FINDS OF HUMAN BONE MATERIAL IN THE WARNOW RIVER

LageplanJust a few kilometres away from the little town of Schwaan, children, swimming in the river Warnow met a horrible sight in the summer of 1997: human bone material from the bottom of the river, including a skull. The local authorities were informed and the site examined by a police diver. Soon it became obvious, that the bone material very well witnessed to some kind of violent episode - but just ages ago. Archaeologists from the Landesamt were called for assistance and confirmed that the finds in question (beside 6 skulls with traces of axe or sword strokes even the find of 2 spearheads) date from historic periods. Unfortunately the exact period could not be fixed, because the spearheads were somewhat unspecific in shape, making dating possible from the 1st to 12th century AD. A relation to a neighbouring Slavonic castle was considered, since its capture by the Saxons in 1160 AD is well known.

Visibility in the Warnow river is near zero most of the year. Thus a closer examination (by the Rostock branch of the Landesverband) of the site had to be suspended until wintertime. In three one-day investigations (29/12/97, 24/01/98, 15/03/98) the bottom of the river had to be searched for further finds and hints for their context.

In an attempt to locate possible other and datable weapons, we used a metal detector, but first with poor results. Its state as a protected natural area, is not preventing the Warnow from being used as a dump area for carwheels, bicycles and other scrap iron... however, at least a neck ring could be found, dating clearly to the 4th/5th century AD. Without using the detector another iron spearhead could be found and later on an iron arrowhead.

UnterkieferfundMess-SituationFurthermore it could be stated, that apart from bone material lying directly on the surface, the riverside showed a layer of bones "in situ" in just 0,6m depth of water, together with a glass bead, clearly belonging to the 4th to 6th century AD. Another glass bead of the same kind could be found on the bottom surface, just 3m away from the first one. This seems to show, that most of the finds, if not all, should be considered as belonging together.

The last investigation again resulted in the finding of 3 skulls, the one of which showing traces of axe or sword strokes. All in all, 7 of the skulls found so far show such marks and it is tempting to assume, that sometime in the 4th or 5th century AD a group of warriors was killed by enemies at the riverside of the Warnow. One might think of other explanations too, but this seems to be the most reasonable at the time. Concluding from the bone material so far at least 10 individuals lost their life.

 

Glasperlen   SchŠdel

glass beads - skull with stroke marks

As a result of these investigations the Landesamt is thinking of a regular landbound excavation in the summer of 1998, supported again by members of the Landesverband. It is to be hoped that we hereby can gather more information about the site and its background in prehistory.

(Michael Stoß)