Archaeologists excavate Roman soldier’s chain mail

Related Articles

Related Articles

Archaeologists from Freie Universität Berlin made a spectacular discovery in their excavations of a Roman-Germanic battlefield at the Harzhorn in Lower Saxony.

While exploring the area near Kalefeld in the Northeim district north of Göttingen, the researchers, headed by Prof. Dr. Michael Meyer, found the chain mail of a Roman soldier from the Third Century AD. It was the first time that such a well-preserved piece of body armor was excavated on a Roman-Germanic battlefield. 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, said Michael Meyer, a professor of prehistoric archaeology at Freie Universität Berlin.

The chain mail, which was found in several fragments, consists of thousands of small chain links with a diameter of about six millimeters. The iron in the rings, however, is largely decomposed. Chain mail was worn in battle by Roman soldiers of various ranks. Germanic warriors usually waived this protection; however, in Germanic burial grounds, remains of those laboriously produced armor can often be found. In this case, not only the object itself was an unusual find, but also the position in which it was found. It was located directly on the edge of the battlefield with probably the most intense combat action that could be detected on the Harzhorn hill.

 

Large fragment of chain mail from Harzhorn found at Kalefeld near Göttingen. Credit: Clemens Fiedler.
Large fragment of chain mail from Harzhorn found at Kalefeld near Göttingen. Credit: Clemens Fiedler.

“This discovery represents something fundamentally new for the Battle at the Harzhorn,” said Michael Meyer. “This is the first time that an almost complete part of personal armor was found.” Meyer said it is possible that the chain mail was stripped from a wounded Roman soldier by his comrades because they wanted to dress his wounds and carry him away from the battle zone. It is conceivable that they left the chain mail behind. However, it is also conceivable that it was specifically 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 excavations this year were done on the edges of the main battle zones. The archaeologists wanted 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 Roman-Germanic battlefield is one of the best preserved sites of the Roman-Germanic conflict. Its discovery in 2008 was a sensation because until then it had been assumed that after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (Varusschlacht in German) in 9 AD there was no further Roman military presence in Germania. The site of the battle in the 3rd century has been studied since 2008 Michael Meyer, the head of the excavation, 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 being exhibited in a Lower Saxon state exhibition entitled “Rome’s Forgotten Campaign: The Battle of the Harzhorn,” which opened in the State Museum in Braunschweig on September 1, 2013, and will run through January 19, 2014. The exhibition includes a comprehensive selection of the 2,700 objects found during five years of excavation. Numerous loans from ten European countries are also on display, adding more context about the Roman-Germanic history of the crisis-ridden 3rd century.

Header Image : Fragments of chain mail from Harzhorn found at Kalefeld near Göttingen. Credit: Detlef Bach, Winterbach.

Contributing Source : Freie Universitaet Berlin

HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Magazine

Archtools

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Karahundj – The Ancient Speaking Stones

Karahundj, also called Carahunge and Zorats Karer is an ancient stone complex, constructed on a mountain plateau in the Syunik Province of Armenia.

Palaeontologists Establish Spinosaurus Was Real Life ‘River Monster’

A discovery of more than a thousand dinosaur teeth, by a team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth, proves beyond reasonable doubt that Spinosaurus, the giant predator made famous by the movie Jurassic Park III as well as the BBC documentary Planet Dinosaur was an enormous river-monster.

Archaeology Uncovers Infectious Disease Spread – 4000 Years Ago

New bioarchaeology research from a University of Otago PhD candidate has shown how infectious diseases may have spread 4000 years ago, while highlighting the dangers of letting such diseases run rife.

Buhen – The Sunken Egyptian Fortress

Buhen was an ancient Egyptian settlement and fortress, located on the West bank of the Nile in present-day Sudan.

The Modhera Sun Temple

The Sun Temple is an ancient Hindu temple complex located on a latitude of 23.6° (near Tropic of Cancer) on the banks of the Pushpavati river at Modhera in Gujarat, India.

Scientists Hunt For Lost WW2 Bunkers Designed to Hold Off Invasion

New research published by scientists from Keele, Staffordshire and London South Bank Universities, has unveiled extraordinary new insights into a forgotten band of secret fighters created to slow down potential invaders during World War Two.

Sea Ice Triggered the Little Ice Age

A new study finds a trigger for the Little Ice Age that cooled Europe from the 1300s through mid-1800s, and supports surprising model results suggesting that under the right conditions sudden climate changes can occur spontaneously, without external forcing.

Venus’ Ancient Layered, Folded Rocks Point to Volcanic Origin

An international team of researchers has found that some of the oldest terrain on Venus, known as tesserae, have layering that seems consistent with volcanic activity. The finding could provide insights into the enigmatic planet's geological history.

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.