Pierre de Villeneuve The French Vice Admiral who appeared stabbed to death in a hotel
A group of historians and archaeologists believe that few bodies of the thousands of soldiers and horses killed in the
1815 Battle of Waterloo
have been found because locals stole the bodies and used their bones to whiten beet sugar.
In the years that followed the famous battle that led to the victory of the Duke of Wellington against the Emperor Napoleon, in which between 10,000 and 30,000 French, British, German and Dutch soldiers died,
the bodies were dug up and sold to the sugar industry. .
The Belgian historian
, responsible for the State Archives in Liège, explains in an information published this Thursday by the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF that around 1820 in the surroundings of Waterloo "beet supplanted wheat".
"The sugar industry was established, with bone ovens.
The market value of bones, theoretically animals, skyrocketed
," Wilkin continues about the years that followed a battle in which thousands of horses also died, of which neither were They find only skeletons.
The peasants of the area, aware of the value of the bones and knowing where the mass graves were, would have dug up the corpses to recover the bone remains and sell them as if they were of animal origin so that in those blast furnaces a black powder that filtered sugar syrup.
"As of 1834, the written sources show that the incidents multiply:
travelers report having seen the unearthed bodies
, parliamentarians denounce traffic in
and the mayor of Braine l'Alleud (a town near Waterloo), warns with a sign that exhumations are prohibited and punishable", says the historian.
In the communal archives of that municipality there are documents that show that the mayor "spoke clearly about the exhumation of corpses to trade with them", he warns against this practice and reminds the population that it is penalized by article 360 of the Penal Code of the time .
The investigation, in which the Professor of
Archeology at the University of Glasgow
Tony Pollard and the German historian Robin Schäfer have also participated, has allowed the discovery of dozens of documents in Belgian, French and German archives that support his thesis.
An 1879 article in the German newspaper Prager Tagblatt suggested that using honey to sweeten food avoided the risk of "your great-grandfather's atoms dissolving in your coffee on a good morning," says the British newspaper Daily Mail, which also publishes this Thursday the findings.
In addition, the data obtained from the parliamentary debates in Belgium suggest that the country did not export bones to France between 1832 and 1833 and that the trade in this material skyrocketed from 1834, when
350,000 kilos of bone remains were sold to the country.
Earlier work by Pollard had shown that some bones of the Waterloo dead had been crushed and used to make fertilizer, the Daily Mail recalls. The bones were paid "hundreds of thousands of francs at the time, several times what win a worker in his whole life", adds the Belgian historian in his testimony to public radio and television, who
wonders if that sugar reached the cakes of the time and if the ancestors of today's Belgians "were cannibals".
Conforms to The Trust Project criteria