Between 6 B.C. and A.D. 4, Roman legions established bases on the Lippe and Weser rivers. (Mike Reagan)

The Ambush That Changed History

An amateur archaeologist discovers the field where wily Germanic warriors halted the spread of the Roman Empire

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Clunn, now 59, still works, as a staff officer, for the British military in Osnabrück. One recent afternoon, amid intermittent cloudbursts, he and I drove east from Kalkriese along the route that Varus’ army most likely followed on the last day of its harrowing march. We stopped at a low hill on the outskirts of the village of Schwagstorf. From the car, I could barely detect the rise in the ground, but Clunn assured me that this was the highest s ot in the vicinity. “It’s the only place that offers any natural defense,” he said. Here, he has found the same types of coins and artifacts that have been unearthed at Kalkriese; he hopes that future excavationswill determine that the battered Roman forces attempted to regroup here shortly before they met their doom. As we stood at the edge of a traffic circle and gazed across a cornfield, he added: “I’m convinced that this is the site of Varus’ last camp.”


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