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Stanford researchers find clues to the Baltic Crusades in animal bones, horses and the extinct aurochs

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Source: Stanford University

Marienburg MalborkCastle built by Teutonic knightsThe Teutonic Order’s Marienburg Castle, Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, now Malbork, Poland

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By Melissa Pandika

 

Stanford Assistant Professor Krish Seetah and Reading University student Rose Calis analyze animal bones in the basement of Riga Castle, Latvia. (Photo: Aleks Pluskowski)

Stanford researchers have discovered that pagan villages plundered by medieval knights during the little-known Baltic Crusades had some problems in common with the modern-day global village.

Among them: deforestation, asymmetric warfare and species extinction.

According to a research paper published in Science, a project investigating the Baltic Crusades’ profound environmental legacy could yield valuable insight into colonialism, cultural changes and ecological exploitation – relevant issues not only throughout history, but especially in today’s increasingly globalized society.

The researchers, including professors at Stanford and in Europe, are drawing from disciplines as disparate as history and chemistry to analyze their findings, which they’ve already begun synthesizing into a database of unprecedented depth and scope.

Their study spans the years from the 12th century to the 16th century, when the Teutonic Order, a Germanic brotherhood of Christian knights, waged war against the last indigenous pagan societies in Europe in a region that includes modern-day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and parts of Sweden and Russia.

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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

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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.

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KING ARTHUR (Part I): Some literary, archaeological and historical evidence

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By Periklis Deligiannis

Romano-Briton
A Late Roman helmet rather of Persian distant origin (design), decorated with semi-gemstones. The Romano-Britons inherited this type together with the rest of the Roman weaponry and military organization.
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Wulfheodenas
In the 5th-6th centuries AD, the Anglo-Saxons brought to Britain many elements of the eastern Scandinavian Proto-Vendel and Vendel cultures, several of which are obvious on their arms and armor, i.e. on their helmets (Sutton Hoo burial, etc.), daggers, swords etc (reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon warlord wearing a Sutton Hoo-type helmet, by the Historical Association Wulfheodenas ).
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In 407 AD the Romans withdrew their last regular troops from the British provinces. The independent Romano-Britons had to fight hard against the Pict, Irish and Anglo-Saxon barbarians who were besieging their territory. Former Roman Britain was gradually divided into autonomous ‘principalities’ led by warlords. However they tried to keep united their “British kingdom” as they considered their common territory, and mainly to repel the invading Anglo-Saxons who had conquered the Southeast, advancing headlong. It seems that the Britons in order to maintain their unity, elected a military commander (Dux) as a senior politico-military leader, who led the operations against the invaders and took care on preventing infighting. A sequence of inspired Dukes (Voteporix, Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus) led the British resistance. Those who accept Arthur’s historicity usually consider him as one of these Dukes (a theory consider him Aurelianus’ son).
The Briton literary tradition and the archaeological evidence, mainly the Saxon burials, denote that the Anglo-Saxon invasion was halted on the verge of the 5th-6th centuries AD. Many scholars believe that the military action of the legendary king Arthur was the main ‘factor’ for the repulse of the newcomers. However, his historicity is strongly and justifiably disputed. In this series of articles I will deal with some additional literary, archaeological and historical evidence concerning his historicity.

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The literary sources on Arthur

The first literary reference to Arthur appears in the Northern Briton epic “Y Goddodin” (“the Votadini” around AD 600) which recounts an attempt of the Votadini people (Celtic Goddodin) of the modern Scottish Lowlands and their allies, to check the advance of the Angles. Some scholars believe that the mention of Arthur in this epic was added later. The first ‘secure’ reference to the legendary commander comes from Nennius in his “History of the Britons” (“Historia Britonnum”, end of 8th century). Nennius’ work was based mostly on the local Briton tradition. Nennius describes the legendary figure as a warlord who repelled the barbarians around the 5th-6th centuries. This was followed shortly after by another reference of Arthur in the “Annales Cambriae” (9th c.). But the author, who developed most of all Arthur’s renowned image as a just and powerful warrior-king, was the Archdeacon of Oxford Geoffrey of Monmouth in his largely mythical “History of the Kings of Britain” (“Historia Regum Britanniae”, AD 1133). Geoffrey relied heavily on the two aforementioned works, and possibly on the local oral tradition. In France, the late medieval chronicler Chretien de Troyes holds an analogous contribution to the Arthurian legend. The later writers of the Arthurian epic circle are based on the works of the last two authors (mostly on Geoffrey’s work and less on Chretien’s) going on to the enrichment of the epic with elements belonging mainly to the Late Middle Ages, such as the Round Table, the quest for the Holy Grail, etc.

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GERMANICS AND GERMANI (PRE-TEUTONIC): A ROMAN MISUNDERSTANDING?

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GermanenAD50
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.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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[NOTE: This article is actually a part of my published  book  The Celts, Athens 2008, unfortunately available only in Greek.]
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…. 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.

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ON THE PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE ANCIENT CELTS

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pergamon__dying_gaul

GaulThe  two  more  renowned  sculptures  of  the  Pergamene  School  on  the  Gauls/Galatians:  the  ‘Dying  Gaul’  and  the  ‘Gaul  who  commits  suicide  after  having  killed  his  wife’.

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By  Periklis  Deligiannis

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  I have to refer to an old theory on the Celtic physical anthropology, which even today has a great number of supporters although it is based mainly on a misunderstanding interpretation of the representation – especially of the physical type – of the Galatian warriors by the ‘Pergamene sculpture School’, of the reports of the ancient Greek and Latin authors on the Celts and of other secondary data. This theory is influenced by the ‘Teutonic School’ of physical anthropology in the 19th-early 20th centuries (the archaeologist Gustav von Kossinna and the anthropologist Hans Gunther being its last main representatives), which had a kind of obsession on discovering Nordic warrior nobilities as ruling elites on almost all the ancient European peoples, including the Mediterranean peoples, and also on the Iranians, the Indians, the Egyptians and others. According to the theories of that School, the Nordic noble warriors were the real creators of the Celtic, the Roman, the Greek, the Indian and other ancient civilizations.

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RES VITAE ET MORS: ROMΑNS, CIMBRI AND TEUTONES– PART IΙ

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Celts
The  Late  Cimbri  and  Teutones  who  confronted  the  Romans,  consisted  largely  of  Celts,  probably  in  the  most  part  according  to  many  historians. Their  appearance  was  frightening  for  the  peoples  of  the  Mediterranean,  as  it  is  analyzed  in  the  Greco-Roman  sources,  and  undoubtedly  many  if  not  almost  all  of  them,  bore  the  typical  Celtic  tattoo,  like  the  Celt  in  the  photograph  (an  accurate  reenactment  of  Celtic  warriors,  Silurian  in  this  case, by  a   Welsh  historic  society. Note specifically Taranis’  wheel tattooed on the forhead of the warrior) 
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By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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The  Romans  appealed  to  general  Gaius  Marius who  was meant  to  be  the  greatest  reformer  of  the  Roman  army.  Marius,  just  25  years old,  radically  reorganized  the  Roman  army. He  turned  the  Roman  legionnaire  from  a  half-armored  citizen-warrior  of  limited  military  service  to  a  fully  armored  and  professional  soldier  of  permanent  service,  aided  by  strong  allied  troops  (auxilia, socii) of  the  subjugated  peoples.  He  trained  his  legionnaires  with  his  own  methods,  creating  in  two  years  a  well-organized  and  disciplined  army.  Meanwhile  the  Cimbri-Teutones  invaded  Spain  and  Gaul,  marching  in  the  territories  of  tribes  who  were  not  their  allies,  probably  trying  to make  them  their  allies  by  force.  They  were  repulsed  by  the Celtiberians  in  Spain  and  by  the  Belgians  in  Gaul.  Their  Celtic  kinsmen  knew (unlike  the  Romans)  very  well  how  to  deal  with  them.  Ultimately  the  Cimbri-Teutones  decided  to  invade  Italy  but  they  divided  their  forces,  possibly  due  to  disagreement  between  their  leaders  or  in  order  to  cause  confusion  to  the  Roman  military  leadership  and  divide  the  Roman  army.  The  allied  tribes  were  also  devided  between  the  two  major  tribal  unions.  For  example,  the  Tigurini  joined  the  Cimbri  and  the  Ambrones  joined  the  Teutones.  In  my  opinion,  this  ‘strange’  equality  of  military  forces  among  the  two  major  tribal  unions,  denotes  that  the  bisection  of  the  barbarian  forces  took  place  after  an  agreement  among  their  warlords.

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