Nicole NICKLISCH | Oliver PESCHEL | Axel MANTHEI | Frank RAMSTHALER | Kurt W. ALT | Susanne FRIEDERICH
(The State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology – State Museum for Prehistory Saxony-Anhalt, Halle (Saale), Germany)
Keywords: battlefield archaeology, ballistic analysis, forensic gunshot reconstruction
In 2011 a mass grave from the Thirty Years‘ War was discovered near the small town of Lützen in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. The whole grave was recovered “en bloc” and analysed at the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle (Saale). The grave contained the skeletal remains of 47 men with an age at death range of 15-45 years. Due to the geographical location of the grave, along with material findings around and within the pit, the ensemble can be dated back to the 17th century: the skeletal remains belonged to soldiers, which died in the great Battle of Lützen in November 1632.
According to the trauma analysis numerous individuals revealed gunshots wounds – mainly to the head. It was speculated that these soldiers might have been executed on the battlefield. But from the historical point of view and military reconstruction of the battle there is no need for such an explanation. In fact, the forensic examinations of the shape of the wounds as well as the ballistic properties of the retrieved ammunition indicated short- to mid-range gunshot discharges of firearms from light and heavy cavalry in close combats. To receive more information about the ongoing on the battlefield, gunshot experiments were performed with replica of three historical weapons (pistol, carbine, and musket). For this reason hollow spheres filled with ballistic gelatine as well as blocks of gelatine and ballistic soap were used to simulate the human skull and soft tissue. The experiments were conducted in order to reconstruct the situation in which the soldiers died by exemplifying questions of target distance, load or possible influences by environmental parameters (e.g. climatic conditions). At the conference we would like to present methods and results of the investigations and to discuss technical approaches.
NICKLISCH, N. / KNIPPER, C. / HELD, P./ PICKARD, L. / RAMSTHALER, F. / FRIEDERICH, S. / ALT, K. (2015): Die 47 Soldaten aus dem Massengrab – Ergebnisse der bioarchäologischen Untersuchungen. In: Meller H, Schefzik M (Eds.) Krieg. Eine Archäologische Spurensuche. Begleitband zur Sonderausstellung im Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte Halle (Saale), Theiss-Verlag, S. 405-420.