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A mass grave was discovered in late autumn 2001 in Vilnius, during constructions works. Preliminary observations led to the conclusion that this mass grave contained part of the Great Army of Napoleon I, and had been created during the Retreat from Russia (December, 1812). In March 2002, an extensive excavation was carried out on a first part of the mass grave, in the framework of a Franco-Lithuanian collaboration, completed by a second excavation of another trench in September 2002. The laboratory study of all the skeletal material ended in October 2002. These preliminary results bring new additional data to the historical knowledge of this major event in the European history; this exceptional sample represents the biggest historical mass grave discovered until now. To cite this article: M. Signoli et al., C. R. Palevol 3 (2004).
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Human Palaeontology and Prehistory (Palaeopathology)
Discovery of a mass grave of Napoleonic period in Lithuania
(1812, Vilnius)
Michel Signoli
, Yann Ardagna
, Pascal Adalian
, William Devriendt
, Loïc Lalys
Catherine Rigeade
, Thierry Vette
, Albinas Kuncevicius
, Justina Poskiene
Arunas Barkus
, Zydruné Palubeckaité
, Antanas Garmus
, Virgilijus Pugaciauskas
Rimantas Jankauskas
, Olivier Dutour
Unité d’anthropologie, UMR 6578 CNRS, université de la Méditerranée, faculté de médecine de Marseille, 27, bd Jean-Moulin,
13385 Marseille cedex 5, France
Department of Archaeology, Faculty of History, Vilnius University, Lithuania
Department of Anatomy, Histology and Anthropology, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius University, Lithuania,
(Vilniaus universiteto Medicinos fakulteto Anatomijos, histologijos ir antropologijos katedra), Ciurlionio 21, Vilnius LT2009, Lithuania
Institute of Forensic Medicine, Lithuanian University of Law, Lithuania
Institute of Lithuanian History, Lithuania
Received 16 September 2003; accepted 12 February 2004
Available online 30 April 2004
Presented by Yves Coppens
A mass grave was discovered in late autumn 2001 inVilnius, during constructions works. Preliminary observations led to the
conclusion that this mass grave contained part of the Great Army of Napoleon I, and had been created during the Retreat from
Russia (December, 1812). In March 2002, an extensive excavation was carried out on a first part of the mass grave, in the
framework of a Franco-Lithuanian collaboration, completed by a second excavation of another trench in September 2002. The
laboratory study of all the skeletal material ended in October 2002. These preliminary results bring new additional data to the
historical knowledge of this major event in the European history; this exceptional sample represents the biggest historical mass
grave discovered until now. To cite this article: M. Signoli et al., C. R. Palevol 3 (2004).
© 2004 Académie des sciences. Published by Elsevier SAS.All rights reserved.
Découverte d’un charnier de la Grande Armée en Lituanie (Vilnius, 1812). À l’automne 2001, un charnier a été
découvert à Vilnius (Lituanie) dans le cadre d’aménagements urbains. Les premières observations de terrain ont permis
d’associer ce charnier à la retraite de Russie de la Grande Armée (décembre 1812). En mars 2002, une fouille exhaustive du
charnier a été entreprise dans le cadre d’une collaboration franco-lituanienne. Elle a été complétée par la fouille d’une seconde
zone d’inhumation (septembre 2002) et par une étude en laboratoire de l’ensemble des ossements exhumés (achevée en octobre
2002). Ces premiers résultats confirment et complètent les données historiques relatives à cet événement historique majeur dans
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (O. Dutour).
C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
© 2004 Académie des sciences. Published by Elsevier SAS.All rights reserved.
l’histoire de la construction européenne et apportent des informations anthropologiques originales sur cet exceptionnel
échantillon paléodémographique, qui constitue le plus grand charnier des périodes historiques découvert jusqu’à présent. Pour
citer cet article : M. Signoli et al., C. R. Palevol 3 (2004).
© 2004 Académie des sciences. Published by Elsevier SAS.All rights reserved.
Keywords: Biological anthropology; Mass grave; ‘GrandeArmée’; Retreat of Russia; Vilnius; Lithuania
Mots clés : Anthropologie biologique ; Charnier ; Grande Armée ; Retraite de Russie ; Vilnius ; Lituanie
1. Introduction
1.1. Discovery
The mass grave was discovered during construction
works on the site of the former barracks of the Soviet
Army, in the northern suburbs of Vilnius (Verkiu
Street, Siaures Miestelis Territory) in late autumn 2001
(Fig. 1). At first, several alternative hypotheses were
considered, connecting this mass grave to the succes-
sive military settlements of the area (i.e. Tsarist, Nazi
and Stalinist periods); thus representatives from the
Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s office attended the
site and started collecting evidence. Human bones
were submitted to the Institute of Forensic Medicine.
However, some preliminary observations made on uni-
form remains (especially buttons showing the Imperial
Eagle and numbers of regiments) led to the conclusion
that this mass grave was one of the Great Army com-
manded by Napoleon I (Fig. 2). Historical research
rapidly attributed this discovery to the retreat of the
Great Army, which departing from Moscow, arrived in
December 1812 in the city of Vilnius, where French
troops were garrisoned. In 1806, the French Emperor
decided to impose the Continental System on Russia.
As Tsar Alexander I bypassed it, by establishing trade
links with Great Britain, Napoleon organized the Rus-
sian Campaign, gathering the ‘20-Country Army’.
Vilnius, as the capital of Lithuania, is considered, since
Fig. 1. Location of the mass grave, on high land in the northern part of Vilnius.
Fig. 1. Situation du charnier, en hauteur, au nord de la ville deVilnius.
220 M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
June 1812, as a strategic point on the way to Moscow.
About 400 000 soldiers crossed the Niemen on 24 June
1812, and 100 000 men arrived in Moscow on 14 Sep-
tember 1812. After the city was set on fire, on 15 Sep-
tember 1812, Napoleon ordered the retreat (19 October
1812). It was planned that the ‘Grande Armée’ would
go to its Winter Quarters at Wilna (ancient name for
Vilnius). After the crossing of Berezina (26–29 No-
vember 1812), about 70 000 men arrived in Wilna
(3 December 1812). The extreme cold and the bad
general conditions of the Army (starvation, exhaustion,
typhus, low spirits...) forced the survivers (less than
40 000 soldiers) to cross back over the Niemen [11,19].
1.2. Excavations
The French Embassy was immediately informed of
this discovery. The Lithuanian authorities decided that
the mass grave would have to be excavated before the
resumption of construction works, in the spring of
2002. The excavation started on 12 March 2002, under
the direction of J. Poskiene from the Vilnius Depart-
ment of Archaeology. Due to time constraint (i.e. the
construction project), the work had to be completed
over a short period. It ended exactly one month later.
The usefulness of associating French anthropolo-
gists to this excavation, in order to reinforce the anthro-
pological team on the field, seemed obvious to the
Lithuanian anthropologists, headed by one of us (R.J.).
Therefore, the team of the research unit in biological
anthropology (UMR 6578, CNRS–‘Université de la
Méditerranée’), which previously developed an expe-
rience in excavations of mass graves [9,16,18],was
immediately informed about the discovery and the start
of excavation. The French team (M.S., P.A., Y.A.,
W.D., L.L., O.D.) arrived on site on 22 March, and
participated in the excavation until the end (10 April).
The delay of arrival was due to the time needed to get
financial support and to organize the trip. This field trip
was officially sponsored by the CNRS and received
help from the French Embassy.
2. Methods
The general objective was to perform the salvage
excavation in a very short time, in order to provide the
building contractor with a ‘skeleton-free’ area. The
mass grave was located in a trench about 40 m long
(39–42 m) and up to 10 m wide (6 m at the southwest-
ernand8matthenortheastern end), starting 2 m below
the recent ground level. This size along with the depth
of the trench (1–1.5 m), semicircular in cross-section
in its identified limits, and the obvious very high den-
Fig. 2. General view of the site (photo:Y.Ardagna, UMR 6578).
Fig. 2. Vue générale du site (cliché : Y.Ardagna, UMR 6578).
221M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
sity of skeletons were, with the climatic conditions, the
main difficulties that had to be faced. During spring
excavations, the continuation of the trench at the south-
western end was discovered; the connection with this
was destroyed during the construction work. This area
(later named Area 3) was not covered during spring
salvage excavations, as it was not in area of construc-
tion work.
It had been decided that the team of Lithuanian
archaeologists and anthropologists would continue to
excavate and gather individual skeletons, each of them
being provided with an individual number. Bones of
unidentifiable skeletons were classified, using an al-
phanumeric grid system on a square metre scale, as
well as archaeological artefacts found in the two-thirds
part (Area 2), from a face cutting opened at the south-
west limit of the trench. The French anthropologists
would develop, on the northeastern part of the trench
(Area 1), a qualitative approach, using the methodol-
ogy of funeral or forensic anthropology [7,20], previ-
ously applied on plague mass graves [17] and forensic
cases [1] (Fig. 3). This approach, based on the obser-
vation of individual skeleton positions and stratigraphy
of the trench, allows us to determine if the corpses were
buried simultaneously or in several steps, and to dem-
onstrate the care used to bury them.
The grid coordinate system was installed, each
square metre was labelled and beams placed on piles of
tyres above the area, allowing a simultaneous excava-
tion of all the burials and protecting them from a
continuous stamping. Skeletons were individually ex-
cavated with specific small tools (scrapers, paint-
brushes, dentistry instruments) in order to maintain
each skeletal element and artefact in its original posi-
tion. The use of an aspirator allowed us to remove
sediment more quickly and easily. In this part of the
excavation, due to time constraints, the work was per-
formed seven days a week, whatever the climatic con-
ditions. The data were recorded by digital camera, both
for identified individuals and for each square of the
grid coordinate system, in a zenithal view. In all cases,
the orientation and the position of each identified skel-
eton were schematically drawn on a general map of the
distribution, established day by day. Even if this took a
long time, these techniques are the only ones allowing
an in situ understanding of funeral practices and events
(individual identification, process of decomposition of
corpses, burial conditions, mode of filling of a pit,
localization of artefacts).
Fig. 3. General view of the area N
. 1 during excavation (photo:Y. Ardagna, UMR 6578).
Fig. 3. Vue générale de la zone n
1 en cours de fouille (cliché : Y. Ardagna, UMR 6578).
222 M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
Due to methodological differences between the two
teams, the preliminary results are slightly different in
nature. The time constraint made the two techniques
complementary, considering, on the one hand, that the
anthropological observations performed on the one
third of the pit could be extended to its entirety and, on
the other hand, that the quantitative gathering allowed
the rapid emptying of the bones and artefacts from the
remainder of the pit. The part of the pit excavated in the
spring season was ca. 400 m
. Results obtained using
anthropological methods applied to 100 m
of the pit
were compared with the results from the rest of the
In September, Area 3 was examined by the Lithua-
nian part of the team. This consisted of the continua-
tion of the same trench, going in a north–south direc-
tion. Excavation techniques for the Area 1 were used
for this part. The length of the trench was 30 m, width
–6 m; skeletons appeared at a depth of 2 m from the
contemporary surface. The trench was semicircular in
cross-section, its former depth ca. 1 m.
All skeletal material (both taken as individuals and
from the grid) was cleaned and dried in the Department
of Anatomy, Histology and Anthropology of the Fac-
ulty of Medicine (University of Vilnius) and informa-
tive pieces were registered and counted. In the labora-
tory, sex was determined using conventional
techniques [4] in two ways: using conventional criteria
of morphology of the pelvic bones (for all material –
individual skeletons and bones taken in the grid) and
morphology of the skull as complementary (individual
skeletons only). Biological age at death was deter-
mined only for individual skeletons using conventional
criteria (chronology of epiphysis fusion, age changes
of pubic symphysis and cranial suture closure [4]).
3. Results
The close contact between the skeletons, illustrated
by the very small quantity of deposit between bones
(thickness of the deposit was only 0.2–0.5 m), attests
that the corpses were all buried at the same time. The
accumulation of bodies on the two sides of the pit
showed that the trench was filled from its edges. The
skeletons discovered in the middle of the trench corre-
spond to corpses that had slipped or rolled over the
others. It is highly probable that corpses were thrown
from the side of the edge of the trench by the people in
charge of the burial. The anatomical position of numer-
ous skeletons strongly suggests that the bodies were
handled very little; moreover, some positions are very
different from that of rigor mortis, suggesting that the
intense cold had frozen victims in the position of their
death, kept by the rapid burial of corpses (Figs. 4 and
The number of individuals detected during the field-
work in the Area 1 was 717; the density was about
7 corpses/m
. The density seemed identical all along
the trench; this allowed us on the field to estimate the
number of corpses of 2000 to 3000 to have been simul-
taneously buried in this pit. A more precise numbering
of the victims was performed in the Department of
Anatomy, Histology and Anthropology of the Faculty
of Medicine (University of Vilnius). Bones collected
by prosecutors were pooled with this general number.
The maximal number of definite skeletal elements was
Fig. 4. The density of skeletons in the area 1 is about 7 corpses/m
The anatomical position of numerous skeletons suggests that the
bodies were handled very little (photo: P. Adalian, UMR 6578).
Fig. 4. La densité des inhumations dans la zone 1 est d’environ
7 corps/m
. La position des corps témoigne du peu de soin apporté à
ces inhumations (cliché : P. Adalian, UMR 6578).
223M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
taken as the minimal number of individuals. It turned
out that the number of left femoral diaphyses gave the
highest number – 886 for the Area 1, 979 for Area 2,
1000 for Area 3 and 404 for non-attributed (collected
during construction work and by prosecutors); thus the
total minimal number of individuals, when all left
femoral diaphyses were pooled, was 3269.
3.1. Sex determination
3.1.1. Area 1
Among the 717 individuals detected in the field
from the Area 1, sex determination on the field indi-
cated only 3 female skeletons. In the Area 1, the re-
mains of 401 individuals were identifiable for further
analysis. If only individuals are taken into consider-
ation, 3 of them were identified as females, 5 probably
females, 294 males, 3 probably males, and 96 of unde-
termined sex. When bones from the grid were added,
finally 8 individuals were determined as definitely fe-
males, 7 as probably females, 443 as definitely males
and 28 as probably males; sexing of the rest of the
material was impossible.
3.1.2. Area 2
For the Area 2, the remains of 146 individuals were
identifiable for further analysis. If only individuals are
taken into consideration, 2 of them were identified as
females, 2 probably females, 140 males, and 2 prob-
ably males. When bones from the grid were added,
10 individuals were determined as definitely females,
12 as probably females, 610 as definitely males and
9 as probably males; sexing of the rest of material was
3.1.3. Area 3
In the Area 3, skeletons of 185 individuals were
removed separately. Among them 3 were identified as
females, 1 probably female, 155 males, 1 probably
male and 25 individuals were of undetermined sex.
Adding skeletal material taken in square meters, final
result for Area 3 was no less than 17 females, 5 prob-
ably females, 695 males, 9 probably males.
From scattered and non-attributed bones, 2 females,
4 probably females, 135 males and 1 probably male
were identified.
Thus, the final number of females in the site was 29
(probably females, 18), males 1883 (probably males,
22); sexing of the remains of 1317 individuals was
3.2. Age determination
Concerning the age, field observations did not re-
veal any children in this mass grave – even if some
skeletons can be attributed to quite young individuals
(less than 20 years old). The majority of them were in
their twenties.
In the laboratory, from 15 females for whom age
diagnosis was possible, 4 died at the age of 18–20, 2,
around 20, 5, 20–25, 1, 25–30, 1, 30–35; age of 2 fe-
males was determined as adults (over 20 years). From
693 male individuals, more precise aging (in 5-year
intervals) was possible for 430. Among them, 46 died
at the age of 15–20 (the youngest one being ca. 15,
incompletely fused parts of coxal bone), 211, 20–25,
Fig. 5. The position of some skeletons suggests that the intense cold
had frozen victims in the position of their death, kept there by the
rapid burial of corpses in December 1812 (photo: P. Adalian, UMR
Fig 5. La position de certains squelettes est évocatrice d’un décès
survenant par froid intense, figeant les victimes en position au
moment du décès, conservée par la rapide inhumation des corps en
décembre 1812 (cliché P. Adalian, UMR 6578).
224 M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
115, 25–30, 39, 30–35, 10, 35–40, 5, 40–45, 3, ca. 50,
1, 50–60; for the remaining ones, age was determined
by broader intervals or not determined.
4. Discussion
4.1. Archaeological records
The archaeological observations of the structure of
these two perpendicular trenches confirmed former
suggestions that this was V-shaped trench for French
artillery battery, known as redoubts: historical evi-
dence, indeed, states that two artillery batteries near
the former road were stationed in this area, forming the
second line of fortifications. This type of fortification
corresponds to six statutory redoubts dug in July 1812,
in the northern part of Wilna, following the orders of
the ‘général de génie’ Chambarlhiac [10].
The observations of the demographic structure of
this sample, associated with the numerous artefacts
(buttons, uniform remains) allowed us to confirm the
military origin of the mass grave, and to invalidate
another hypothesis such as, for example, a typhus epi-
demic killing many civilians of Vilnius. Numerous
subadults confirmed the historical data attesting that
new recruits were enlisted in the Great Army.
Other data also demonstrated the context of crisis:
(i) simultaneous burial of horses and men – in the
excavated area, three horse skeletons were discovered
in the bottom of the pit, in close contact with the human
ones, and a smaller Equidae, which we identified as a
mule –; (ii) burial of corpses wearing clothes was
clearly revealed by the location of different uniform
remains in the right position – buttons in the thoracic
area; belt buckles in the lumbar area; fragments of
gaiters in place on the tibiae; leather soles in contact
with the foot bones; one soldier’s shako wearing a
French tricolour leather cockade in the correct place on
the skull (Fig. 6)–;(iii) lack of weapons revealing a
disarmament or disorderly retreat.
The females were, from the year of 1805 formally
recognised as ‘cantinières, blanchisseuses et vi-
vandières’, an integral part of the army; they were
accompanying the French Army in all campaigns, in-
cluding the Russian campaign. Their functions were
regulated (selling tobacco, alcohol and other goods,
serving as cooks, washerwomen, medical assistants)
and were sharing the difficulties of military life with
Fig. 6. Shako wearing the French cockade in the correct place on the skull. Picture taken at the moment of discovery (photo: P. Adalian, UMR
Fig. 6. Shako portant la cocarde française, en place sur le crâne. Le cliché a été pris au moment de la découverte (cliché : P. Adalian, UMR 6578).
225M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
regular soldiers. Many of them were extremely popular
and respected in the army [14].
Detected unhealed traumas cannot be associated
with combat wounds. Most often found were perimor-
tal spiral and comminuted fractures of long bones
(humeri were prevailing, 45 right, 39 left) from force-
ful bending, or from blows with blunt objects. Most
probably such traumas occurred during crude handling
of bodies around the time of their disposal. Only two
cases of lesions on tibias made with cutting instru-
ments (probably trying to remove shoes from frozen
bodies during looting) were found.
4.2. Historical records
Analysis of buttons (performed by T.V., A.K, J.P.,
V.P.) allowed the identification in this trench, of the
remains of soldiers’ and officers’ uniforms of ca.
40 regiments: 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 17, 18, 19, 21, 29, 35,
37, 44, 51, 53, 56, 61, 72, 84, 85, 92, 93,105, 106, 108,
113, 115, 123; representing mostly linear infantry and
cavalry regiments (Fig. 7). Other regiments of house-
hold cavalry, dragoon, foot artillery as well as Italian,
Polish and Bavarian regiments of infantry were also
identified. The presence of the Imperial Guard was also
noted. However, no individual identification of soldiers
can be made on the basis of the analysis of uniform
remains. Detailed historical analysis of these remains
is in progress.
5. Conclusion
In conclusion, these observations have permitted us
to identify without any doubt this mass grave as the one
of the retreat from Russia of the Great Army, in De-
cember 1812. This discovery, fits together with the
historical records describing the burial of about
37 000 dead French soldiers in eight locations by the
troops of Koutouzov into the defensive trenches made
by the French garrison in Vilnius: Inciderunt itaque in
fossam quam sibi ipsi fecerunt (they have been buried
in the grave they dug). At the beginning of 19th cen-
tury, this particular area was in the far outskirts (3 km
from the downtown). The place for inhumation was
well chosen – at the beginning of July 1812 French
troops, with the help of local inhabitants, arranged a
defence line on a small hill – a system of trenches and
redoubts for artillery and infantry [10]. According to
the reports of the Russian administration, corpses were
buried in this particular location in two places, the total
number of buried being 7190 soldiers and 112 horses.
Localisation of the second place is very problematic, as
the area now is completely urbanised. The place was
ideal for burial because of a simple reason – the Rus-
sian administration was afraid of epidemics and was in
a hurry to clean the city streets, squares and houses that
were overflowed with corpses. The ready-made trench
was relatively far from the city and, being near the
road, easily accessible. Thus it seems that the burials
took place here from the middle of December 1812.
Fig. 7. Part of a uniform of the 29th French linear infantry (photo:Y.Ardagna, UMR 6578).
Fig. 7. Pièce d’uniforme du 29
régiment d’infanterie de ligne (cliché Y.Ardagna, UMR 6578).
226 M. Signoli et al. / C. R. Palevol 3 (2004) 219–227
Field observations correspond with the extremely
cold winter (e.g., –28 °C on 6 December, below –30 °C
during December nights) recorded in Vilnius at this
time, suggesting that, more than typhus epidemics,
historically well known as an important cause of death
during the retreat from Russia according to the descrip-
tions from soldiers [2,5,8,12,15], the cold was, with
exhaustion and starvation the main cause of the death
of so many people (for comparison, the Great Army
combat losses in Russian campaign in total were
112 000 casualties; the Battle of Waterloo – 32 000 ca-
sualties). Soldiers during the retreat from Moscow –
from 16 October until 8 December, when the largest
number reached Vilnius, had to cover ca. 1000 km
without rest, sufficient warm clothing, short of supplies
and harassment by Cossacks [3,13]. However, analyses
are planned to identify aDNA of the causative agent, as
it has been previously shown for other infections [6].
This exceptional osteological sample has been studied
in the laboratory before the official reburial (1 June
2003), as it represents a unique source of data from the
beginning of the 19th century regarding the population
of Europe. As we mentioned above, other mass graves
corresponding to this event remained to be discovered
in this area, now undergoing an important project of
We thank the Ambassador and the staff of the
French Embassy in Vilnius for the material support,
help and warm hospitality, including Patrick Lion and
Jean Deschanels for precious and friendly assistance in
the field. The fieldtrips of the French team were sup-
ported in March, October 2002 and May 2003 by the
CNRS and the ‘Université de la Méditerranée’.
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... Ce dernier servait à la frontière du Niagara et à Fort Erie (Pfeiffer et al., 1991). (Rigeade et al., sous presse;Signoli et al., 2004). L'abondance du matériel associé retrouvé au contact des individus évoque le contexte d'urgence dans lequel ce charnier a été constitué, puisque les soldats n'ont pas été dépouillés de tous leurs effets personnels (pièces d'uniformes, contenus des poches). ...
... Au cours de cette opération les corps peuvent être démembrés pour faciliter leur transport ; les dépouilles sont ensuite réinhumées dans une fosse en pleine terre, similaire à leur première sépulture. Grâce aux artéfacts en place retrouvés sur les lieux de l'exécution (les résidus de tissus, de sang, les douilles, les balles…), Bouville, 1982Bouville, , 1995Courtin, 1984;Devriendt, 2004). Si l'épisode catastrophique est toujours débattu pour ce site, les préhistoriens semblent attribuer aisément, sans plus d'argumentation, l'hypothèse d'un massacre de population pour les sites de Schletz et de Thaleim (Bahn, 1996;Beyneix, 2003;Teschler-Nicola et al., 1999). ...
... A Thaleim, certains individus ont à priori été retrouvés en connexion (Beyneix, 2003). L'acceptation d'un épisode catastrophique à Thaleim et à Schletz repose essentiellement sur le fait que les victimes ont été inhumées au sein d'un lieu opportun et non au sein d'une nécropole traditionnelle.Il semble inconcevable pour grand nombre d'auteurs que l'on puisse user des mêmes rites funéraires pour un groupe d'individus morts au combat(Devriendt, 2004;Devriendt et al., 2006). Les recherches conduites récemment sur les squelettes de Roaix montre que les lésions traumatiques relevés sur les squelettes exhumés de la couche archéologique dite "couche de guerre" n'ont pas provoqué la mort des sujets. ...
... Moreover, the mortality profile and the distribution of individuals by sex does not correspond to the usual war time mortality profile, i.e., made up of mainly male, rather young soldiers, such as the site of Vilnius (Lithuania) where large pits were discovered with individuals died during Napoleonic war. The demographic composition with sex and age data, reveal a characteristic military population (Signoli et al., 2004). On the other hand, an epidemic could explain this excessive mortality. ...
... Although faunal remains of this period are important and valuable, they are not numerous. Probably the most valuable are the remains of animals, mostly horses, collected at the mass burial site of the Napoleonic troops from 1812 in Vilnius (Signoli et al., 2004), also important due to the precisely known date of death of the animals. ...
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In recent years Lithuanian archaeologists have become greatly more aware of and interested in the information provided by faunal remains. Its potential has begun to draw the attention of researchers from nature sciences, while the archaeologists working in the field collect faunal remains uncovered during excavations and hand them over for storage increasingly more often. These faunal remains continue to be stored in the repository at Vilnius University. The project carried out in 2018–2020 with the funds provided by the Research Council of Lithuania gave an opportunity to record and make public the information about the zooarchaeological finds stored in the repository of Vilnius University, which are accessible for researchers and students from various scientific fields. The aims of this article are to present the Lithuanian collection of faunal remains kept at Vilnius University, to review the history of zooarchaeological research as well as the studies carried out in the last few years and to discuss the associated problems that continue to emerge.
... Different types of public and private organizations may undertake the excavation and analyses of human remains in an archaeological context. However, in recent years, particularly after the emblematic excavation of Napoleon's soldiers in Vilnius by anthropologists from Anthropologie, Droit, Ethique et Santé, UMR 7268 (ADES) research unit attached to Aix-Marseille University [10], a tangible collaboration has been established between regional archaeological services, local authorities, public rescue archaeology organisms (Inrap) and private archaeological companies. Today, this collaboration is evident in academic anthropologists from ADES (funerary anthropologists, forensic anthropologists and genetic anthropologists), which are very often called upon to investigate discoveries of military remains throughout France. ...
The study of human remains from the first and the second World War is important for enhancing our understanding of that historical period. Despite the fact that the period has been well-documented previously, gaps remain, particularly as a result of the destruction of archives. In fact, for just WWI, more than 700,000 soldiers from both sides remain missing. Scientific and political collaborations established in hopes of recovering and identifying soldiers will allow many families understand "what happened" to their loved ones and facilitate the return of the soldiers their homes. In this paper, the recovery of the human remains of French soldiers WWI and WWII will be described through the lens of the legislation in place governing the retrieval and identification of the remains, protocols established for recovery, excavation and analysis, and the dissemination data. These features will be illustrated using three case studies that involve French soldiers who died during WWI. Research of this type is the result of true interdisciplinary and sometimes international, depending on the context, collaboration. The public and academic the dissemination of these archaeological discoveries, both to academics and the public, is crucial and a type of remembrance.
... The skeletal remains of Napoleonic soldiers provide a novel opportunity to examine the relationship between childhood growth disruption and adult stature and body mass because of the multiethnic and socioeconomically stratified composition of Napoleon's Grand Army. Less than half of the 675,000 men in Napoleon's Grand Army were French (Nicolson, 1985;Oliver & Partridge, 2002;Signoli et al., 2004). Polish, Italian, Spanish, German, and Bavarian corps were also represented in Napoleon's Grand Army. ...
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Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate how much variation in adult stature and body mass can be explained by growth disruption among soldiers who served in Napoleon's Grand Army during the Russian Campaign of 1812. Methods Linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) were recorded as representations of early life growth disruption, while the impact on future growth was assessed using maximum femur length (n = 73) as a proxy for stature and maximum femoral head diameter (n = 25) as a proxy for body mass. LEH frequency, severity, age at first formation, and age at last formation served as explanatory variables in a multiple regression analysis to test the effect of these variables on maximum femur length and maximum femoral head diameter. Results The multiple regression model produced statistically significant results for maximum femur length (F ‐statistic = 3.05, df = 5 and 67, P = .02), with some variation in stature (adjusted r ² = 0.13) attributable to variation in growth disruption. The multiple regression model for maximum femoral head diameter was not statistically significant (F ‐statistic = 1.87, df = 5 and 19, P = .15). Conclusions We hypothesized stress events during early life growth and development would have significant, negative, and cumulative effects on growth outcomes in adulthood. The results did not support our hypothesis. Instead, some variables and interactions had negative effects on stature, whereas others had positive effects. This is likely due to catch‐up growth, the relationship between acute and chronic stress and growth, resilience, and plasticity in human growth over the life course.
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This article presents a brief overview of the development of forensic archaeology in Lithuania. From the beginning of the early 1960s, the disciplines of forensic osteology and anthropology have been intensively developed through extensive work on numerous mass graves left in Lithuania after wars and other social disasters. This has allowed individual researchers and their teams to develop and validate a set of original, population-specific forensic osteological methods. Nevertheless, the term forensic archeology is still new in Lithuania. Only over the last few years has a short program of forensic archeology been offered to students of archaeology. The potential application of forensic archaeology in solving legal issues still lacks the interest of law enforcement and governmental institutions. We want to emphasize the importance of close collaboration between different institutions and an interdisciplinary approach to these investigations as a core value in achieving final goals. In addition, the particular importance of international cooperation to properly commemorate the victims of wars is emphasized. FORENSIC SCIENCE Scandinavian journal of Nordisk rettsmedisin archaeologists, and forensic pathologists and the lessons learned. Cases are grouped according to context and discussed in chronological order (i.e., dates of analysis), thus demonstrating the evolution of the field. At the same time, the specific problems of this interdisciplinary collaboration are outlined. Over the past decade, students of archaeology have been given a short overview of the potential application of archaeology in legal issues, and specific cases are discussed. Regretfully, no elements of archaeology are included in police training programs or the postgraduate training of forensic experts.
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"Le 10 juillet 2019, la tombe du général Gudin (1768-1812), proche de Napoléon tombé au combat, est redécouverte non loin de Smolensk en Russie, alors qu'on la croyait définitivement perdue. Cet événement et le bicentenaire de la mort de l'Empereur sont l'occasion de revenir sur une archéologie moderne qui tend à se développer et qui nous concerne plus qu'on ne le croit."
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Archaeological case studies ranging from the Paleolithic to the Pompeian brothels, from Columbus’s first city to First World War cemeteries aim to discuss the extent to which we can reconstruct feelings from material culture. Throughout prehistoric times, archaeology is the only one which can provide insights into how humans used to form relationships. This science is indeed our only chance to find out, through the study of double burials, whether anonymous Iron Age embraces have anything in common with ours. To be sure, romantic love is not an invention of the troubadours. Bones and pots can produce statements about love that we could never cull from written sources. The iconography – and tomb – of Adam and Eve, Freud’s discussion of the enamoured archaeologist, and the life of the first women archaeologists wrap up this unusual experiment in cultural genealogies and erotic historiography. Translation by Jean-Louis Courriol of C. Pavel, Arheologia iubirii. De la Neanderthal la Taj Mahal. Humanitas, Bucharest, 2019
Did climatic events help give rise to the Antonine Plague? This chapter examines the climate of Eurasia and Northeast Africa in the latter half of the second century CE, possible connections between observed climatic changes and the second-century pandemic (165–190 CE), and societal downturn that followed the pestilence. By exploring potential explanations for apparent connections between a changing climate and the Antonine Plague, a link between climatic events and the pandemic’s arrival to the Empire emerges. The chapter then considers the ongoing debates concerning the impact of the Antonine Plague. Both exaggerated and understated interpretations of the pandemic’s effects dominate the histories, in spite of the evidence. This chapter approaches the question of impact with caution by avoiding Empire-wide generalisations and focusing on the effects of the “plague” from a regional perspective.
Background The remains of soldiers who died during the two World Wars are regularly discovered by chance or during land use planning. In an archaeological, anthropological and genetic analysis of these remains, it is important to provide the most exhaustive information possible on these discoveries in order to fulfill the duty of memory. The legal aspect is a central question when it comes to the place of these human remains. Methodology This article proposes a consideration of the situation from a legal point of view and suggests avenues of reflection for a complementary approach from several disciplines. Results/Discussion A focus on the term death for France have been proposed. This term is much more than a simple qualifier or a generic expression, it implies economic, patrimonial, but also moral consequences. It should be remembered that the dignity underlying such a status is likely to impact the meaning attached to the duty to remember. Conclusion More than anything else, we can see that the study of these contexts requires genuine interdisciplinary research in which the law is not invented but in which jurists and anthropologists have every opportunity to express themselves side by side.
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This article sheds an entirely new light on the study of the plague thanks to contributions from disciplines that are only seldom brought together around the same research topic: anthropology, archaeology, historical demography, history, microbiology and paleodemography. It confronts two types of documents: biological archives (the skeletons) and historical archives, the comparative study of which has provided new and original information. Distribution of the casualties by sex, age an d intensity of the epidemic phase has been established and compared with previous results. The age distribution of deaths from the plague differs from "natural" mortality profiles and from deaths resulting from other epidemics or other demographic crises. The plague epidemic may be characterized as "non selective", given that the bio- or paleodemographic sample may be considered as a reflection of the structure of the living population, something which is rarely observed. The results that we present concern a recent period for which the historical archives are of exceptional richness and provide a great deal of information on modern plague epidemics. The results from anthropological fieldwork and microbiology enable us to envisage similar research on more ancient epidemics, even in the absence of written document.
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Extr. de res. d'A. (...) Les articulations labiles, plus precocement rompues, apportent les meilleurs arguments pour demontrer le caractere primaire d'une sepulture et discuter son evolution. L'anthropologie de terrain vise a restituer l'attitude originelle du corps, l'agencement des pieces d'habillement, des elements de parure et du mobilier; elle contribue aussi a definir l'architecture de la tombe en precisant le milieu de decomposition (espace vide ou colmate) et en montrant les effets du contenant sur la position des ossements. Sont egalement discutes dans cet article les criteres d'identification de depots secondaires, les reinterventions consecutives a la reouverture de la tombe, et les methodes specifiques d'analyse des sepultures multiples et collectives
Recent excavation of a mass grave dating from the Great Plague of Marseilles (1720-1722) revealed new data on the behaviour of the inhabitants of Marseilles facing this fatal epidemic. The aim of this paper is to present the first osteoarchaeological evidence, observed on two neighbouring interments, of a verification of death by the implantation of bronze pins into the toes. This technique is described in the medical treatises dating from this period, listing different death verification methods. The fear of "false death" and burial of people still alive was prevalent at the end of the xvuth and in the xvmth century. The same medical treatises present the main cause of apparent death as the plague.