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Bronze Age Europe was a violent place. But only recently have scientists uncovered the scope of the violence, at a 3000-year-old site in northern Germany, where thousands of well-armed young men fought with sophisticated weapons in what appears to be an epic battle. Now, a bagful of bronze artifacts and tools found at the bottom of the river in the middle of the battlefield suggests that some of these warriors traveled from hundreds of kilometers away to fight. That suggests that northern European societies were organized on such a large scale that leaders could call warriors to distant battlefields, long before modern communication systems and roads.
“It’s extremely rare to find a box or pouch [like this],” on an ancient battlefield, says Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist with the Lower Saxony State Office for Cultural Heritage in Hanover, who describes the find with colleagues in a paper published today in Antiquity. “Somebody lost it there.”
Battle - Valley - Tollense - River - Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
The battle raged in a narrow, swampy valley that runs along the Tollense River, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 160 kilometers north of Berlin. Many of the artifacts sank below the water and so were preserved in pristine condition. Since the site was discovered in 1996, archaeologists have uncovered metal and wooden weaponry and more than 12,000 pieces of human bone.
The new find, unearthed in 2016, includes cylindrical fragments of bronze, along with a bronze knife, awl, and small chisel. The jumble of tools and scrap metal resemble someone’s personal effects, rather than a ritual deposit or hoard. Archaeologists say the tools were likely in a bag or box that decayed. But the contents were held in place by the thick mud of the riverbed—until divers found them some...
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