Bone trove in Denmark tells story of 'Barbarian' battle

May 22, 2018
Find assemblages of femur, tibia and fibula, and two small stones. Credit: PNAS

Thousands of bones from boys and men likely killed in a ferocious battle 2,000 years ago have been unearthed from a bog in Denmark, researchers said Monday.

Without local written records to explain, or a battlefield to scour for evidence, experts are nevertheless piecing together a story of the Germanic people, often described by the Romans as "barbarians" for their violent nature.

Four strung on a stick were among the remains of at least 82 people found during archaeological excavations at Alken Enge, on Denmark's Jutland peninsula, indicating an organized and ritual clearing of a battlefield, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The site, which has been studied since 2009, has yielded the earliest discovery of "a large contingent of fighters from a defeated army from the early first century AD," said the PNAS report.

Well preserved

"The bones are extremely well preserved," co-author Mette Løvschal, of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies at Aarhus University, told AFP.

"And you can see stuff that you can normally not see in them, like the gnaw marks of animals and you can see the cut marks from sharp weapons. That is highly unusual," she said.

The more than 2,300 were contained in peat and lake sediments over 185 acres (75 hectares) of wetland meadows. Radiocarbon-dating put them between 2 BC and 54 AD.

In this era, Roman soldiers were pressing an expansion northward, and around 7 AD, the Romans suffered a massive loss in which tens of thousands of warriors were killed by the Germanic people.

"What they do in the succeeding decades is have these military raids in Germania, basically to punish the barbarians for this huge defeat," said Løvschal.

"What we actually think we are seeing here could be the remains of one of those punitive campaigns."

Young and old males

Løvschal said the bones appear to be from a "fairly heterogeneous population," with some as young as 13 to 14, and others as old as 40-60.

The bog is estimated to hold the remains of around 380 men who died from combat injuries.

Four ossa coxae threaded onto a stick. Credit: PNAS
"They do not seem to have a lot of healed trauma, from experience with previous battles," she said.

"They could have had previously very little experience with battle."

The bones show weapon strikes predominantly on the right side, with few injuries around the midsection where the fighters may have been holding shields with their left arms.

Experts think the bodies may have been lying on the battlefield for quite some time, possibly six months to a year, because many bones show signs of being gnawed by dogs or wolves.

They were stripped of their personal belongings before being deposited into the bog.

Questions remain

Many questions remain. Who was involved in the battle? Was it tribe-against-tribe? Or Germanic fighters against Roman warriors?

And what is the meaning of stringing pelvic bones on a stick?

"Those four pelvises on a stick could almost point to having connotations to sexual humiliation," said Løvschal.

"It seems to have aggressive undertones to it as well. So it has been difficult to say who did it."

Archaeologists could also see another telling change in the landscape after the battle.

Once a pastoral area including cropland, forest and grassland, it changed dramatically into a densely forested landscape for the next 800 years, said Løvschal.

"It suggests that this event had a huge impact on the people who lived there," she added.

"There was a large-scale trauma to the community."

Explore further: Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

More information: Mads Kähler Holst el al., "Direct evidence of a large Northern European Roman period martial event and post-battle corpse manipulation," PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1721372115

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28 comments

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dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (2) May 22, 2018
The Romans had soldiers, not warriors
a_whitefree_europe
1.4 / 5 (9) May 22, 2018
Hmm, so if the "Europeans" at the time were constantly warring with one another then what's all this nonsense about then with how the incoming Middle Eastern settlers are supposedly bringing conflict to Europe? Sounds like the present day "European" immigrants are only living where they are now by literally murdering the people that were there before them.
thetutor88
3 / 5 (6) May 22, 2018
Sounds like the present day "European" immigrants are only living where they are now by literally murdering the people that were there before them.


Sounds pretty accurate to me.
Liebnitz434
2 / 5 (8) May 22, 2018
Be ignorant of history, teach lies to the uneducated useful idiots, and spew your hate. To bad the Chinese didn't castrate you and rape the females in your family. That is if either of you knew who your fathers were.

You will violently turn on anyone once you have breed enough haters. You are nothing more than non-Aryan Nazis.
thetutor88
3 / 5 (2) May 22, 2018
Be ignorant of history


How is that being ignorant of history?
Liebnitz434
3 / 5 (2) May 22, 2018
You can't spew this garbage if you knew the history of other cultures or understood colonialism/imperialism. Bad things have happened, but more good has resulted from the spread of Western Culture. Whether from East or West Amerindians were largely doomed due to new diseases. Germ theory did not exist before 1850. With a 90% to 95% initial death rate Amerindian societies collapsed. Further, they could not reform due to the repeated occurrence of the same diseases. Essentially, there was a vacuum created by disease. TODAY, the preponderance of North and South American peoples are the original indigenous peoples. For example Brazil is Amerindians mixed with a little Portuguese and African blood. The French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch intermarried with the Amerindians. English settlement of N. America was different due to a number of causes, primarily due to the fact that English came to settle whereas the others initially came for plunder.

cont.
Liebnitz434
1 / 5 (1) May 22, 2018
From first colonial times the Cherokee and other Amerindians captured blacks and whites and enslaved them. There was no particular virtue of any party except Quakers and like.

King Leopold of Belgium did quite literally murder the people of the Belgium Congo and that is what you are casing N. American settlement like. It wasn't! Turks engaged in genocide of Armenians and Greeks. The Chinese eliminated the Dzungar. The Anasazi (Amerindians) were wiped out by other Amerindians long before the Columbian exchange. The list of non-white genocides is long. Genocide is an equal opportunity crime not limited to whitey. More than any other group it is the English speaking peoples who have done more to preserve societies and bring people out of bondage.

cont.
Liebnitz434
1 / 5 (2) May 22, 2018
If you want to hate a genocidal/euthanasia social Darwinian white racist, then celebrate the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson's administration. If you want to hate then the Liberal Progressive Democrat Wilson is your man.

Check out the history.
rrwillsj
4 / 5 (4) May 22, 2018
If any Roman punitive force got as far across Germany as to reach Jutland? There should be some sort of documentation in Roman records to confirm this supposition.

However the wounds to the dead are consistent with Roman military technique. Contrary to the movies, the gladius was a stabbing weapon not a chopping sword.
In close ranks, with overlapping shields. To describe to modern readers what compares to facing a line of Roman infantryman? In modern terms, think of a line of threshing machines rolling across a prairie. Straight at you.

It is my unsubstantiated opinion that most likely, the victorious army was from border German tribes. Trained and outfitted as Roman legionaries.

It has irritated me how accurate the movie 'Gladiator' portrayed a 4th/5th century Roman Army. Then the cartoon German 'barbarians' showed up to spoil it.

- cont'd -
rrwillsj
3.7 / 5 (3) May 22, 2018
- contd -

For centuries, Rome took border tribes sons as hostages. To raise them with Roman education and military training.

Most likely, the attack on Jutland was a German tribal army trained in Roman tactics.

The disputed area was abandoned, probably from fear of supernatural repercussions. Leads me to believe that this was not the usual tribe on tribe competition.

I am guessing, that one or more of the Jutland princes was driven into exile. Finding shelter with one of the neighboring German tribes. Who had rebuilt their tribal army on Roman military procedures. And were induced to support restoring the exiled prince claim to the Jutland tribe's torc.

His competitors raised their sworn retainers. Leading them to utter defeat against the exile's romantic army.

Afterwards? There has to have been some identifiable effect, changes to Jutland society. If just to reward the victor's supporters. And punish the loser's families.

Shakescene21
5 / 5 (1) May 22, 2018
@ rrwills: I agree that this was more likely a German-on-German battle, although Romans may have induced it as you said. After the stunning Roman setback in 7 A.D, the Romans made some violent punitive marches through Germania, but their main strategy was to manipulate the barbarians into fighting each other. The example you gave of supporting an exiled leader was probably common, as were outright bribes, threats, and exacerbation of old feuds.

Hopefully archaeologists will eventually find the actual battlefield, which might shed more light on who was fighting whom. And DNA analysis will probably be possible, which could provide some dramatic information.
EnricM
not rated yet May 23, 2018
Sounds like the present day "European" immigrants are only living where they are now by literally murdering the people that were there before them.


Well, we actually never stopped. There's still some of that going on in Ukraine and recall the 1936-1945.
And chances are that them evul immigrantz will just be used as an excuse for some more murdering (right, mr Orban?)
EnricM
not rated yet May 23, 2018

For centuries, Rome took border tribes sons as hostages. To raise them with Roman education and military training.

Most likely, the attack on Jutland was a German tribal army trained in Roman tactics.



Jutland was far away from the Empire, but the Romans made trade expeditions in search of amber. The feuds could have been about the exploitation or trade rights and maybe the Romans had only marginally something to do.

In any case, more intriguing than any detective on Tv ;)
EnricM
not rated yet May 23, 2018
If any Roman punitive force got as far across Germany as to reach Jutland? There should be some sort of documentation in Roman records to confirm this supposition.



As I comment on your other comment, it may be related to trade. I knew this factoid but I haven't had time to search a better source. This is what I found in Google Books (I hope it links correctly):

https://books.goo...;f=false
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) May 23, 2018
Thanks Enric for the info on World Trade. I appreciate hearing another informed opinion.
thetutor88
not rated yet May 24, 2018
From first colonial times the Cherokee and other Amerindians captured blacks and whites and enslaved them. There was no particular virtue of any party except Quakers and like. .


Captured people were not "slaves". If they worked, they worked to become part of the tribe. Look at the tribes in the south, some are comprised of a large amount of African Americans because they ADOPTED them in from the days when actual slavery was still practiced.
thetutor88
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2018


King Leopold of Belgium did quite literally murder the people of the Belgium Congo and that is what you are casing N. American settlement like. It wasn't!


Yes, it was. Maybe not at first but it is what it evolved into. What would you call bounties being placed on Native American scalps? Men, women, children, including cutting open the bellies of pregnant women to scalp the unborn. Countless massacres of unarmed people is murder. Bounties were still being paid in South Dakota when my grandfather came home from WW2. You can probably tell by my posts that I am Native American and before you call these posts trolling, know that you are the one who brought up colonization of North and South America and said it wasn't genocide.
thetutor88
5 / 5 (2) May 24, 2018
Germ theory did not exist before 1850.


Maybe so, but before then they knew they could use disease as a weapon and did.
dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2018
No human being living today is very likely living where his or her ancestors always have. Even in Africa there have been massive migrations fairly recently as in the case of the Bantu, and of course many more modern Africans were conspirators, originators actually, of the slave trade on both coasts. Outside of Africa Neanderthal and Denisovan as well as other possible human cousins were either engulfed or wiped out, lands stolen. Predator animals were hunted to extinction as were prey. Entire biosystems were transformed/destroyed by our burning and other selective behaviors.
We continue to do all of this and more today and while it is true that the US is leading the way down the path to CO2 nirvana and plastic utopia the rest of the world is rapidly following suit as quickly as they can afford it.
Sadly, the default mode of too many tribal brains throughout history has been a simple dualism: good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, true/false, but above all us/them, white/free.
dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2018
@thetutor88 If you are truly Native American then you have much to complain about. However, your people were not strangers to most forms of violence prior to the arrival of Europeans either. Human sacrifice was ritually practiced by the Inca, Maya, Aztecs, whomever built Teotihuacan, in the southwest, along the banks of the Mississippi. Evidence of captives being tortured, murdered, skinned, scalped-- all predates the arrival of the Europeans. I know archaeology is looked upon as grave desecration by many Native Americans and I suppose any and all evidence gained from such scientific research is not to be trusted, but don't expect much sympathy from this descendant of Danes reading an article about massacred Danes who might be my ancestors. Their spirits are just fine now, wherever they are or are not. So dig on, science, for without you we are truly blind. No human group is unrelated to all other human groups either by blood in our veins or on our hands. I hope we learn this soon.
dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2018
Sounds like the present day "European" immigrants are only living where they are now by literally murdering the people that were there before them.


Sounds pretty accurate to me.

It isn't literal/accurate at all: at best it is figurative. To be literal, every single European immigrant would have had to have murdered a Native American and this is far from true. Most people who settled in what to them was the New World never set eyes on a Native American, let alone killed one. Once the ethnic cleansing was complete and no trace of the former inhabitants was left (except archaeological sites and in place names) wide-eyed, often impoverished and desperate economic refugees poured in to "settle" land that was for some reason "free". Many who pushed too near the "frontier", who had no blood on their hands, were massacred by Native Americans set on vengeance. And so the cycle began, and so the cycle continues, but rarely are the truly guilty punished.
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (2) May 24, 2018
Bounties were still being paid in South Dakota when my grandfather came home from WW2
@thetutor88
If you wouldn't mind, can you please provide a source of information that can be validated?
Thanks

where in SD?
on a Reservation?

thetutor88
5 / 5 (2) May 25, 2018
@thetutor88 If you are truly Native American then you have much to complain about.


I'm on the same page as you, nothing like what was being discussed has happened to me, it happened to my ancestors. I do not blame anybody alive today for what happened to them in the past.
thetutor88
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2018
Sounds like the present day "European" immigrants are only living where they are now by literally murdering the people that were there before them.


Sounds pretty accurate to me.

It isn't literal/accurate at all: at best it is figurative. To be literal, every single European immigrant would have had to have murdered a Native American and this is far from true.


True, thank you for saying that.
thetutor88
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2018
Bounties were still being paid in South Dakota when my grandfather came home from WW2
@thetutor88
If you wouldn't mind, can you please provide a source of information that can be validated?
Thanks

where in SD?
on a Reservation?



This information was given to me orally from my great uncle. That is how history or the stories of our people, in this case Santee/Mdwewakanton Dakota, is passed down. I know some other stories of our tribe an relatives that you probably wouldn't find in a history book. He was talking about how my grandpa came to meet my grandma who was a Red Lake Ojibwe, Anishinaabe is what we call ourselves, some say Chippewa. He had to leave South Dakota because of the bounties, after he returned home from WW2. As far as a "source that can be validated", it comes down to what you mean by valid source.
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (2) May 25, 2018
it comes down to what you mean by valid source
@thetutor88
a source that can be verified as accurate. A secondary means not related to you, such as published articles or newsprint

an example:
I am well aware of historical violence from the Dakota's, especially with the tribes. Mother is Oglala (Lakota) from Pine Ridge. Up until the 1980's, we had family put in jail for not being christian. these actions can be read about in police blotters, judicial comments as well as current books like: https://www.amazo...65862623

That is an example of validation (or a valid source)

*

I do understand oral history and how it presents a problem with verification.

dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2018
Not sure if either of you latter posters would be interested, but I did quite a bit of googling on some of these questions just for my own benefit and found the following thoughts on the general question of how widespread a role bounties played, written by a "doctoral candidate in US history":

https://www.quora...frontier

What he has to say sounds reasonable to me and after reading some of his other contributions on topics about which I have some degree of familiarity I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him as a decent generalist in the field.
He doesn't mention the northern plains at all, but nothing he says rules out the possibility that some such bounty offers, which appear to have been sporadically sponsored at the county level in a few places rather than by the states or federal government, could have still been "on the books" as late as WW2, but I doubt any were actually being paid.
dudester
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2018
(cont.)
All that having been said, I'm quite sure many whites were willing to kill Native Americans for "free" even as late as WW2, as some most certainly still are today.

I know this book received widespread coverage when it first came out a few years ago but here's a link to a well-researched period of murder-for-profit against Native Americans in Oklahoma as recently as the 1920s, on the outside chance that you might have missed it:

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

https://www.goodr...wer-moon

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