gms | German Medical Science

62nd Annual Meeting of the German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)
Joint Meeting with the Polish Society of Neurosurgeons (PNCH)

German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)

7 - 11 May 2011, Hamburg

Neurosurgical aspects of a Bronze Age battlefield in Central Europe

Meeting Abstract

  • J. Piek - Abteilung für Neurochirurgie, Chirurgische Universitätsklinik Rostock
  • D. Jantzen - LA für Kultur und Denkmalpflege, Abteilung Archäologie, Schwerin
  • U. Brinker - LA für Kultur und Denkmalpflege, Abteilung Archäologie, Schwerin
  • J. Orschiedt - Historisches Seminar, Universität Leipzig
  • G. Lidke - Lehrstuhl für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Universität Greifswald
  • K.H. Hauenstein - Institut für diagnostische und interventionelle Radiologie, Universitätsklinik Rostock
  • T. Terberger - Lehrstuhl für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Universität Greifswald

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie. Polnische Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgen. 62. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie (DGNC), Joint Meeting mit der Polnischen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgen (PNCH). Hamburg, 07.-11.05.2011. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2011. DocP 103

doi: 10.3205/11dgnc324, urn:nbn:de:0183-11dgnc3246

Published: April 28, 2011

© 2011 Piek et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Objective: From c. 2200 BC on, the material culture of Central Europe is characterized by an increasing number of massive bronze tools (Bronze Age). Settlements of this time show an increasing number of hillforts and fortified settlements indicating an increasing awareness toward danger from interpersonal violence and conflict situations. In contrast, Bronze Age skeletal remains usually do not show a remarkable frequency of injuries or violent deaths.

Methods: In the current study, we present the results from an ongoing archeological excavation project in northeastern Germany where numerous human bones have been found, some of which displayed traces of violence. All finds from this excavation were carefully examined by the senior authors of the study with special attention to the anthropological and neurosurgical aspects. Currently remains from about 100 individuals have been identified, 38 of them represented by skulls. Conspicuous finds were further examined by microscope, thin-slice CT scans with 3D-reconstruction, and 14C AMS dating.

Results: Most of the individuals were young adults between the ages of 20 to 40 years, predominantly male, whereas young women and children were underrepresented. AMS dating of the various finds showed a distribution of c. 1200 calBC. 9% of all individuals and 5 of the 38 skulls showed traces of violence. Depressed skull fractures (3 of 5) and lesions probably caused by arrowheads were the main findings from a neurosurgical point of view. Extracranial lesions included arrowhead lesions of the humerus and the pelvis in another 3 individuals and a femur fracture, probably caused by a fall from a horse. Around 50% of the lesions had been survived for a longer period of time. Corresponding finds of this archeological site included 2 wooden clubs and multiple arrowheads.

Conclusions: The authors interpret the current find situation as the remains of a group of people involved in a conflict or battle that occurred during the Bronze Age in northeastern Germany with head injuries as the leading cause of death in the individuals found with injuries. Further excavations are planned for 2011 to clarify this unique situation.

Acknowledgement: The archeological excavation and the analyses of the finds are supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).