Michaela BINDER | Leslie QUADE
(Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, Vienna, Austria)

Keywords: bioarchaeology, paleopathology, Vienna, battlefield archaeology

From the 21st to the 22nd of May, 1809, Napoleon met his first defeat on land in a major battle near the villages of Aspern and Essling on the outskirts of Vienna. An estimated 55 000 French and Austrian soldiers died as a direct result.  In recent years, large scale building projects due to the expansion of the city brought about several salvage excavations in the area of the battlefield, carried out by the Stadtarchäologie Wien. In addition to a number of prehistoric site, several battlefield burial sites were uncovered as well. The presence of textiles, buckles and metal uniform buttons marked with specific regiment numbers has made it possible to identify some of the soldiers as members of the French army.
29 individuals were subject to bioarchaeological analysis and evaluated for demographic data, stature, dental and skeletal pathologies to elucidate the impact of Napoleonic military conditions on health during life and patterns of trauma leading to death on the battlefield.  The analysis revealed high mean stature and low prevalences of enamel hypoplasias, indicating relatively good health during childhood. This comforms to historical records stipulating that soldiers were required to meet certain height and health requirements to enlist in military service. The high percentage of individuals under the age of 20 (18.5%) supports documentation of Napoleon’s increased need for new recruits during this time period.  Carious lesions, dental calculus, sinusitis and indicators of infectious diseaas were very common, attesting to the effects of military life on health. Perimortem projectile gunshot wounds to the cranium, thorax and femora were the most frequently identified trauma, with little clear evidence of sharp force trauma.

Relevance conference | Relevance session:
This presentation showcases contextualised bioarchaeological work in Vienna.