Archeology: Iron Age warriors ARE the swords of their defeated enemies, reveals treasure from Germany

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The Iron Age warriors bowed their enemies’ swords after defeating them in battle, an ancient treasure unearthed in West Germany has revealed.

Archaeologists used metal detectors to reveal the ancient armory – which was found buried in the remains of a hill fort on Mount Wilzenberg.

Also among the finds from the site were blunt tips of spears and lances, deliberately broken shield knobs, and the remains of equine harnesses.

Although the team has traced the finds back to about 300-1 BC, the nature of the artifacts means that they cannot be precisely dated, the researchers explained.

Therefore, it is unclear whether the arsenal of damaged weapons was deposited on the hill fortress in the aftermath of a major battle, or accumulated over many centuries.

The Iron Age warriors bowed their enemies' swords after defeating them in battle, an ancient treasure unearthed in West Germany has revealed.  Pictured: the two curved swords and blunt spear and lance tips found in the Wilzenberg hill fort in 1950

The Iron Age warriors bowed their enemies’ swords after defeating them in battle, an ancient treasure unearthed in West Germany has revealed. Pictured: the two curved swords and blunt spear and lance tips found in the Wilzenberg hill fort in 1950

‘The arsenal is the largest in North Rhine-Westphalia and also connects the Sauerland [mountain range] with complex processes in Iron Age Europe, ‘said archaeologist Michael Baales of the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe.

Fellow archaeologist Manuel Zeiler added: “According to current research, it is conceivable that a battle took place in the area around Wilzenberg.”

“The winners completed their triumph by taking the captured weapons, belts and armor to the hill fortress.”

Based on the extent of the damage to the weapons, the researchers believe they were deliberately damaged before they were put on display at the fort.

Such actions are not unknown to archaeologists – with researchers working at sites in Gournay and Ribemont-sur-Ancre, France, after noting that Celtic cultures would ritually destroy the armament of their vanquished opponents.

The first weapons recovered from the Wilzenberg hill fort were accidentally found in the 1950s – consisting of deformed spear and lance tips, which were found wrapped in two curved swords.

These are now joined by some 100 Celtic artifacts excavated thanks to the painstaking efforts of local historian Matthias Dickhaus, who inspected the site with a metal detector between 2018 and 2020.

The finds included about 40 spear and lance tips, broken shield lug fragments, various tools, belt hooks and parts of armor – including part of a very rare form of bridle that is said to have been used to drive horses pulling chariots.

All the finds were quite close to Earth’s surface – with the experts saying this indicates that the damaged weapons likely remained on the ground and slowly buried as the centuries passed.

“Obviously, the damage was not caused in combat, and therefore the Wilzenberg is not a battlefield,” said Dr. Zeiler.

Among the new finds were about 40 spear and lance points (center), broken shield stud fragments (bottom right), various tools, belt hooks (bottom right) and armor parts (top)

Among the new finds were about 40 spear and lance points (center), broken shield stud fragments (bottom right), various tools, belt hooks (bottom right) and armor parts (top)

According to current research, it is conceivable that a battle took place in the area around Wilzenberg [pictured]'said archaeologist Manuel Zeiler.  'The winners completed their triumph by taking the captured weapons, belts and armor to the hill fortress'

According to current research, it is conceivable that a battle took place in the area around Wilzenberg [pictured]’said archaeologist Manuel Zeiler. ‘The winners completed their triumph by taking the captured weapons, belts and armor to the hill fortress’

All the finds were quite close to Earth's surface - with the experts saying this indicates that the damaged weapons likely remained on the ground and slowly buried as the centuries passed.  Pictured: Belt hooks found at the site of the hillfort

All the finds were quite close to Earth’s surface – with the experts saying this indicates that the damaged weapons likely remained on the ground and slowly buried as the centuries passed. Pictured: Belt hooks found at the site of the hillfort

Burkhard König, the mayor of nearby Schmallenberg, said that “Wilzenberg – with its long, eventful history – is an integral part of the city’s development.”

‘In addition to many visible, but also many hidden artifacts, the discovery of new weapons underscores their importance.’

“I would like to thank all involved, in particular the Regional Association of Westphalia-Lippe, for their efforts and congratulate them on the discovery.”

“Obviously, the damage was not caused in combat, and therefore the Wilzenberg is not a battlefield,” said Dr. Zeiler. Pictured: Parts of a very rare form of bridle allegedly used to drive horses pulling wagons

Archaeologists used metal detectors to reveal the ancient armory - which was found buried in the remains of a hill fortress on Mount Wilzenberg

Archaeologists used metal detectors to reveal the ancient armory – which was found buried in the remains of a hill fortress on Mount Wilzenberg

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT IRON AGE BRITAIN?

The Iron Age in Britain began when the Bronze Age ended.

It started around 800 BC. And ended in 43 AD. When the Romans invaded.

As the name suggests, great changes have occurred during this period thanks to the introduction of ironworking technology.

During this period, Britain’s population was likely more than a million.

This was made possible by new forms of agriculture, such as the introduction of new varieties of barley and wheat.

The invention of the iron-tipped plow made it possible for the first time to grow crops on heavy clay soils.

Some of the most significant advancements during this time included the introduction of the potter’s wheel, the lathe (used for woodworking) and the rotary quern for grinding grain.

There are nearly 3,000 Iron Age fortresses in the UK. Some were used as permanent settlements, while others were used as venues for gatherings, trade, and religious activities.

At the time, most people lived on small farms with extended families.

The standard house was a round house, made of wood or stone with a thatched or peat roof.

Funeral practices varied, but it seems that most people were dismissed by ‘excarnation’ – meaning they were deliberately exposed.

Some bog bodies from this period have also been preserved, which testify to violent deaths in the form of ritual and sacrificial death.

Towards the end of this period, Roman influence increased from the western Mediterranean and southern France.

It appears that before the Roman conquest of England in AD 43. Already had links with many tribes and had been able to exercise some political influence.

After 43 AD. Under Hadrian’s Wall all of Wales and England became part of the Roman Empire, while Iron Age life in Scotland and Ireland lasted longer.

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