Human bones and the remains of at least three horses have been discovered at Waterloo, representing a rare find for a Napoleonic battlefield.
The discovery was announced by Waterloo Uncovered, the archaeological charity which has returned to the battlefield site in Belgium for its first excavations there since 2019.
In July its team of archaeologists, students, and veterans unearthed some fascinating discoveries, largely around the Mont-Saint-Jean farm complex.
The farm was the site of the Duke of Wellington’s main field hospital during the battle of 18 June 1815.
It was here in 2019 – in the last season of research before the pandemic curtailed the project’s work – that the remains of three amputated limbs were excavated.
Further analysis revealed one of the limbs had a French musket ball still lodged within it, providing a gruesome insight into the savagery of the battle that led to Napoleon’s downfall.
The latest discoveries – including parts of at least three horses, one of which looks nearly complete, and the skull and arm of a soldier – represent incredibly rare finds.
Glasgow University’s Professor Tony Pollard, one of the project’s directors, said that in his 20-year career he had ‘never seen anything like it.’
‘We won’t get any closer to the harsh reality of Waterloo than this,’ he added.
While Véronique Moulaert from AWaP, one of the project’s partners, explained its significance. ‘Finding a skeleton in the same trench as ammunition boxes and amputated limbs shows the state of emergency the field hospital would have been in during the battle,’ she said.
‘Dead soldiers, horses, amputated limbs and more would have had to be swept into nearby ditches and quickly buried in a desperate attempt to contain the spread of disease around the hospital,’ Moulaert added.
This year has also seen new excavations at the nearby village of Plancenoit and the first wide-scale geophysical survey of the battlefield in history.
Founded in 2015, Waterloo Uncovered is an archaeology project involving veterans and serving military personnel (VSMPs) who have been injured or are suffering from mental health issues as a result of their service.
This year, 20 VSMPs have taken part in the project: 11 from the UK; five from the Netherlands; three from Germany, and one from Belgium.
Previous finds by the project include musket balls in the orchard of Mont-Saint-Jean farmhouse, the footprints of a building at Hougoumont Farm that was destroyed in the battle, and evidence of the vital role played by the Scots Guards in preventing Hougoumont from falling into French hands.
To find out more about the Waterloo Uncovered project and its discoveries please visit their website.