Friday, June 15, 2012

Unearthing A Veteran of Waterloo

Recently a story surfaced out of Belgium about an accidental discovery at Waterloo. The remains of a probable British soldier were uncovered during the construction of a parking lot; unfortunately, the skull was crushed (although not entirely, as suggested by the dental analysis included in the article). Early work suggests the remains are those of a young British soldier, based on the grave's location within the British lines of the battle. Some of the artifactual descriptions in this article are confused - the "leather epaulettes," for instance, are most probably some piece of his accoutrements rather than uniform, and the carved wood fragment discovered near his feet is probably not a rifle butt. Besides these strange artifacts, the grave raises other questions. Why is the skeleton missing its left foot and parts of both hands? This might be attributed to post-burial disturbance, perhaps by animals, except that the body appears to be undisturbed and fully articulated in every other respect. The musket ball that most likely killed this young soldier was discovered inside the rib cage, but the ball itself is still perfectly spherical. Some recent experimental archaeology suggests that lead musket balls do not always distort when they impact a human (although extensive evidence from Civil War medical treatises proves this is not always the case).

These remains represent a rare glimpse at the common soldier of Waterloo, and I look forward to seeing the results of future analysis, and perhaps even a precise identification of this soldier.

Human remains recently unearthed at Waterloo.

The lead musket ball that probably killed this young soldier was also uncovered.

A carved piece of wood discovered in the grave.

A small group of coins uncovered.

The soldier's metal spoon found with the remains.

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