File No.:

Title: Location of the Battle in the Teutoburger Forest in 9 A.D.
Investigation made at
: Venner Straße 69, 49565 Bramsche, Germany, Grotenburg 50, 32760 Detmold, Germany, Varsseveld, the Netherlands
(52°24'27.2"N 8°07'32.7"E, 51°54'42.0"N 8°50'22.2"E and51°56'53.1"N 6°26'31.1"E)
Period Covered
:  9 A.D.
: JAN-JUL 2019
Case Classification: Location of Historic Events
Status of Case: Open Case

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The "Smoking guns" of the
Battle in the Teutoburger Forest:
Roman coins and lead sling shot projectiles.


The Battle of the Teutoburger Forest took place in 9 A.D. when an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and destroyed three Roman legions and their auxiliaries, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus. The alliance was led by Arminius, a Germanic officer of Varus's auxiliary troops.
For centuries the location of the battle had been unknown until at the end of the previous century archeological discoveries indicated an area near the Lower Saxonian town of Kalkriese as the battlefield. This agency visited the battlefield and looked at the evidence presented to substantiate the claim of the site of the Teutoburger Forest battlefield.


Location of the Battle in the Teutoburger Forest
Archaeological investigations had been taking place at the Kalkriese Hill in Northern Germany since 1987.
The area is located between the edge of the Northern German uplands and the lowlands. Approximately 1500 Roman coins and more than 5000 fragments of Roman military equipment were brought to the surface. These items were widely scattered in an area of more than 30 square kilometers between the Kalkriese Hill and the Great Bog which is situated approximately 2 kilometers north of the mountains. The evidence indicates that Roman troops have passed this area in Augustan times. This bottleneck is passable only on narrow zones at the foot of the hill, where settlements of the native population were constructed on dry sand, and perhaps at the southern edge of the bog. Between these two zones there was a wet sandy plain.

Systematic excavations started in 1989 on a field called “Oberesch”, where a concentration of coins and military objects had been discovered during field surveys. Roman military equipment –the face mask of a Roman helmet was among the first objects to be found– and the discovery of an artificial rampart led to the conclusion that this must have been the place of a battle between Romans and Germans. The rampart was not part of a fortified perimeter, but had been built by the Germans as an ambush-site to attack Roman troops whom they must have expected to pass at this location. Further sites indicate that actions did not only take place at the Oberesch, but at different locations between the hill and the bog. It was a perfect location for a surprise attack, since it was 70 to 100 kilometers away from the nearest Roman camps on the Rhine and Lippe rivers, making it difficult for other Roman troops to come to the rescue in the event of an attack.

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The "Kalkriese Mask" and the sport where it was found outside the rampart

The reconstructed rampart and the site of recent archeological discoveries

Silver coins, some gold coins and a large number of copper coins, some of them countermarked by Varus, the head of the Roman troops in Germany from 7 to 9 A.D., were found. They date the event between 7 and 10 A.D.. Varus and his three Roman legions with the intention to return to the Rhine area from a summer camp at the river Weser in autumn of the year 9 A.D., must have been coming from the East. The number of soldiers involved in the battle is still uncertain because they had details staying in the camps along the Rhine and Lippe in order to protect them and to organize the supply of the summer camp. It is estimated that Varus had about 10.000 to 15.000 men on the move.

The site at the Oberesch proved to be the most artifact-rich and significant site within the research area around Kalkriese. This is evident from the large number of finds and the location of the Oberesch in the center of the bottleneck between the mountain and the peat area. Moreover, it became clear that the Roman troops, marching from east to west, had already been attacked before reaching the Oberesch. However, no traces of the battle were found at these places; it must be assumed that also forest edges and shrubs, which are no longer archaeologically exploitable today, were used as an ambush.

We are clearly dealing here with an ambush situation; attacks on the flank of the passing legions, which could only try to move further west. Archeological evidence suggest the development of intensive fighting in the east, with the logistics of the Roman army still functioning reasonably well, from fierce battles at the Oberesch to escape movements and further fighting in the west and northwest.
Battlefield forensics
In Kalkriese, only two arrowheads and three slingshots were found. In contrast to these single use weapons most of the fragments discovered in Kalkriese are not a result of fighting but of the subsequent processes, especially looting and stripping equipment and valuables off the dead. One of the main reasons for the numerous military remains in Kalkriese may be that a large army involved in the fighting was equipped with many metal weapons and accompanied by a large pack train and that the troops were totally defeated far away from a region under Roman control. The Germans started recycling metal objects on the battlefield itself. The fact that the Kalkriese battlefield is situated in an area away from Roman control makes it safe to conclude that the Roman objects can be attributed to the battle, not to a Roman settlement. It would be much more difficult to get evidence for a battle when smaller units who did not have equipment with many metal artifacts were involved in contact with an enemy. The scarcity of Germanic items in Kalkriese points out another battlefield fact: victors who won in their own territory are often able to care for their wounded soldiers and to bury their dead away from the combat scenes, resulting in their equipment being removed from the battlefield as well.

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Skulls found in mass grave on the Kalkriese site

The conclusion may be drawn that it is less the action, but the extent of clearing a battlefield after the fighting had come to an end that may explain the difficulty in finding archaeological evidence for a military conflict.

- Source: “Weapons on the battlefield of Kalkriese” by Achim Rost and Susanne Wilbers-Rost in Gladius, XXX (2010), pp. 117-136. ISSN: 0436-029X. doi: 10.3989/gladius.2010.0006 -


Varusschlacht Museum
On the Oberesch choke point of the German ambush a modern museum is built. We visited it on 1JAN2019.
We were skeptical at first because of the initial claim which boils down to: “We found lead sling projectiles and coins of a low denomination usually associated with lower ranks in an army, so this must be the Varus Battlefield”.

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The initial discoveries: lead sling shot projectiles and Roman coins

The museum has these items on display but goes on to illustrate how more and more battle artifacts had been found in the Oberesch kill zone over the years. Artifacts that substantiate the earlier clues. The museum shows with miniature figures what three Roman legions on the move must have looked like, and plots artifacts dug up after almost 2000 years on life-sized images of Roman soldiers, their equipment and horses. A look-out tower offers a view of the chokepoint at the Oberesch field.

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thousands of miniatures showing what 3 Roman legions looked like
Artifacts plotted on a diagram of Roman military equipment

Museum and viewing tower
View from the tower
& 6) The ambush site near the rampart on the battlefield

Hermannsdenkmal Monument at Detmold
We also visited the gigantic statue in honor of German warlord Arminius (“Hermann” in German) near Detmold in the German state of Nordrhein-Westphalia (GPS location 51°54'42.0"N 8°50'22.2"E), built between 1838 and 1875. It stands at a staggering 53 meters (174 ft) and was designed by Ernst von Bandel. We climbed inside the pedestal until we reached the walkway below the actual statue. The statue had been built here without today’s knowledge of the location of the battlefield but within the Teutoburger Forest.

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Varsseveld is not “Varus’s field”
For some time, local historians in the Dutch town of Varsseveld theorized that the etymology of their town’s name referred to Varus’ Field; the battlefield of Roman general Varus. To draw tourism, in 1984 the Varsseveldse Industiële Vereniging (Industrial Society) designed and created a 15 meters (50ft) tall monument with a large Roman helmet on top which doubled as a weather vane (GPS location 51°56'53.1"N 6°26'31.1"E).
The Varsseveld-Varus battlefield theory has often been ridiculed in publications.
This is how we found the monument on 22APR2019:

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