Excavation Of Ancient Battlefield Turns Up Roman Soldier’s Chain Mail
April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
During an excavation of a Roman-Germanic battlefield at the Harzhorn in Lower Saxony, a team of archaeologists from Freie Universität Berlin made an amazing discovery.
In the Northeim district north of Göttingen near Kalefeld, the research team led by Prof. Dr. Michael Meyer discovered the chain mail of a Roman soldier from the Third Century AD. This discovery represents the first time such a well preserved piece of body armor was excavated on a Roman-Germanic battlefield.
Meyer, a professor of prehistoric archaeology at Freie Universität Berlin, said that this piece of equipment, worn on the body, made it possible to reconstruct an individual story in the battle, a close-up image of the war.
Found in several fragments, the chain mail is made of thousands of small chain links with a diameter of about one-quarter inch. The researchers found that the iron in the rings is largely decomposed. Roman soldiers of various ranks wore chain mail in battle, while Germanic warriors normally bypassed this protection. In Germanic burial grounds, however the remains of such laboriously produced armor has been found.
The current find was unusual, not only because of the object found, but the position in which it was found. The chain mail remnants were found directly on the edge of the battlefield where the most intense combat action most likely took place on the Harzhorn hill.
“This discovery represents something fundamentally new for the Battle at the Harzhorn,” said Meyer. “This is the first time that an almost complete part of personal armor was found.” It is possible this chain mail was stripped from a wounded Roman soldier, Meyers said, in order to allow his comrades to dress his wounds and carry him away from battle. They might have left it behind. Meyer also says it is conceivable that the chain mail was laid down in a certain place by Germanic soldiers after the fighting was over, as an indication that this location played a special role in the fighting.
The archaeologists focused their excavations this year on the edges of the main battle zones to ascertain how far the battles extended and whether different fighting locations could be identified that belong together or whether they were all isolated clashes. This particular battlefield is one of the best preserved sites of the Roman-Germanic conflict.
In 2008, the discovery of this site caused a sensation because, until then, it had been assumed there was no further Roman military presence in Germania after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (Varusschlacht in German) in 9 AD. This Third Century battle site has been studied since 2008 by Meyer and his team in cooperation with the state Department of Archaeology in Lower Saxony (Niedersächsischer Denkmalpflege) and the archaeologists of the district of Northeim.
The chain mail is currently on exhibit in a Lower Saxon state exhibit, “Rome’s Forgotten Campaign: The Battle of the Harzhorn,” at the State Museum in Braunschweig where it will remain until January 19, 2014. The exhibition also includes a comprehensive selection of the 2,700 objects found during five years of excavation.