A Bridge Not Too Far?

The reports of the Tollense (Slavic dolenzia) battle (re)raise a bunch of interesting questions.

Was that battle something major politically or more like a skirmish of invaders with locals?  You could see a few different local tribes fighting but you could also see a group of marauders roaming the lands, the locals becoming aware of them and their activities and, eventually, facing them somewhere at some strategic point.  For example, the Bridge at Tollense.

From the Krueger article

Curiously, although the battle of Tollense took place about 1200 B.C., that bridge had been built about 600 years before that. This is nothing short of fascinating. In fact, the bridge with its apparently complicated and sophisticated construction is as much of interest as the battle itself.

Getting back to the combatants.  We have “locals” who seem to have come from the Baltic area where the battle took place and we have people that may have come from the “south”.  The “south” here seems to be somewhere in the Danube region (speaking in generalities), perhaps the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) on the Czech-German border, perhaps Silesia a bit further East.

Now, there are a number of questions about this battle that we are unlikely to learn the answer to.

First of all, the assumption that the “southerners” and the “northerners” constituted two separate groups is just that an assumption.  It may well be that each group that fought was composed of both northerners and southerners.  In fact, there may have been multiple groups.

Second, the numbers of combatants are as yet unclear and may never be clear.  As far as I understand, the reports are based on a number of dead or, more precisely of bones (reconstructing the number of dead from merely scattered bones is not that easy either), found on the battlefield and the assumption that only about z% of the battlefield has been explored.  From that German archeologists have extrapolated the total number of dead.  Then they needed to extrapolate the size of the battle based on a yet another assumption, that the typical number of fallen corresponds to y% of total combatants. From all that the assumption came back that the number of warriors was about 4,000 give or take.

Third, there is the question of who “won”?  If the north-south divide described above was real -and, again, it may not have been – then the answer to this may well be found one day.  All you would have to look for is burials of southerners nearby.  If they lost, there would likely be no further such remains found in the area. But if they won, they would likely have stayed in the area, seized the locals’ wives and the rest is, as they say, history.  Of course, even this would not be “clean.”  For example, it may be that some of them could have been kept as thralls/slaves but if you could isolate their y-dna you probably could test whether any later dna (if you found it) matched that.  Slaves tend to have fewer chances at procreation.  But even that is unclear… Suppose they were freed later.

Can we guess who these intruders (if indeed they were intruders) were?  Here we can let the reins of fantasy loose a bit.  The person that we can look to is a professor of the l’École d’anthropologie de Paris, one Sigismond Zaborowski-Moindron.  He wrote Les Peuples Aryens d’Asie et d’Europe. Zaborowski, was one of those Polish-French hybrids who contributed to Slavic studies like Mr. Motylinski.  His specific contribution was in this article:

  • Les Slaves de Race et Leurs Origines (Bulletins de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris, 1900)

This was translated into Polish by Luc. M. (?) in the XVIth volume (1902) of the excellent ethnographic magazine Wisła:

Thereafter followed an English translation of most of Zaborowski’s themes in the 61st “Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution” for the year ending  June 30, 1906:

So what were Zaborowski’s main themes?

Zaborowski did not specify who the Slavs “were” before the Bronze Age.  But he did say how, in his view, they came about became and, so to speak, where they “came from”.  Specifically, Zaborowski claimed that all the Illyrian, Moesian and other Danubian people were Slavs.  But they became Slavs as a result of a “historic” event: the movement of the Veneti up the Danube and northwards.  These Veneti brought with them:

  • eastern culture and customs, most specifically, cremation burials, and
  • brachycephaly

As to the latter, this is questionable as no data as far as I know exist for pre-Bronze age Central European populations but the former claim is attractive.

As to the former, the appearance of cremation burials and the worship of the Sun and fire among the Slavs and, earlier, among the Suevi and some Celts may have indeed originated with a Late Bronze Age invasion by the Veneti – originally under Antenor or Jason – escaping the remains of Troy.

Zaborowski’s theories were known at the time and were mentioned, for example, by Edward Boguslawski:

One might add to it that with the Veneti there may have come – to Greece and then northwards – the worship of Iasion who had been identified with the Sun (and who later, among the nomads of the steppe may have been “reinterpreted” into, for example, Svarog).

There is also this curious fact that the metal found at Tollense includes tin.  Tin is relatively rare in Europe.  It is found in northwest Spain, Bretagne, Cornwall and in the Erzgebirge.  When the below map was put together (showing the various suffixes with an “-in”) I did not see anything in Cornwall.  I don’t want to stretch this but there are some names that could be read as “-in” even if they are not spelled that way: Treen, Pendeen… And then you have Trescowe or Morvah or Boyewyan. Most probably have nothing to do with the Veneti or Slavs.  On the other hand maybe a Truro has something to do with Truso?  There is Ludgvan and maybe Botallack does have something to do with Ballack? (Michael Ballack’s name is of Slavic origin).

Note that the Cornwall-Bretagne tin trade has been a matter of interest for a long time and the role played in it by the Veneti, a topic much speculated about as here by the Reverend Saunders:

Note too that the reason Bretagne is called Bretagne is also because the people who fled to it came from Britain once the Anglo-Saxons and others invaded the latter.  So the connections across the water seem to have been present even half a millennium after Caesar. What to read into those connections is another matter altogether, of course.

Tin is cín in Czech and cyna in Polish. Brueckner thinks that came from the German Zinn but this is not necessary as similar names appear already in Greek (for example, cinnabar κιννάβαρι).  The word cena (Polish) comes from “meal” (Latin, cena) and yet it is tempting to connect price (cyna?) with the tin trade.

Whether the Veneti had something to do with the Phoenicians is yet another question.

So was Tollense the end of Central European peoples?  A victory by the Veneti?  A day after which the word Windisch came to be born and the children of these people named Wends?  Did the word Wende signify “change” from that day on?  And were the Suevi another Venetic tribe?  This is all speculation, of course.  But as the Avars were said (by Fredegar) to have slept withe Wendish women, did the Veneti do the same to the women of… who exactly?

More on this topic here.

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October 29, 2017

4 thoughts on “A Bridge Not Too Far?

  1. Hjorvarth

    An interesting fact worth noting and which is directly related to your information presented throughout, (and many other sources) shows that the earliest Croatian tribes never travelled from the west or the east to where we are today or in their past more northern abodes in and around the Carpathians, but on the contrary they spread westward and eastward from their ancient hypocenter. That’s because, and this is where it gets interesting and supported scientifically, genetically on the Y chromosome line, a majority (87%) of Croats belong to one of the three major European Y-DNA haplogroups — Haplogroup I (38%), Haplogroup R1a (35%) and Haplogroup R1b (16%). All three of these groups appeared in Europe during the upper paleolithic around 30,000-20,000 BCE. Furthermore, the dominant presence of Haplogroup I-M170 is rather interesting, as it is considered the “oldest and only native European Haplogroup” and is found “nowhere else”. The Haplogroup I-M170 exists “only in Europe” and is fairly widespread, but in relatively smaller percentages extending westward and eastward. Its frequency in the Croatian lands and among Croats is high, but the only populations that have similar levels of the I Haplogroup are the Scandinavians. Haplogroup I-M170 has been shown to have weathered the last glacial maximum in the lands corresponding to modern day Croatia and surrounding area in central Europe and then migrated north as the ice sheets retreated.

    Also, by these statistics we can clearly see that the strongest Haplogroup in Croatians is Haplogroup I-M170, thus when combined with much later middle ages historical written records about Croats mentioned, we see that the early common era Croat history as being categorized as Gothic and Slavic descendants in a number sources is absolutely correct and supported scientifically also. (ie: We share subclades of Haplogroup I-M170 with
    Scandinavians more than anyone else in Europe, so the early European populations that went on to become Scandinavians also went on to become Croatians, ie: the Croats (no matter what they were known as by others or what languages they spoke going back thousands of years) quite simply have been in central Europe since time immemorial and never arrived as tribes from anywhere else). It is then not surprising that the early arriving Croats in those middle ages sources are described as being Goths as well as Slavs, and even more interestingly as the Veneti/Venethi/Venedi before that, which I’m sure you also agree according to your presented sources. Territorially and demographically speaking, it is then clear and easy to see that the early Croats were temporally contiguous with Slav, Veneti, Celtic and Germanic speakers reaching very far back in history. (For more see The ancestors of the Slavs could have been in Europe 4000 years ago, which likewise further connects with DNA and genetic evidences the earliest premigration Croatian tribes southward to the Bronze Age Unetice Culture, which was long before there even were any Veneti, Slavic or Germanic languages that we know of…..)

    [no links please]

  2. Hjorvarth

    Just Google “The ancestors of the Slavs could have been in Europe 4000 years ago” and the article page will be there, very interesting supplementary information directly related again to the Veneti, and most likely even much further back to Cro Magnon populations in antiquity.

  3. Hjorvarth

    One thing that has intrigued me for some time, is why the peoples we today label as Slavic speaking peoples, since only being known as such since the 6th century and as the Veneti before that, weren’t already using that term for many centuries already, that is if the Veneti (Venedi/Venethi/Wenden etc) were the later called Slavs and known as such for many centuries, wouldn’t some sort of version of the word “Slav” entered someones vocabulary? especially the historians and other travelers, military expedition journals etc? This series of events and the written sources just leads me to believe that they did indeed call themselves as the “Veneti”, that the later “Sclaveni/Slaveni” etc was a new etic applied term that just stuck, and probably more related to the word “Slavi” in terms of “Worshippers”, because they were the still pagan worshippers while the Germanic, Roman and Greek world were well on the way to Christianization.(so not an actual specific or homogeneous people). Before the 6th century I believe they did indeed call themselves mainly as Veneti, (and other local names), the historical written sources clearly prove this I think. Because isn’t it strange that the word “Sclavi/Slavs” only came around the 6th century?


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