The Bronze-Age site in the Tollense Valley is an interesting one. However, I would treat many of the claims in that article with caution. To date, only a few peer-reviewed papers have been published, and in particular we are still waiting for the reports documenting the human osteo-archaeology in detail.
Furthermore, some of the claims in that article do seem difficult to reconcile with the results published so far.
What we do know is that the excavations have produced remains from at least 124 individuals. The bones are almost entirely dis-articulated and are scattered along a stretch of the River Tollense more than 2.5km in length. The excavation team have suggested that:
... demographic analyses, based on isolated skulls, pelves, and femurs, suggest a strong dominance of young adult male individuals
It is important to realise that, while the sex of intact adult skeletons can often be determined with a high degree of confidence (unlike those of juveniles), this can be notoriously difficult when examining individual bones. Because of that, it is probably worth waiting for the full publication of the results, before drawing any firm conclusions.
However, the analysis of a sample of the remains published in Antiquity in 2011 suggested that somewhere between one third and half of those analysed might have been older males, females, or juveniles [Detlef et al, 2011]. This doesn't really seem to fit the pattern of something we would recognise as a professional standing army.
In terms of the numbers involved, it does seem a bit of a stretch to extrapolate from the remains of 124 individuals to:
Thousands of warriors [coming] together in a brutal struggle, perhaps
fought on a single day ...
Even the characterisation of the people who fought on the banks of the Tollense as "warriors" seems to be, at best, premature.
We know there was a high-status group in the Bronze-Age that have been characterised as a "warrior elite" on the basis of grave-goods like bronze swords and daggers that have been been recovered when excavating Bronze-Age burials. What is remarkable in the case of the remains excavated to date in the Tollense valley is how few show wounds consistent with those weapons.
A significant number show wounds from flint or bronze arrowheads, but we would expect that use of the bow and arrow for hunting would have been fairly common in the Bronze-Age. Many more show evidence of blunt-force trauma which might be associated with clubs or similar weapons.
In fact, the published evidence appears rather to suggest a group of Bronze-Age farmers, using the weapons available to them, led by a small group of elite warriors armed with weapons of the types familiar from Bronze-Age burials.
For now, it is probably safer to say only that hundreds of people fought on the banks of the Tollense. The evidence certainly does not yet suggest anything that we would consider to be a standing army.
An alternative interpretation, based on evidence for climate change in the second-half of the second millennium BCE, may fit the known facts rather better than the interpretation presented in the article in Science.
Tony Brown combined the analyses of a number of climatic indicators to provide a picture of the changing climate in Britain in the Bronze-Age. These were presented in the first Bronze Age Review, published in 2008 [Brown, 2008]. The results suggest an unusually dry period in the second-half of the second millennium BCE, centred around c. 1200 BCE cal (3150 BP cal).
In that context, as we have seen with modern natural disasters, populations might well have been forced to migrate in relatively large groups. A population of this type might provide a better match to the demographics we seem to see at Tollense.
Either way, we will have to wait until full publication before we can draw any firm conclusions.
So, to answer your questions:
Wouldn't these warriors be considered the world's first standing army? On the basis of present evidence, no.
Am I missing something here or is this archaeological dig that significant? Possibly. We await full publication.
What does the line, "Tollense could force a re-evaluation of the whole period in the area from the Baltic to the Mediterranean", refer to? If the battle really did involve some 4000 warriors, this would be unique in the European Bronze-Age, and comparable in scale with the largest battles known in the eastern Mediterranean.
If this site is that important, how could they run out of funds? As yet, the importance of the site has yet to be fully demonstrated. The initial research plan and budget covered the work done to date (and, presumably, the publication of the results). I'd guess future funding will depend on those published results.
Brinker, Ute, et al: The Bronze Age battlefield in the Tollense Valley, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Northeast Germany – Combat marks on human bones as evidence
of early warrior societies in northern Middle Europe?, in the Proceedings of the XVII UISPP World Congress, volume 9, 2014
Brown, Tony: The Bronze Age climate and environment of Britain, in Bronze Age Review, Volume 1, November 2008, pp7-22
Curry, Andrew: Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle, Science, 24 March 2016
Jantzen, Detlef, et al: A Bronze Age battlefield? Weapons and trauma in the Tollense Valley, north-eastern Germany, Antiquity 85 (2011), pp417-433