What have the veterans not already dug up: lots of musket bullets, for example, uniform buttons, also from soldiers of the Coldstream Guard, one of the oldest regiments in the British Army, which is one of Queen Elizabeth II's five life regiments.

Some severed limbs were also found, showing how severe the soldiers' injuries were - arms and legs had to be amputated as a result.

A whole human skeleton was not among them.

Which seems amazing, because not far from Waterloo more than 20,000 men fell in a single day in June 1815 when Napoleon's army went into its last great battle and was defeated by the allied troops of English General Wellington and Prussian Field Marshal Blücher.

Peter Philipp Schmitt

Editor in the department "Germany and the World".

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Even one of the archaeological directors of the excavation project, Tony Pollard, cannot say much about the dead man, except that it was a man.

Even the cause of death is not revealed.

There are no noticeable injuries or gunshot wounds, as Pollard reports.

The skeleton is completely preserved.

A leg had to be amputated, but it lies next to the remains.

They were found in a kind of mass grave, a former pit behind Wellington's former field hospital not far from his headquarters at the time, the Château d'Hougoumont in Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium.

Three horse skeletons and ammunition pouches

The excavators found three horse skeletons on one side of the former pit.

One had a broken leg.

Pollard believes that the horse may have fallen into the pit itself, where it was put out of its torment by a shot in the head.

In the middle lay pouches of ammunition, the kind taken from soldiers when they were injured when they were taken to the hospital, and on top were three amputated human limbs.

A Napoleonic bullet was still stuck in one of the body parts.

The skeleton of the unknown soldier was uncovered right next to it.

"I haven't seen a mass grave like this in 20 years," says Pollard, an archaeologist specializing in battlefield archaeology.

Only once, according to Pollard, has a whole skeleton been found from the Battle of Waterloo, ten years ago.

And because it was so special, the dead man became known as "the Waterloo soldier."

The bones of the 23-year-old Hanoverian who fought for Wellington's army are now not far from where they were found in the museum, in the "Mémorial Waterloo 1815", which opened in 2015.

Unlike the body that has now been found, the only thing missing from the first skeleton was a uniform and a weapon.

The German who was shot in the lungs, for example, still had a wallet with coins with him, which suggests that on June 18 he was quickly and secretly buried by a comrade, so that his body was not found could be scavenged immediately or later.

Because that was exactly what was customary, as Pollard reports: “Dead soldiers were buried naked.

Everything they had was reused or recycled.”

Grave robbers were looking for souvenirs

Later, grave robbers first came to Waterloo in search of souvenirs for sale.

Since the 1930s, all human remains in and around Waterloo have been systematically excavated and ground into bone.

"It was sold to farmers in England and Scotland to use as fertilizer for their fields," says Pollard.

Other major Napoleonic battlefields, such as Austerlitz and Leipzig, were also exploited in this way.

The trade in human remains did not stop until around 1860 when newspaper articles about the "inhumane treatment" appeared.

Tony Pollard, who is a professor at Glasgow University, has been supporting the project in Belgium since 2015. Back then, exactly 200 years after the famous Battle of Waterloo, two Afghanistan veterans had the idea of ​​working with other soldiers to search for the remains of the former theater of war to search.

Mark Evans and Charlie Foinette both served in Her Majesty's Coldstream Guard and both had studied archaeology.

Evans also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his deployment to Afghanistan.

Their charity project "Waterloo uncovered", in which more than 200 former soldiers from a number of countries, including Germany, have taken part to date, not only benefits archaeology, it is also intended to heal war wounds and help veterans,

We are looking for two weeks each summer.

For the first time that year, excavations were also carried out in the small town of Plancenoit, where Napoleon had to fight primarily against Prussian troops.

Pollard is also hoping for new findings from a major geophysical investigation of the entire battlefield, which should lead him and the veterans to new finds next year. So far there have been more than 6,000.

And that too in the mass grave, which is far from being fully explored, and in which another skeleton might even be hidden.

This year's excavation season ends this Friday.

However, the former soldiers do not yet know whether they will be able to return in 2023.

As early as 2020 and 2021, all work on one of the most described and sung about battlefields in history was suspended due to corona.