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Some bodies were stripped of their valuables and left bobbing in shallow ponds; others sank to the bottom, protected from plundering by a meter or two of water. In 1996, an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep riverbank—the first clue that the Tollense Valley, about 120 kilometers north of Berlin, concealed a gruesome secret.A flint arrowhead was firmly embedded in one end of the bone, prompting archaeologists to dig a small test excavation that yielded more bones, a bashed-in skull, and a 73-centimeter club resembling a baseball bat.About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea.

In a high-ceilinged chamber on the castle’s second floor, tall windows look out on a fog-shrouded lake.“Most people thought ancient society was peaceful, and that Bronze Age males were concerned with trading and so on,” says Helle Vandkilde, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark.“Very few talked about warfare.” The 10,000 bones in this room—what’s left of Tollense’s losers—changed all that.They were found in dense caches: In one spot, 1478 bones, among them 20 skulls, were packed into an area of just 12 square meters. That’s 10% of the find layer, at most, maybe just 3% or 4%,” says Detlef Jantzen, chief archaeologist at MVDHP.Archaeologists think the bodies landed or were dumped in shallow ponds, where the motion of the water mixed up bones from different individuals. “If we excavated the whole area, we might have 750 people.

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