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Finds and findings

Archaeologists like to speak of »finds« and »findings«. A »find« means the particular object that has been found. A »finding« means the specific situation of what has been found including all the characteristics of a place of discovery.

E.g. a »finding« is a discolouration in the ground due to the act that a supporting post of a house has decomposed here. A »finding« can therefore provide important information although it does not need to contain any seizable objects.


Since the early 17th century, farmers have found many silver and gold coins from the time of Emperor Augustus. Coins made of noble metal are – in contrast to corroded bronze coins – easy to discover in the ground.

All coins found in Kalkriese date back to the Roman Republic in the first century BC and the time of Emperor Augustus. Before they were given to the soldiers, Varus’ countermark was added to the latest coins soon after 7 AD. It is remarkable that none of the coins found in Kalkriese were minted after 9 AD – the year of the Varus Battle.

The rampart

The sector fortification was made of sod layers. On the southern side – its reverse side - there were drainage ditches. It had passages and a wooden fence on top of it, as one can see from the post holes.


In addition to horse bones, there were also bones of mules which were the pack and draught animals in the impedimenta of the legions. One of the mules which was killed and covered by the collapsing rampart had a bronze bell around its neck. A further bell was found in the neck of another mule skeleton during the excavations. This one however had been stuffed with organic material. Apparently, it had been used as a substitute cap on the shaft.

The trenches containing bones

Up to now, eight pits have been found in which human and animal bones were laying disorderly next to each other. Are these the provisional graves which Germanicus’ soldiers dug for their fallen comrades in 16 AD? After laying on the surface for six years without burial, the bones were surely not in the anatomical composition anymore. The Romans were again threatened by the Germanic warriors led by Arminius. Therefore, they probably collected all apparent bones rapidly in order to at least formally bury them, before they moved to a safer place. There was no time to think about the origin of the bones.

Armament and equipment of the soldiers

Should one not expect to find many broken weapons and other equipment of the dead on an ancient battlefield? No! The Germanic tribesmen have – as was common practise – searched and looted the terrain after the battle. Even broken weapons provide valuable metal which can be used again! The same happened to the possessions of the dead Romans: Whatever the Germanic tribesmen did not want to use themselves, was reprocessed as raw material or sold.

The few fragments of weapons and equipment have only survived the lootings due to special conditions. Maybe they were trodden into the ground during the fighting and could therefore not be seen for the next 2000 years …

The officers’ luxury

In spite of the few finds, it is rather obvious that not only common soldiers, but also higher ranking officers took part in the battle. If the purse (filled with gold and silver coins) made it possible, one did not want to miss the appreciated Roman luxury even in the far, barbaric countries.

The following finds show that wealthy Romans led a cultivated life: A wine sieve made of bronze which could be used to strain herbs, the handle of a richly decorated silver beaker, a silver spoon and a fragment of a »Millefiori« (English: »a thousand flowers«) which is a drinking bowl made of colourful glass and was preferably purchased by rich people in the Roman capital. Furthermore, not everyone could afford a sword scabbard ornamented with silver fittings and cut semi-precious stones!