Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 33–49 | Cite as

Multi-isotope proveniencing of human remains from a Bronze Age battlefield in the Tollense Valley in northeast Germany

  • T. Douglas PriceEmail author
  • Robert Frei
  • Ute Brinker
  • Gundula Lidke
  • Thomas Terberger
  • Karin Margarita Frei
  • Detlef Jantzen
Original Paper


Although the Bronze Age is best known for its remarkable metal weapons, there is little evidence of conflict. Traumatic wounds in human skeletal remains are rare, and there have been few recognized scenes of warfare such as those known from later periods. Recent discoveries, however, have revealed evidence of a major battle in a small valley in the northeast of Germany, some 3250 years ago. Both military equipment and human and animal remains have been encountered in surveys and excavations along almost 3 km of the Tollense Valley. More than 130 human individuals have been recovered in the investigations, for the most, part young men between 20 and 40 years of age. In addition, horse bones have been found among the human remains in the riverbed and banks. This study reports on the isotopic proveniencing of the excavated remains utilizing strontium, lead, oxygen, and carbon isotopes to learn about place of origin and past diet. Two major groups can be distinguished in the isotope data, along with evidence for different homelands for some of the individuals who died in the Tollense Valley.


Bronze Age Isotopic proveniencing Strontium Lead Oxygen Carbon Battlefield 



We would like to thank James Burton (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Paul Fullagar (University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill), and David Dettman (University of Arizona) for their care and attention to sample preparation, Sr and C/O isotope measurements, respectively. We also thank Cristina Nora Jensen and Toby Leeper (University of Copenhagen), respectively, for assistance with ion chromatographic separations of Pb and for keeping the three TIMS instruments in excellent running condition. We would also like to thank the DFG (German Research Foundation) for the financial support of the Tollense Valley project.

Supplementary material

12520_2017_529_MOESM1_ESM.docx (987 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 987 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Douglas Price
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert Frei
    • 2
  • Ute Brinker
    • 3
  • Gundula Lidke
    • 4
  • Thomas Terberger
    • 4
  • Karin Margarita Frei
    • 5
  • Detlef Jantzen
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory for Archaeological ChemistryUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource ManagementUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.State Authority for Culture and Preservation of Monuments Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, State ArchaeologySchwerinGermany
  4. 4.Lower Saxony State Office for Cultural HeritageHannoverGermany
  5. 5.National Museum of DenmarkEnvironmental Archaeology and Materials ScienceKongens LyngbyDenmark

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