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.
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
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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