dem Süden". WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Tollensetal - Schlachtfeld aus der Bronzezeit". NDR (in German). 7 March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Schädel mit Bronze-Pfeilspitze im Schlachtfeld Tollensetal geborgen". Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - Das Landesportal (in German). 7 May 2014. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  20. ^ Beinlich, Georg (29 August 2013). "Der erste Krieg - Schlacht in der Bronzezeit". Das Erste - [w] wie wissen (in German). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  21. ^ Holzhaider, Hans (22 July 2011). "Mit Holzkeulen gegen Bronzepfeile". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  22. ^ Beinlich, Georg (29 August 2013). "Der erste Krieg - Schlacht in der Bronzezeit". Das Erste - [w] wie wissen (in German). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  23. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  24. ^ Holzhaider, Hans (22 July 2011). "Mit Holzkeulen gegen Bronzepfeile". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  25. ^ "Entdeckung des Fundplatzes und Verlauf der Erforschung". Universität Greifswald (in German). 15 February 2011. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  26. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  27. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  28. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  29. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  30. ^ Bowdler, Neil (22 May 2011). "Early Bronze Age battle site found on German river bank". BBC. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  31. ^ "Schädel mit Bronze-Pfeilspitze im Schlachtfeld Tollensetal geborgen". Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - Das Landesportal (in German). 7 May 2014. Archived from the original on 8 May 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  32. ^ "Geländebegehungen mit Metalldetektoren". Universität Greifswald (in German). 28 April 2016. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  33. ^ Holzhaider, Hans (22 July 2011). "Mit Holzkeulen gegen Bronzepfeile". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  34. ^ Schmidt, Beatrix (2017). Blutiges Gold. Macht und Gewalt in der Bronzezeit. Begleitheft zur Sonderausstellung (in German). Schwerin: Landesamt für Kultur und Denkmalpflege Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. p. 23. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  35. ^ Holzhaider, Hans (22 July 2011). "Mit Holzkeulen gegen Bronzepfeile". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  36. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Archäologische Untersuchungen". Universität Greifswald (in German). 28 April 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  38. ^ "Die Funde vom neu entdeckten Fundplatz im Tollensetal" (26 April 2012). Universität Greifswald (in German). Retrieved 28 April 2012.[permanent dead link]
  39. ^ "Ältester Zinnfund in Deutschland entdeckt". Universität Greifswald (in German). 26 April 2012. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  40. ^ Rathke, Martina (27 April 2012). "Bronzezeit-Schlachtfeld mit neuen Funden". Nordkurier (in German). p. 5.
  41. ^ "Untersuchungen der menschlichen Skelettreste". Universität Greifswald (in German). 23 February 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  42. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  43. ^ "Tollensetal - Schlachtfeld aus der Bronzezeit". NDR (in German). 7 March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  44. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  45. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  46. ^ "Bild der Bronzezeit ändert sich grundlegend". NDR. 18 November 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  47. ^ Curry, Andrew (24 March 2016). "Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle". Science. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  48. ^ Seewald, Berthold. "Fernhandel provozierte die größte Schlacht der Bronzezeit" (28 November 2017). WELT (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.