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Friday, March 25, 2016

Epic Bronze Age battle near the Baltic


There's a fascinating feature at Science about a surprisingly large-scale Bronze Age battle in present-day North Germany. Great to see ancient DNA being tested. Can't wait for the results.

Ancient DNA could potentially reveal much more: When compared to other Bronze Age samples from around Europe at this time, it could point to the homelands of the warriors as well as such traits as eye and hair color. Genetic analysis is just beginning, but so far it supports the notion of far-flung origins. DNA from teeth suggests some warriors are related to modern southern Europeans and others to people living in modern-day Poland and Scandinavia. “This is not a bunch of local idiots,” says University of Mainz geneticist Joachim Burger. “It’s a highly diverse population.”

As University of Aarhus’s Vandkilde puts it: “It’s an army like the one described in Homeric epics, made up of smaller war bands that gathered to sack Troy”—an event thought to have happened fewer than 100 years later, in 1184 B.C.E. That suggests an unexpectedly widespread social organization, Jantzen says. “To organize a battle like this over tremendous distances and gather all these people in one place was a tremendous accomplishment,” he says.

Source: Andrew Curry, Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf4033

Some more details about the project:

The human skeletal material from the Tollense Valley, Mecklenburg West-Pomerania, represents an unparalleled archaeological discovery: the anthropological and biomolecular preservation of the bones is remarkably good, and the large number of individuals from a putative Bronze Age battlefield context is a rare find. A pilot study carried out by the applicants confirmed that the preservation of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA is excellent. The latest developments in DNA sequencing technology (next generation sequencing, NGS), and especially the progress in modeling prehistoric population structure through computer simulations, enables the precise reconstruction of the population history of such a large coherent site. Additionally, the hypothesis of intergroup conflict can be tested. Previous studies on Holocene population dynamics focused on the Neolithic transition. The prevailing hypothesis suggests that the European gene pool resulted from a complex and regionally differentiated admixture pattern between local hunter-gatherers and immigrant farmers. Bronze Age populations are the key to testing this hypothesis, which we propose to do using our newly-developed multi locus system of 319 neutral chromosomal markers. Furthermore, the excellent preservation of these samples will allow us to conduct a population- genetic analysis of paternal lineages. Not least, this is an opportunity to retrace evolutionary adaptation processes (e.g. Calcium- and Vitamin D metabolism) originating in the Neolithic transition. We plan to use mitochondrial and nuclear aDNA capture essays and next generation sequencing technology to generate the most comprehensive prehistoric DNA data set to date. This study will be the first to combine multi locus aDNA capture assays and spatially explicit coalescence analyses of prehistoric DNA, and will undoubtedly set a new standard for human population genetics. The relevance of these results will extend far beyond the archaeological site of the Tollense Valley, and our data will be interpreted within the diachronic and supra-regional context of European population history.

Source: Population genetics of the Bronze Age site in the Tollense Valley, Mechlenburg-Pomerania

24 comments:

Nirjhar007 said...

So much gore.

andrew said...

A good discussion of the incident is found at http://oldeuropeanculture.blogspot.com/2015/07/tollense-battle.html

Romulus said...

The time period and location overlaps with the Lusatian culture, which is a subset of urnfield.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lusatian_culture

Fanty said...

"“This is not a bunch of local idiots,” says University of Mainz geneticist Joachim Burger. “It’s a highly diverse population.”

lol, wtf

So.... A population, that has no "high dversity" is a bunch of IDIOTs? Was this guy on dope? ;-P

Arch Hades said...

You're misreading things cause of your right wing paranoia, Fanty. He's just saying this is such a large scale military campaign that it includes recruits from the far of corners of Europe. It wasnt a local barfight or even villager sqaubble.

Chad Rohlfsen said...

This is period III of the Nordic Bronze culture, not Lusatian.

Chad Rohlfsen said...

Here, folks.

https://www.academia.edu/13269665/Bronze_Age_tin_rings_from_the_Tollense_valley_in_northeastern_Germany

Chad Rohlfsen said...

As the authors of both papers discuss, there is likely a southern influence. This isn't as an invading army, but hired professional soldiers brought in to protect someone's chiefdom. The importance of this is that we have evidence of professional armies in Northern Europe, several centuries earlier than this was thought to have occurred.

Arch Hades said...

My guess is it's two regional Northern armies faceing one another, and at least one of the armies has skilled mercenaries from Southern Europe on it's side.

Coldmountains said...

It sounds that a caravan protected by professional soldiers was attacked and robbed. There were young children and old women among the dead and no settlement was found near the battle. An important trade route was located there

Chad Rohlfsen said...

It's not a caravan. They estimate 4-5000 soldiers in this battle. Some of these people were running away and killed from behind. They may be running from a settlement. They've only dug in about 10% of the area.

Chad Rohlfsen said...

Plus, almost every bone they found belonged to a male between 20-30.

Grey said...

Troyberg

Davidski said...

The Southern European remains probably belong to warriors from Italy or nearby. That's what the author of that article says in his podcast.

There were trade and cultural links between Italy, Germany and Scandinavia during that time, so it make sense. The battle location may have been a strategic point for trade making its way to and from Scandinavia, which would also explain why it attracted people from Poland and maybe further east.

Nirjhar007 said...

That was the era(1500-1000BC) of of epic wars wasn't it? India, Greece and Now this..

Chad Rohlfsen said...

Northern Italy would make sense. Halberds became pretty popular in Beaker burials there and all of Western Europe around 2200-2000BCE. They aren't really found at all in the Balkans. They're more of a Western European thing.

mickeydodds1 said...

Gosh, how thrilling that battle must have been.
Like an episode of 'Arthur of the Britons' (remember that?)

Or those long forgotten playground mock battles - perhaps involving sticks for swords and dudtbin lids for shields of childhood - which were probably, psychologically, deeply atavistic in nature.

Fanty said...

"He's just saying this is such a large scale military campaign that it includes recruits from the far of corners of Europe. It wasnt a local barfight or even villager sqaubble."

And cant he say that in adult speech? ;)

Or at least neutralize it by: "this was not local idiots, that was a bunch of idiots from all over Europe." ;-)

Rob said...

I think the "southern" warriors came from Hungary and the Balkans

More broadly, Europe was really made after 2000 BC, when the basic tribal warrior of the fourth millennium was replaced by true chiefs and warrior elites, using different ideological symbols and organisational principles. This and subsequent tumults ultimately shaped the linguistic map of pre-Roman Europe

Raimo Kangasniemi said...

This is very close chronologically to the late Bronze Age, early Iron Age collapse in the eastern Mediterranean and speculatively we might be seeing a snapshot of an earlier, northern branch of the same event here.

The few remains of children and women could be families of soldiers travelling them with them, no matter whether they were hired mercenaries or a warband moving on its own.

There is an ongoing excavation of a Bronze Age, partly stone fortress in Poland's Maszkowice showing connections to southern Balkans and Aegean in the early Mycenaean period, about the same time as the Tollense river causeway was build.

Davidski said...

What's the bet it'll be the southern warriors with the Italian genome-wide profiles who'll be stripped of all their valuables and thrown in the river?

Rob said...

Yes yes Dave
And Poles were all the winners. That's why they'll be no M458? - Coz they all lived

Davidski said...

We shall see.

Rob said...

Ha ha
Yes I'm sure it'll be fascinating . I'd bet the war parties weren't divided along ethno-genetic lines ; more like a pan-Euripean Battle Royale