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18th-Century Bones of Sick Soldiers Identified in the Netherlands

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

VIANEN, THE NETHERLANDS—BBC News reports that forensic anthropologist April Pijpelink has identified the remains of eighteenth-century soldiers who died of illness among 82 sets of human remains recovered in 2020 from a mass grave outside the old city wall of the Dutch city of Vianen. Isotope analysis of the bones of six of the young men revealed that one of them had grown up in southern England, perhaps in Cornwall; another in southern Cornwall; and one in an English city. Two of the men may have grown up in the Netherlands but had English ancestors, while the last had come from Germany. Pijpelink said the men may have traveled to the area to fight in the First Coalition War, which was fought from 1792 to 1797 by France and Britain, Russia, Prussia, Spain, the Netherlands, and Austria. She thinks the soldiers may have contracted meningitis in cramped, unhygienic conditions at the field hospital at Batestein Castle. For more on archaeological research in the Netherlands, go to "Return to Sender."

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