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The great diversity of the Bronze Age evidence in material culture terms, and the distinctive spatial and temporal distributions of artefacts and practices which Anthony Harding charts in his book, do not therefore represent simple variations on a unified theme but rather point to an archaeology of cultural difference. In this, we should seek an understanding of the Bronze Age evidence as much in particular kinds of social agency and representation as in sweeping social norms.

This extends to the characterisation of a shared ethos, a kind of Bronze Age zeitgeist of prestige, honour and violence that lasted for two thousand years or more. We should, however, be deeply suspicious of such a representation because it again conflates cultural difference to produce a generic characterization of elite personhood, behaviour and social structure. Even if we imagine that such an ethos was indeed pervasive, its articulation among Bronze Age societies may well have been extremely diverse, with varied expression both in practical and material terms from one group to another.

To take a comparative example, historical ethnographies and archaeologies of native North American societies in the 2nd millennium AD point to huge cultural variation in the nature of warfare across both space and time.

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At one level, there is no question that Warriors and Weapons in Bronze Age Europe is a thorough and detailed book that makes a valuable contribution to our study of Bronze Age warfare, warriors and fighting. In other respects, certainly from some theoretical perspectives, the book can be criticised in terms of the approaches adopted and the interpretations presented.

Yet the grounds for criticism discussed above should certainly not put anyone off acquiring this book, because its virtues are considerable and the debates it should generate, whether critical or not, can only advance our understanding of the material evidence for fighting, weaponry and the cultural significance of warfare in the European Bronze Age—and this, of course, is precisely the outcome that the author aimed to achieve.

Ames, K. Peoples of the Northwest Coast: their archaeology and prehistory. The Passage of Arms 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxbow Books Harrison, R. Symbols and Warriors: images of the European Bronze Age. Reading the Past 3rd edition.

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Europe Before History. The Rise of Bronze Age Society: travels, transmissions and transformations. Displacement and exchange in archaeological methodology. In Scarre, C. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 33 Osgood, R. Fetishised objects and human nature: towards an anthropology of technology, Man 23, —52 Sherratt, A. What would a Bronze Age world system look like? In Ingold, T.

Masai Warrior

London: Routledge Zimmerman, L. The Crow Creek Massacre: archaeology and prehistoric plains warfare in contemporary perspective. In Carman, J.

Bronze Age Warrior

Within centuries, the entire battle was forgotten. In , an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep riverbank—the first clue that the Tollense Valley, about kilometers north of Berlin, concealed a gruesome secret. A flint arrowhead was firmly embedded in one end of the bone, prompting archaeologists to dig a small test excavation that yielded more bones, a bashed-in skull, and a centimeter club resembling a baseball bat. The artifacts all were radiocarbon-dated to about B.

Now, after a series of excavations between and , researchers have begun to understand the battle and its startling implications for Bronze Age society. They have also found bones in extraordinary numbers: the remains of at least five horses and more than men. Bones from hundreds more may remain unexcavated, and thousands of others may have fought but survived. Northern Europe in the Bronze Age was long dismissed as a backwater, overshadowed by more sophisticated civilizations in the Near East and Greece.

Bronze itself, created in the Near East around B. 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. The flint arrowhead embedded in this upper arm bone first alerted archaeologists to the ancient violence in the Tollense Valley. The lakeside hunting lodge called Schloss Wiligrad was built at the turn of the 19th century, deep in a forest 14 kilometers north of Schwerin, the capital of the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Inside, pale winter light illuminates dozens of skulls arranged on shelves and tables. In the center of the room, long leg bones and short ribs lie in serried ranks on tables; more remains are stored in cardboard boxes stacked on metal shelves reaching almost to the ceiling. Some archaeologists suggested the skeletons might be from a flooded cemetery, or that they had accumulated over centuries. There was reason for skepticism. Before Tollense, direct evidence of large-scale violence in the Bronze Age was scanty, especially in this region. Historical accounts from the Near East and Greece described epic battles, but few artifacts remained to corroborate these boastful accounts.

Masai Warrior – Artistry In Bronze

In Bronze Age Europe, even the historical accounts of war were lacking, and all investigators had to go on were weapons in ceremonial burials and a handful of mass graves with unmistakable evidence of violence, such as decapitated bodies or arrowheads embedded in bones. The grave goods were explained as prestige objects or symbols of power rather than actual weapons.

They were found in dense caches: In one spot, bones, among them 20 skulls, were packed into an area of just 12 square meters. Archaeologists think the bodies landed or were dumped in shallow ponds, where the motion of the water mixed up bones from different individuals. By counting specific, singular bones—skulls and femurs, for example—UG forensic anthropologists Ute Brinker and Annemarie Schramm identified a minimum of individuals, almost all of them men, most between the ages of 20 and The number suggests the scale of the battle.

We have a lot of them, often multiple marks on the same rib. Scanning the bones using microscopic computer tomography at a materials science institute in Berlin and the University of Rostock has yielded detailed, 3D images of these injuries. Now, archaeologists are identifying the weapons responsible by matching the images to scans of weapons found at Tollense or in contemporary graves elsewhere in Europe. Diamond-shaped holes in bones, for example, match the distinctive shape of bronze arrowheads found on the battlefield.

Bronze artifacts are found more often than flint at Tollense, perhaps because metal detectors were used to comb spoil piles for artifacts. The bone scans have also sharpened the picture of how the battle unfolded, Terberger says. In x-rays, the upper arm bone with an embedded arrowhead—the one that triggered the discovery of the battlefield—seemed to show signs of healing. Microscopic inspection of that wound told a different story: What initially looked like healing—an opaque lining around the arrowhead on an x-ray—was, in fact, a layer of shattered bone, compressed by a single impact that was probably fatal.

So far no bodies show healed wounds, making it likely the battle happened in just a day, or a few at most. In the last year, a team of engineers in Hamburg has used techniques developed to model stresses on aircraft parts to understand the kinds of blows the soldiers suffered.


For example, archaeologists at first thought that a fighter whose femur had snapped close to the hip joint must have fallen from a horse. The injury resembled those that result today from a motorcycle crash or equestrian accident. But the modeling told a different story.

Melanie Schwinning and Hella Harten-Buga, University of Hamburg archaeologists and engineers, took into account the physical properties of bone and Bronze Age weapons, along with examples of injuries from horse falls. An experimental archaeologist also plunged recreated flint and bronze points into dead pigs and recorded the damage.

Pair of Warrior Putti in Bronze, 19th Century

Schwinning and Harten-Buga say a bronze spearhead hitting the bone at a sharp downward angle would have been able to wedge the femur apart, cracking it in half like a log. Why the men gathered in this spot to fight and die is another mystery that archaeological evidence is helping unravel. The Tollense Valley here is narrow, just 50 meters wide in some spots.

Parts are swampy, whereas others offer firm ground and solid footing. The spot may have been a sort of choke point for travelers journeying across the northern European plain. In , geomagnetic surveys revealed evidence of a meter-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 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.

In the aftermath, the victors may have stripped valuables from the bodies they could reach, then tossed the corpses into shallow water, which protected them from carnivores and birds. The bones lack the gnawing and dragging marks typically left by such scavengers. Elsewhere, the team found human and horse remains buried a meter or two lower, about where the Bronze Age riverbed might have been.

These dead must have fallen or been dumped into the deeper parts of the river, sinking quickly to the bottom, where their valuables were out of the grasp of looters. At the time of the battle, northern Europe seems to have been devoid of towns or even small villages.