Friday, March 6, 2009

3rd century Roman Battlefield uncovered in northern Germany

This is really exciting. Apparently, Rome didn't totally withdraw from Germania after the Teutoburg Forest disaster after all.

[Image -The battle in the Teutoburg Forest in 9AD, by H. Knackfuss, 1890. Norddeutsches Schulmuseum, Friesland (School Museum in Northern Germany), courtesy of the Museum and Park at Kalkriese]
"Archaeologists have found an ancient battlefield in Germany that indicates that the Roman Legions were still fighting Germanic tribes deep inside "barbarian" territory as late as the 3rd Century AD – 200 years later than hitherto believed.

The discovery comes as preparations are being made to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the famous Battle of Teutoburg Forest in September 2009. In the battle, Germanic guerrilla fighters annihilated three elite Roman Legions, the XVIIth, XVIIIth and XIXth, in September of the year 9 AD.

...the new archaeological discovery, if verified, could mean that the history books must be rewritten, as the newly discovered 3rd Century battlefield is located 100 miles (160 kilometres) further east of the Teutoburg Forest.

"The find can be dated to the 3rd Century and will definitely change the historical perception of that time," said Dr. Henning Hassmann, director of historic preservation in the state of Lower Saxony.

So far, 600 artefacts have been unearthed that are clearly of Roman 3rd Century origin and dating, says Michael Wickmann, an official in the town of Northeim, where the dig has been conducted over a period of months.

Initial reports said that DNA fingerprinting evidence indicated that some of the arrows had been made of African wood, which was the preferred wood used in the manufacture of Roman arrows. However, Hassmann said he could not confirm those reports.

It is unknown whether that outpost predates the 9 AD battle of Teutoburg Forest or whether it might be a later tribal camp where Germanic warriors stocked up on Roman-made armaments smuggled or looted from imperial frontier garrisons.
I thought this little "hagiographic view" of Arminius' victory at Teutoburg was like a classical period "Triumph of the Will"

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest between
myth and reality: an hagiographic view

I think a little more objective explanation of the events surrounding the disaster are contained in the History Channel presentation, "Decisive Battles". I really liked this series that used the game engine from "Rome Total War" to recreate a number of important battles in the classical world. I bought the entire set on DVD. I think I would have preferred the "big picture" game images interspersed with reenactment closeups though. It would have given the presentation more of a human touch.
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