When I was researching the history of The Battle of Kulikovo (битва на Куликовом поле), I was struck by the seemingly complete dearth of available archaeological evidence at the site of the battle (considering the size of the forces - 60-100k by latest estimates from Mamai and 50-60k from Russians).

  • Here's interview with the guy doing the most recent excavations (in Russian)

  • From what I could see, they found couple of hundred/thousand metal fragments that are deformed/hard to identify, a very few - explicitly listed - identified ones (a bushing/bearing; a pike base; a ring from chain mail; a broken piece of an axe; brass pieces from sleeves and chainmail hem; and a piece of an armor plate with holes for tying to a leather base).

Given that the battle took place in 1380, and people have presumably lived/farmed in the area since (but NOT built habitats), the reasons for lack of more finds that are usually given are the cost of metal military equipment at the time (meaning great pains may have been taken to collect whatever they could recover after the battle); and the supposed use of ammonium nitrate for fertilizer that is claimed to be detrimental to artifacts.

I have two questions:

  1. Are the explanations presented to explain the lack of artifacts something that sounds legitimate from the point of view of archaeological research of the period?

  2. Are there other examples of well known battles from a similar period where the event is 100% certain to have happened based on historical sources, yet there is almost no archaeological evidence of the battle (obviously excluding battles that happened in places that later had human habitations built over them).

  • 2
    Battle of Teutoburg Forest The site of this battle seems still to be a open question, though, there are some candidates (Kalkriese). Dont know if the amount of artefacts really plays a role to decide this question
    – Hauser
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 21:19
  • 4
    Part of the problem is that in small countries with long histories, battlefields tend to get used for other things. While researching a book on 11th century England I went looking for the site of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, wherein Harold Godwinesson defeated the Norse invader Harald Hardrada just a couple of weeks before he himself was defeated in turn by the Norman invader William the Bastard (a.k.a. William the Conqueror). There was a small marker, but the rest of the site was being used as a cricket pitch.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 20:47
  • 2
    If the battlefield has been plowed annually since the event, this would easily explain the damage to any evidence in the topsoil. And scavenging would explain why most is missing.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 0:21

1 Answer 1


Even in England, where given the size of the country and the number of battles you can't help tripping over them, the site of a few very important ones are missing or wrong.

Bosworth field, the end of the War of the Roses is certainly commemorated in the wrong place.
The site of Boudica's defeat is unknown.

  • This is good information (+1) but doesn't really answer my question which pertains more to the CORRECTLY identified battle cite which simply has less artefacts than one might naively expect./
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 15:25
  • 3
    @DVK - before the use of guns pretty much everything was retrieved - even arrow heads. Either by the winning side's troops or scavenged by locals.
    – none
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 15:44
  • that's the claim for Kulikovo. I was looking for some references to back that up or refute it
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 16:24
  • @DVK - I'm not entirely sure the claim requires evidence. Metal is valuable, and can always be melted down for new uses. Even today, most cities have people who go around scavenging discarded metals. Try leaving a large mass of copper lying around unguarded and see how long it lasts before someone makes off with it.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 20:39
  • 1
    One of the largest copper reclamation projects by natives is Detroit... :/ (sarcasm)
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 0:14

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