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News from Kalkriese

From the middle of April until the end of July 2018, the Kalkriese archaeology team, in cooperation with the University of Osnabrück and Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich under the scientific direction of Prof. Dr. Salvatore Ortisi, has searched for archaeological clues and artifacts in the museum’s park again. After the researchers had discovered another rampart-ditch fortification on the northern side of the museum’s park during the past two years, this year was dedicated to checking the findings and comparing them with the “wall” on the opposite side. In addition, the research conducted in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Joachim Härtling and his team from the Institute of Geography at the University of Osnabrück aimed at a better understanding of the site’s landscape history through geoarchaeological investigations. For this purpose, an area of up to 1,000 square meters was excavated. A better understanding of the landscape before, during and after the battle would help the researchers to gain a better understanding of the battle which took place here in the year 9. A.D.

How can changes caused by the Ice Age, early settlements and cultivation as well as soil changes caused by plaggen agriculture be interpreted? What conclusions can be drawn about the course of the battle? In this context, 15,000 years of landscape history must be compared to an event that lasted two or three days.

For the first time in Kalkriese, so-called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL method) is used to date the findings. With this complex dating method, the last exposure time of the examined solid, e.g. a grain of sand, is measured. In this way, its age can be determined with a deviation of about 20 percent. The OSL method serves as a supplement to radiocarbon dating, the so-called C14 dating, with the help of which the age of organic materials can be determined. The results of these complex measurements are expected next year.

During this year’s excavations, the excavation team led by local excavation director Marc Rappe discovered a number of Roman artifacts, including a key on a Roman finger ring and a beautifully crafted thistle brooch. As is usually the case with other excavations in Kalkriese, many fragments of Roman military and civilian equipment, such as sword sheath rings, coins, knotted and knobbed fibulae have come to light. This year, many finds were recovered in the course of block excavations, i.e. together with the surrounding soil. In this way, complex find contexts are protected and a subsequent professional excavation is guaranteed.

The findings do not change the dating of the battlefield. The Kalkriese team of scientists still assumes that this is evidence of an event in the context of the Varus Battle.

The excavation campaign of 2018 was made possible by the cooperation agreement with the state of Lower Saxony and the University of Osnabrück as well as by the excavation agreement with the district of Osnabrück. The Sparkasse Osnabrück Foundation, Varus-Gesellschaft, MBN Bau AG and Boels/Rental supported this year’s excavation on a project basis.