Analyses to help identify individuals from a historical mass grave in Kassel, Germany
Grumbkow, Philipp V.; Zipp, Anna; Großkopf, Birgit; Fueldner, Kai; Hummel, Susanne
In 2008, the skeletal remains of more than 60 human individuals were found in a mass grave on the grounds of the University of Kassel, Germany. There was no evidence helping to identify them or throwing light on the cause of their death. Mainly due to 14C age determination and initial hints on age and sex distribution, historians hypothesized that they had been soldiers of Napoleon's army who died in an epidemic in the winter of 1813/14. To test this assumption, morphological and molecular analyses were carried out on a sample. The morphological analyses comprised an age and sex determination as well as a macro- and micro-morphological inspection for pathological deviations after the commingled bones had been assembled as individuals. The molecular investigations aimed to identify the geographic origin of the remains. For this, mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal haplotypings were carried out. The results point to a group of mainly young men, some of them suffering from systemic inflammation of the periosteum. Others revealed severe aberrations in bone microstructure. The greatest similarities revealed by Y-haplogroup and -haplotype distribution were to populations that live in what are now the Benelux countries. All aspects support the thesis that these were soldiers of the Napoleonic army.