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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 pelvic bones 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.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-bone-trove-denmark-story-barbarian.html#jCp



Direct evidence of a large Northern European Roman period martial event and post-battle corpse manipulation



New archaeological excavations at Alken Enge, Jutland, Denmark, have revealed a comprehensive assemblage of disarticulated human remains within a 75-ha wetland area. A minimum of 82 individuals have been uncovered. Based on the distribution, the total population is estimated to be greater than 380 individuals, exclusively male and predominantly adult. The chronological radiocarbon evidence of the human bones indicates that they belong to a single, large event in the early first century AD. The bones show a high frequency of unhealed trauma from sharp-edged weapons, which, together with finds of military equipment, suggests that the find is of martial character. Taphonomic traces indicate that the bones were exposed to animal gnawing for a period of between 6 mo and 1 y before being deposited in the lake. Furthermore, the find situations, including collections of bones, ossa coxae threaded onto a stick, and cuts and scraping marks, provide evidence of the systematic treatment of the human corpses after the time of exposure. The finds are interpreted as the remains of an organized and possibly ritually embedded clearing of a battlefield, including the physical manipulation of the partly skeletonized bones of the deceased fighters and subsequent deposition in the lake. The date places the finds in the context of the Germanic region at the peak of the Roman expansion northward and provides the earliest direct archaeological evidence of large-scale conflict among the Germanic populations and a demonstration of hitherto unrecognized postbattle practices.


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Anyone who wasn't a Roman was considered a "barbarian" by the Romans.  The meaning of the word "barbarian" today is very different from what it meant then.  If their language and/or culture was different from Rome, then they are considered "barbarians" by the Romans.  It doesn't mean that they were technologically inferior to Rome.

The Romans also lost between 15,000 and 20,000 in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (which isn't very far east from that bog in Denmark) 2,009 years ago, where Varus lost three Roman legions to those German "barbarians."

Edited by T. McGrath
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