Dutch archaeologists discover the location of Caesar’s battle and massacre on the Tencteri and Usipetes tribes

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Republication from the VU University of Amsterdam


Hundreds of skulls and other bones, considered to belong to the massacred Germanics were found in the excavated location (credit: VU University of Amsterdam).

VU archaeologists discover location of historic battle fought by Caesar in Dutch river area

Earliest known battle on Dutch soil.

At a press conference held on Friday 11 December in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, archaeologist Nico Roymans from the VU Amsterdam announced a discovery that is truly unique for Dutch archaeology: the location where the Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar massacred two Germanic tribes in the year 55 BC. The location of this battle, which Caesar wrote about in detail in Book IV of his De Bello Gallico, was unknown to date. It is the earliest known battle on Dutch soil. The conclusions are based on a combination of historical, archaeological, and geochemical data.

Skeletal remains, swords and spearheads
It is the first time that the presence of Caesar and his troops in Dutch territory has been explicitly proven. The finds from this battle include large numbers of skeletal remains, swords, spearheads, and a helmet. The two Germanic tribes, the Tencteri and the Usipetes, originated in the area east of the Rhine and had explicitly appealed to Caesar for asylum. Caesar rejected this request for asylum and ordered his troops to destroy the tribes by violent means. Nowadays, we would label such action genocide.
During the press conference, Roymans described in detail the discoveries made in Kessel (North Brabant) and their historical significance. He also showed weapons and skeletal remains from this battle.




A reconstruction of a sword, its scabbard and warrior’s belt of a Merovingian nobleman. Note the common Nordic elements with the cultures of Anglo-Saxon Britain and early Vendel Scandinavia.
By Periklis Deligiannis

Wikipedia Commons is the source of all the maps in this article.
The early Franks were not a single tribe but a tribal union (or ‘loose’ federation or confederation) of smaller Germanic tribes emerging in the beginning of the 3rd century AD in the regions north and east of the Rhine. The first members of the Frankish confederation included the Sugambri (or Sicambri), Chamavi, Salii, Chattuarii (Chasuarii), Tubantes (Tuihantii), Ampsivarii, and probably the Bructeri. In the 20th century historiography the Salii (Salians) were believed to have been originally a confederation of Frankish tribes living near the sea (this is the meaning of ‘Salian’), mostly in modern Netherlands. This was definitely the case for the later Salii, being one of the two lesser tribal unions within the greater Frankish union. The other one was the Ripuarii (Ripuarian) Franks, meaning the tribes living by the river, i.e. the Rhine, in the Frankish hinterland, mostly in modern Germany. But the earlier Salii were rather not a confederation but a compact tribe which became the core people for the formation of the Salian Frankish confederation. Their cradle was possibly the region of Salland or Salaland in modern Eastern Netherlands.


Hamaland (map on the left) and Salland (on the right) in modern Netherlands were the cradles of two founding members of the Frankish federation, the Chamavi and the Salii  respectively. Betuwe in the map on the left, was the northern region of the land of the Batavi  tribe, another member of the Frankish federation, added to it later. It seems that the Batavi of Betuwe were already incorporated to the Chamavi when the federation was founded, while the rest of the tribe were a part of the Roman province Germania Inferior, south of the Rhine (see map below). In the 4th century, these ‘Roman’ Batavi (renowned auxiliaries of Rome) too were incorporated to the Frankish confederation.




The Germanic tribes around AD 50. The tribes of the North Sea, the Rhine-Weser area and the Elbe had probably a strong pre-Teutonic (‘Germani’?) ethnic component.


By Periklis Deligiannis
[NOTE: This article is actually a part of my published  book  The Celts, Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek.]
…. Apart from the most considerable Boii and Volcae peoples, other important Celtic tribes of central Europe were the Helvettii who originally were dwelling  in the valley of the river Main (modern Germany) before migrating to modern Switzerland, the Vendelici, the Norici, the Ambisontes, the Arabisci and others.
Of course, the Celts were not the only inhabitants of central Europe. In the 20th century, the study of place names and some archaeological data identified a large ethno-cultral group (and possibly linguistic) in the areas of modern Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and northern Germany, between the rivers Somme and Aller, which group did not speak neither Germanic nor Celtic (Gallic). These people possibly descended from the early Neolithic population of the region and they broadly adopted the Gallic culture but not the Celtic language (at least most of them). The people of the Lusatian culture in modern eastern Germany and Poland which was destroyed mainly by Scythian invaders (6th century BC), and the pre-Germanic inhabitants of Thuringia, northern Bohemia and other regions were possibly members of the same unknown ethnic group or groups. It was an unknown people (perhaps pre-Indo-European) who lived in a broad zone between the Celts and the Teutonics (Germanics) and most probably belonged to more than one linguistic group.