Fractured human remains found on a German river bank could provide the first compelling evidence of a major Bronze Age battle.
Archaeological excavations of the Tollense Valley in northern Germany unearthed fractured skulls, wooden clubs and horse remains dating from around 1200 BC.
The injuries to the skulls suggest face-to-face combat in a battle perhaps fought between warring tribes, say the researchers.
The paper, published in the journal Antiquity, is based primarily on an investigation begun in 2008 of the Tollense Valley site, which involved both ground excavations and surveys of the riverbed by divers.
They found remains of around 100 human bodies, of which eight had lesions to their bones. Most of the bodies, but not all, appeared to be young men.
The injuries included skull damage caused by massive blows or arrowheads, and some of the injuries appear to have been fatal.
One humerus (upper arm) bone contained an arrow head embedded more than 22mm into the bone, while a thigh bone fracture suggests a fall from a horse (horse bones were also found at the site).
The archaeologists also found remains of two wooden clubs, one the shape of a baseball bat and made of ash, the second the shape of a croquet mallet and made of sloe wood.
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