A battlefield of 3,250 years ago in Germany is yielding remains of wounded warriors, wooden clubs, spear points, flint and bronze arrowheads and bronze knives and swords. The gruesome scene, frozen in time by peat, is unlike anything else from the Bronze Age in Northern Europe, where, researchers thought, large-scale warfare didn’t begin until later.

As it is, no one knows who these people were who fought on the banks of the Tollense River in northern Germany near the Baltic Sea because there are no written records from the time.

But analysis of the remains of the 130 men, most between ages 20 and 30, found so far shows some may have been from hundreds of kilometers away—Poland, Holland, Scandinavia and Southern Europe.

The hand-to-hand combat of the battle, which may have involved thousands of people and may have taken place in just one day, was brutal, according to an article about archaeological research at the Tollense site in Science magazine. And it involved horses. Today, although the researchers believe they’ve unearthed just 2 to 3 percent of the battlefield, they have found the remains of the humans and of five horses.

The victors stripped some bodies of their valuables, but others sank under the water and were eventually buried in peat moss.

There was no writing system then, so there was no way to record who these men were or why they were fighting. An old axiom says in the ancient world that there were three main reasons wars were fought: land, cattle, and women, but there is no way to tell the reason behind the bloodshed here.

The battlefield was discovered in 1996 by an amateur archaeologist, who saw an arm bone sticking out of the riverbank. Embedded in the bone was a flint arrowhead. Archaeologists did some minor digging there at the time and found a bashed-in skull and a wooden club of 73 cm (29 inches). Radiocarbon dating showed they were from around 1250 BC.