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Bronze Age Battle in Northern Europe


Jul 28, 2000
Eugene, OR
Basic Beliefs
About 1,250 BCE near the Tollense River in NE Germany, there was a big battle.

From "Brutal Bronze Age battle discovery ...":
A deadly wave of arrows fell from the sky, opening the battle. Men screamed and fell, as the flint and bronze arrowheads struck deep into their bones. Some slipped from the bridge and sank beneath the river.

Warrior bands had come from all over Europe, some of them from hundreds of miles away, and the campaign had brought them here, on this day, to fight to the death, for possession of this causeway. Now, thousands clashed. Hundreds would die.

The two sides rained blows on each with wooden clubs and bronze swords, or stabbed with spears, tipped with flint or brass.

One spearman thrust his weapon into the horse carrying a nobleman, sending horse and rider crashing off the bridge into the cold gray water.

Finally, one side broke, and the losing warriors were chased down and cut down from behind.

When the fighting was done, some men lay where they fell, only to be stripped of their clothes, weapons and valuables. Their mangled, naked bodies were tossed into the river. Others sank, untouched, into the river, or into the mud along the riverbanks.
This says something about the society that these "gentlemen" had.
But what’s really startling historians is that nobody knew North European society was this organized, stratified and warlike so early in history. One researcher told Science magazine “if you fight with body armor and helmet and corselet, you need daily training or you can’t move. … This kind of training is the beginning of a specialized group of warriors.”

An elite warrior class can only exist if someone else is growing the warriors' food and making their weapons and tools. That suggests a degree of hitherto unsuspected stratification of Bronze Age society.
From "Evidence Piling Up about Unparalleled Bronze Age Bridge Battle ..."
There seems to be a good mix of bronze and stone/wood weapons in the finds, with more bronze uncovered using metal detectors. The bone first discovered in the river has a flint arrowhead embedded in it while a skull shows the fatal penetration of a bronze arrowhead. Bronze axe heads have been discovered along with bronze and tin rings and other decorations showing that a wealthy elite likely played a role in the battle (bronze ax heads were not cheap). Wooden clubs are also very common finds.

These findings, along with the horse remains, paint a picture of a very diverse and organized army, at least on one of the sides. Almost a third of the men have evidence of past injuries seemingly gained in battle, including healed skull fractures. Many of the men seemed to have been stripped of valuables before being dumped into the river. It’s hard to say that people are missing something that’s not there anymore, but the men who were buried deeper tended to have more valuables still upon them, indicating that they were killed and sunk into the river, whereas the others were killed, looted then tossed into the river.
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