Archaeologists excavated 2,095 human bones and bone fragmentsâ€”comprising the remains of at least 82 peopleâ€”across 185 acres of wetland at the site of Alken Enge, on the shore of Lake MossÃ¸ on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. Scientific studies indicate that most of the individuals were young male adults, and they all died in a single event in the early first century A.D. Unhealed trauma wounds on the remains, as well as finds of weapons, suggest that the individuals died in battle.
The team didnâ€™t dig up the entire 185 acres, but the researchers extrapolated that more than 380 people may have been interred in boggy waters along the lakeshore some 2,000 years ago, based on the distribution of the remains that were excavated. ….
An army of several hundred people far exceeds the population scale of Iron Age villages in the region, the new paper notes, suggesting that a war band of this many men required the right kinds of organization and leadership skills to recruit fighters from far distances. …
Here’s where it gets really interesting: Many of the human remains show animal gnaw marks consistent with bodies left exposed somewhere else for six months to a year before being submerged in the wetland. Others bones are deliberately arranged in bundles with stones brought in from other areas, and in one case, fragments of hip bones from four different individuals were threaded on a tree branch.
This leads researchers to suspect that after a period of time, the remains were collected from an yet-to-be discovered battlefield and ritually deposited in the marsh. However, the southern areas of the site also revealed many very small bones, which could easily be overlooked when gathering skeletonized remains. This may indicate archaeologists “could actually be very close to the actual battle site,” says study coauthor Mads KÃ¤hler Holst, an archaeologist at Aarhus University and executive director of the Mosegaard Museum.
Noting the millennia-long ceremonial and ritual importance of bogs and shallow lakes across northern Europe, Bogucki believes the removal of bodies from the battlefield after a period of time and their interment in the marsh may likely be the action of the victors trying to memorialize their triumph. …
Although they battled Germanic tribes across much of Europe in the first century A.D., Roman armies never made it as far north as southern Scandinavia, and the team didnâ€™t find evidence for direct Roman involvement in this battle.
“The trauma [on the bodies] is also consistent with what we would expect from an encounter with a well-equipped Germanic army,” adds Holst.
Bogucki agrees: “This was barbarian-on-barbarian.”
23 May 2018