My History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


13/09/2008
  New Finds in Hedemünden

In 2007, two additional camps have been discovered on the other side of the Werra (Visurgis) river. Those outposts were in sight distance of the main fort and connected to it by a system of Roman roads. Diggings will go on; among the finds already brought to light is a beautiful 29 cm long pugio and lots of sandal nails. The new discoveries prove a "considerable Roman presence at Hedemünden," says leading archaeologist Dr. Klaus Grote.

View over the Werra valley and hills from Hedemünden Fort

Another interesting find has been made in 2008: Another dagger and a fetter to secure prisoners, constructed to fix head and hands in the style of a Medieaval fiddle. It's a two part structure made of rounded iron; neck and wrists were put into the rings and then the fetter was closed with a bolt and secured with a padlock. The fetter is complete except for the padlock.

Chief archaeologist Klaus Grote with restored dagger and fetter
Photo copyright: Göttinger Tageblatt

If you take a close look you can see the rings are actually shaped like a snake winding around the bolt. You gotta love people who gave even shackles a stylish design.

No similar fetter has been found so far, albeit it is known that the Mediaeval fiddle type shackles are based on older models. But excavated Roman models so far are either irons rings with chains to be used on neck or ankle, and manacles. The Hedemünden fetter is the super-find of the year, lead archaeologist Klaus Grote said. It has come to light in one of the smaller camps surrounding Hedemünden fortress, near Oberode.

To the left: Another photo of Mr. Grote presenting the newest finds. Copyright: HNA online.

The fetter was found together with other pieces from Roman times in the same archaeological strata 35 cm under the surface. Besides parts of a horse harness, a tent peg and shards of an amphora, there were some coins dating 16-8 BC, a sure proof that the fetter is indeed Roman.

Fetter and dagger have been cleaned and restored by Helmut Biebler in Mühlhausen.

The legionary dagger or pugio has been found in the main camp. It was deposed under two large sandstone blocks surrounded by a ring of upright stones, a sign that it had not been lost but was placed there on purpose as building sacrifice. The stones sit on the place of a former timber building.

One of the stone foundations in the main camp

Legionary daggers are not only a weapon but also something of a status symbol a soldier would take care not to lose - the reason why they're a lot more scarce than fe. spear points; another argument in favour of a ritual placement of the dagger. Though I'd like to know what sort of ceremony would entice a legionary to give up his dagger.

The two pugio finds at Hedemünden are the only ones in Lower Saxony. The weapon, Mr. Grote says, would have been a sensation in itself but for the even more spectacular fetter.

Another shot of the wall and trench fortifications

Considering the timber/earth wall fortifications and first steps into rebuilding some of the houses in stone may imply that Hedemünden could have become a major Roman fort with an annexed vicus, or even a town if the Romans had not decided to abandon Germania after the defeat in the Teutoburg Forest and Germanicus' not very successful attempts to conquer Germania in 14-16 AD.

All in all, some 2500 metal objects have been discovered since 2003, weapons, tools, coins, jewlelry and everyday objects. Alas, diggings will have to be stopped next year for the lack of fundings, chief archaeologist Klaus Grote says. It's a pity that there's never money for those things. We can only hope the new finds may change some peoples' minds about funding.

Below is the restored version of the fetter from an exhibition in Hannoversch-Münden in 2009.

Roman fetter

The neck goes in the large loop, the wrists in the smaller ones, then the whole thing is fixed with the bar. It looks decidedly uncomfortable and the iron was probably going to chafe after some time.

Sources: Göttinger Tageblatt and HNA Online, both from Sept. 11, 2008.
 
Comments:
Fascinating stuff, and a wonderful restoration job on the dagger and fetter.
 
Archaeology is a black hole into which you throw money. According to "English Heritage Magazine", more than 90% of excavations are considered to be "rescue digs", done quickly before a motorway goes through the site or a new building gets erected. The Coppergate dig (in York) was a rescue dig, for instance. The Mary Rose had to be pulled up because yet one more anchor was dragged through the wreckage. And the results of the Canary Wharf dig are still being evaluated.
This means most archaeology tends to be "not planned". Often, the term "mad scramble" seems to apply! When you get "planned" digs, you get the Vasa, or the Stonehege post holes, or Sutton Hoo, or Troy.

Then there is "restoration". More fun because, well, you don't have to worry about damaging the artifact. I made some armour for the kids to try on at a museum most of your readers will never get to! (shameless plug follows...)
http://southtowerarmouringguild.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2007-10-11T06%3A05%3A00-07%3A00&max-results=20

I would love to get in on the restoration of the Cutty Sark, though there is plenty to keep me busy right here at home.

I have actually done some restoration like the dagger in the picture...it is a deceptively simple process involving electricity, and the results are, ummm, startling. Most of MY restorations are old horseshoes, bayonettes, parts from flintlocks, and occasionally some old knife blades. This fella's restoration work is the best I have ever seen....the fetter looks like it was made only last week!
 
Yeah, they look very pretty, Bernita. I hope I'll get a chance to see the real things.

Stag, we have rescue diggings here too, but fortunately, Hedemünden is not one of those. The biggest problem if they have to stop digging for a season or two will be the illegal diggers with their metal sonds. The area is too large to keep those criminals out, and punishment not severe enough.

I think Mr. Biebler also restored the spear points and axes I've seen in an exhibition - very fine work indeed. Have you ever seen a 2000 year old original find? Sometimes I wonder how archaeologists can tell there's something inside those caked lumps. :)
 
Gabriele


Great post. The dagger cleaned up looks ready to use, and unlike swords they were more work tools than weapons. It looks like some of the ones in the sports store, if the design was good it still is.

Did I see a legion of plot bunnies forming ranks?
 
Hank, that plotbunny legion attacked me already when I visited the site, but maybe I can sneak the fetter in as well. ;)
 
Wow. Those are some cool finds. I really hope they get some funding to carry on. Who knows what goodies are lurking just under the ground there? :)
 
Kirsten, it's too bad they don't have volunteer diggings like in Vindolanda; I'd like to play a bit in that mud. :)
 
Fantastic. Those finds look almost like new - it must be such a buzz when you are the first person to see something like that in all that time.
 
Amazing finds, especially the fetter. About the dagger as a foundation deposit, is it possible that it could have been made on behalf of the legion, e.g. from a sort of central store, rather than being a particular legionary's personal dagger?
 
Lady D, I can imagine archaeologists never lose that fascination in their job.

That could be the case, Carla. I'll have to try and find out more about these things, they're what lends a novel more authenticity.
 
That is insanely awesome!
 
Really interesting post, Gabriele. I don't think I'd like them used on me, despite their stylish design.
 
Lol Shelley, I don't think the Roman soldier or German captive who may heve ended up in those would have liked it. :)
 
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The Lost Fort is a history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history and architecture, as well as some geology, illustrated with my own photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, pretty towns and beautiful landscapes.

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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Roman History

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Legend of Alaric's Burial


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A Note on handgenginn maðr

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The Thuringian Succession War - Introduction
The Star Wars

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Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg


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Great Fiefs
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Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
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Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War (1)
King David and the Civil War (2)

Houses Bruce and Stewart
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle
The Early Stewart Kings

Scottish Nobles and their Quarrels

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding


Wales

Princes and Rebels

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

The Rebellions
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Scandinavia

Kings and Vikings

Kings of Norway
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Other Times and Miscellanea

Post-Mediaeval History

Discoveries
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Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

Explorers
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Fram Expedition to the South Pole

History in Opera and Literature

Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Historical Ballads

Ballads by Th. Fontane, translated by me
About Theodor Fontane
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan


Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit

The Harz
Karst Landscape
Karst - Lonau Falls
Karst - Rhume Springs

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bogs
The Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Paleontology

Fossils
Ammonites


Fun Stuff

Not So Serious Romans
Aelius Rufus Visits the Future Series
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Royal (Hi)Stories
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Historical Memes
Charlemagne meme
Historical Christmas Wishes
New Year Resolutions
Aelius Rufus does a Meme
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances

Funny Sights
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg

My Novels in Progress / Planning

I'm a bit of a writer, too; here are the novel projects on which I'm currently working

Roman Novels (Historical Fiction)
The Saga of House Sichelstein (Historical Fiction)
Kings and Rebels (Fantasy)


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The Freelance History Writer (Susan Abernethy)
The History Blog
History, the Interesting Bits (S.B. Connolly)
Mediaeval Manuscripts Blog
Mediaeval News (Niall O'Brian)
Time Present and Time Past (Mark Patton)

Thoughts and Images

Reading and Reviews
Black Gate Blog
The Blog That Time Forgot (Al Harron)
Parmenion Books
Reading the Past
The Wertzone

Imaginations
David Blixt
Ex Urbe (Ada Palmer)
Constance A. Brewer
Jenny Dolfen Illustrations
Wild and Wonderful (Caroline Gill)

German Travel Blogs
Alte Steine
Blickgewinkelt
Meerblog
Reiseaufnahmen
Sonne und Wolken
Teilzeitreisender
Travelita
Unterwegs und Daheim

Highland Mountains
The Hazel Tree (Jo Woolf)
Helen in Wales
Mountains and Sea Scotland

The Colours of the World
Shutterbugs


Research

Archaeology
Past Horizons
Archaeology in Europe
Orkneyar

Roman History
Deutsche Limeskommission
Internet Ancient Sourcebook
Livius.org
Roman Army
Roman Britain
The Romans in Britain
Vindolanda Tablets

Not so Dark Ages
Burgundians in the Mist
Viking Society for Northern Research

Mediaeval History
De Re Militari
Internet Mediaeval Sourcebook
Kulturzeit
The Labyrinth
Mediaeval Crusades
Medievalists.Net

Castles
Burgenarchiv
Burgerbe
Burgenwelt
Exploring Castles
The World of Castles

Miscellaneous History
Heritage Daily
The History Files

Mythology
Ancient History
Encyclopedia Mythica

Online Journals
Ancient Warfare
The Heroic Age
The History Files

Travel and Guide Sites

Germany - History
Antike Stätten in Deutschland
Burgenarchiv
Strasse der Romanik

Germany - Nature
HarzLife
Naturpark Meissner
Naturpark Solling-Vogler

England
English Heritage
Visit Northumberland

Scotland
The Chain Mail (Scottish History)
Historic Scotland
National Trust Scotland

Books and Writing

Interesting Author Websites
Bernard Cornwell
Dorothy Dunnett
Steven Erikson
Diana Gabaldon
Guy Gavriel Kay
George R.R. Martin
Sharon Kay Penman
Brandon Sanderson
J.R.R. Tolkien
Tad Williams

Historical Fiction
Historical Novel Society
Historia Magazine

Writing Sites
Absolute Write
TheLitForum.com
National Novel Writing Month


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