Thread Rating:
  • 3 Vote(s) - 4.33 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
While we are all back viewing this thread I'd like to ask a question related to finding evidence of the battle site.

First, some background figures and thoughts.

Taking Tacitus' figure of 80,000 British dead (which may, or may not, be reasonable) then we have on the battle field:

80,000 dead = 4853 metric tonnes of bodies = 728 metric tonnes of skeletal material and 2.5 million teeth. Rather stark figures! (Figures are approximations).

4853 tonnes of bodies suggests that the Romans probably left them on the field - too much work to do otherwise unless the Romans used captives to burn and/or bury the dead. And we know Suetonius was keen to suppress the tribes after the battle, even campaigning during the autumn, possiby winter, months. So it seems most likely the bodies were left to rot. If Tacitus' figure is close to reality then this mass of bodies must be one of the largest ever left on a battlefield at anytime and anywhere - surely it must be the largest in the UK? If so, what happens next?

The bodies decay and are scavenged over 1-2 years to leave a mass of scattered bones and teeth - 728 tonnes of them!

The local people might want to remove the remains for religious/social/respectful reasons or the farmers want access to the land. But, collecting 728 tonnes is still a huge task and, equally so, burning and/or burying them. Taking a pragmatic view it might seem more likely that the farmers simply put their cattle/horses/sheep onto the land. The beasts would disturb, distribute, disarticulate, fragment by shattering and bury the fragments by pushing them into the soil. The land would be slowly reclaimed.

Nature and physics would continue to operate on the fragments over the 2k years - chemical dissolution, bioturbation (worms, cattle etc.), frost heave, rain runoff, ploughing and gravity. Over time the fragments would be further fragmented and transported - for example down-slope - such that, like sediments eroded from an outcrop, they would collect in topographic dips, meandering stream beds or down-slope field boundaries. Size is now millimetre and smaller. Of course, much would still be buried on the battlefield but at least some of that huge mass might accumulate as I describe. And 2.5 million teeth are more robust than bone - they may be preferentially transported to the gravitational lows and stratified.

So, finally, to the question which I have tried to have answered by other means but failed:

Do you know of any references/papers/annecdotes/finds related to the finding, or study, of human micro-skeletal/teeth material in a battlefield context?

Just to be clear - I'm not seeking information about mass graves, burials or the more usual findings of macro-skeletal parts, but the micro-skeletal residue of fragmented skeletons.


As a point of interest, there may have been 80 metric tonnes of metal left on the field by the British dead. The assumption is that averaged over the various types of weapons (sword, spear point, axe, adze, various farming and forestry implements), the metal in transport gear (horse and wagon harness etc.) and that carried by warriors and wagons for domestic use (pots, pans, fire tripods etc.) that each of the 80,000 would have 1kg of metal. It seems reasonable to assume that this metal might have been:

a) collected by the Romans and transported elsewhere for recycling (ingots or new implements),
B) melted down on the battlefield and then transported (need a lot of charcoal),
c) stored in military barracks,
d) issued, in part, to tribal allies as a reward.

The crucial point is that the mass of metal would not remain on the field for archaeologist's to find and tracing the likely metal-working sites is just about impossible. Of course, there may be metal that was trampled into the field, and may be found, but the bulk would surely have been collected and removed.

Regards, Steve Kaye
Reply


Messages In This Thread
Re: Calling all armchair generals! - by Ensifer - 03-11-2010, 03:13 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-18-2012, 06:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 12:02 AM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 02:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 05:40 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 11:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 05:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 09:42 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 10:10 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:25 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 08:36 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-26-2012, 02:57 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-27-2012, 01:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 08-05-2012, 02:24 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-07-2014, 02:18 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-08-2014, 01:50 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-11-2014, 02:03 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-18-2014, 07:54 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-20-2014, 02:37 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-25-2014, 08:29 AM

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Armchair Wall walking mcbishop 3 2,558 01-11-2012, 03:22 AM
Last Post: Vindex

Forum Jump: