Thousands of Human Bones Reveal ‘Barbarian’ Battle Rituals

Archaeologists working in a sprawling wetland in Denmark have uncovered 2,000-year-old human remains that are challenging traditional ideas about “barbarian” warfare in northern Europe. The research, which was published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also provides a unique look at how Germanic tribes memorialized their battles.

What the team found:

Archaeologists excavated 2,095 human bones and bone fragments—comprising the remains of at least 82 people—across 185 acres of wetland at the site of Alken Enge, on the shore of Lake Mossø 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.

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