Massive stockpile of Iron Age weapons reveals rituals of victory
A huge arsenal of Iron Age weapons has been discovered in North Rhine-Westphalia at Castle Wildenberg, Germany, the largest such find ever. Archaeologists from the renowned Westphalian-Lippe Regional Association (LWL) in Lippstadt, who have been working on this site for over 3 years, have dated most of the finds in the Iron Age weapon reserve to be between 300 BC and the first century. BEFORE CHRIST.
In one translated statement released on March 31 st this year, Michael Baales, one of the archaeologists of the LWL team and head of the Olpe branch in North Rhine-Westphalia, said: “The arsenal is the largest [the German state of] North Rhine-Westphalia and also connects the [state’s region of] Sauerland with complex processes in Iron Age Europe. ”
Treasure chest of the Iron Age: the spoils of victory in war
Local historian and researcher Matthias Dickhaus discovered the hiding place, who conducted a metal detector investigation in the area for the LWL. According to Dr. Manuel Zeiler, an LWL archaeologist, the artefacts recovered included 150 objects in total: 40 spearheads and spear points, swords, fragments of shield bosses (the round structure in the center of a shield) , tools, belt hooks, a horse, equipment, silver coins, bronze jewelry and a fibula bone.
This nationally rare bridle has two side handles with which the horse could be guided. (Hermann Menne / LWL-Archeology for Westphalia )
The peculiarity and historical significance of these finds lies mainly in the fact that they were damaged or bent, deliberately. It was proof of how Iron Age warriors celebrated their victories over losers and what they did to the weapons they took from losers.
According to Daily Heritage , Dr Manuel Zeiler said: “Based on current research, it is conceivable that a fight took place in the Wildenberg area and that the victors completed their triumph by bringing the captured weapons, belts and harnesses to Wallburg. The damaged parts were then probably exposed.
Iron Age weapons found at the Wildenberg Castle site that show how they were deliberately bent during an act of tainting war trophies or a victory ritual. (Hermann Menne / LWL-Archeology for Westphalia )
A supply of weapons found in the same area in the 1950s, along with the current find, shows that this may have been a display of ritual superiority and strength, after the victory. Historical evidence from other Iron Age cultures shows that this was a commonly followed practice, connecting the Sauerland region with other Iron Age regions.
The evidence is juxtaposed with French research which shows that the sect acts in Iron Age Europe took place in the Celtic region and its outskirts, where the weapons of weaker opponents were destroyed after the battle.
This would make it clear that the damaged weapons were not a consequence of the battle, but a ritual that took place after the battle. Either way, there is no historical evidence to suggest that Wildenberg was a battleground. Additionally, a particularly rare type of horse net was also found at the site, which is a bridle used to expertly maneuver and guide horses pulling a chariot.
A view of the “Sacred Mountain” of the Sauerland, where the Iron Age weapons were found. (Michael Baales / LWL-Archeology for Westphalia )
The history of the “sacred mountain” in Sauerland
What locals call “the sacred mountain,” Fort Wildenberg is located on a mountain 2,158 feet (658 meters) high. Evidence of the use of this site during the Iron Age has been found from 300 BC to 1 stcentury BC. Locals also refer to the ancient walls of Wallburg, which are still very intact and visible to hikers and tourists visiting the site.
In the 1950s, while workers were building a lodge in the area, two swords, two spearheads and two spear heads were accidentally discovered. The points had been deliberately deformed and the weapons bent and damaged. According to Live Science , it was not until 2013 that archaeologists began extensive excavations in this area. Investigations into metal detectors began in 2018.
Matthias Dickhaus and his metal detector investigation team found 100 objects in total, and dating showed the coins and swords to be from the 1st century BC, according to Zeiler.
Burkhard König, mayor of the city of Schmallenberg is said to have declared, in the LWL press release , “Wildenberg, with its long and turbulent history, is an integral part of the development of the town of Schmallenberg. Besides many visible as well as hidden artefacts, the new weapon discovery underlines its importance. I would like to thank everyone involved, in especially the LWL, for their efforts and warmly congratulate them on this discovery. ”
Top image: Iron Age weapons and other artifacts found at the site of Wildenberg Castle in Germany. Source: Hermann Menne / LWL-Archeology for Westphalia
By Rudra Bhushan