Palaeopathological Study of Napoleonic Mass Graves Discovered in Russia

Authored by: Olivier Dutour , Alexandra Buzhilova

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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Archaeological excavations were carried out in July—August 2006 in downtown Kaliningrad, the capital of the most western district (Oblast) of the Russian Federation, which is now an enclave in the European Union, between Lithuania and Poland. The excavation, which resulted from building works, was conducted by the Russian team in Preventive Archaeology of the Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences. It permitted identification of a part of the fortifications of the old town of Königsberg, the capital of Eastern Prussia. A few meters from the ruins of the city wall, archaeologists discovered a mass grave dating from the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries comprised of 12 pits containing numerous human skeletons. Some military artefacts (notably buttons and fragments of uniforms) associated with human remains were identified as belonging to the Napoleonic Grande Armée. The historical context of this mass grave is thus Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812. A French—Russian research laboratory was created under the joint authority of the French CNRS and the Russian Academy of Sciences devoted to the multidisciplinary study of this discovery. Through the introduction of archaeological and anthropological methods and data collection, it was possible to obtain fragmentary but direct and original information about one ofthe biggest military catastrophes of modern European history.

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