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zorg

What lies beneath Waterloo Battlefield?

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Excellent!  I will be there in June, one of 6,000 re-enactors re-playing the battle for the 200th anniversary.  perhaps they will have discovered some newt new artifacts by then.

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Zorg  -  the various research expeditions sound of great interest and I think will prove valuable in establishing a number

of points regarding the Battle .    I am sure they will find a lot of buried equipment  -  although we can be quite sure the

scavengers have been over the upper surfaces  -  and with metal detectors, probably quite deep.  We must watch for

news of what they are finding.  Thankyou for letting us know.  Mervyn

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Peter  -  that is a great honour  -  so you will be one of 6000 re-creating part of the manoevres and fighting on Waterloo.  That

is really something for the family archives.

 

You must try and get as many photos as possible for a good article taking us through the reconstruction.  Also, all of the other parts,

accomodation, meals,general scenes of the battlefields and of visiting dignitaries.   You can make a great story for GMIC.  Also, you might point out to any French re-enactors that we won the Battle.    They have never believed they lost at Waterloo.

 

One final point  -  we can supply you wiith leaflets and some bigger posters.  Distribute as many as possible and pin the posters to tents at night.   We should get a lot of new members for GMIC.     Great news - congratulations.   Mervyn

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I am a gilded staff officer and so confidently expect to be safely inside a square if any nasty Frenchies get withing poking distance.  I shall, however, exhort the lads to lay into the Corsican's henchmen with vim and vigour.  I recently purchased a very tiny camera - suitable for surreptitious snapping - with a chip will take 8,000 photos before I need to download.  That and 20 or 30 batteries and I'm all set to record the saga, plus the trip to follow: Vimy, Beaumont Hamel, Menin Gate, Juno Beach and some other 'Canadian' locations in France and Flanders.  I promise to keep you all posted!

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I have mixed feelings about "conflict archaeology." Archaeology is a destructive approach to investigating the past, and when something is dug up, any details not noted or written down, are gone forever. Current approaches to digging is to have questions in mind before taking something out of the ground, instead of a "dig it up" and see what comes out of the ground approach. Unless the site is threatened, or there are important questions that can be answered, the current trend in archaeological thinking is to leave sites alone, because once they've been dug up the evidence is gone. The analogy of a crime scene being cleaned up, and coming back later for other questions comes to mind. The article doesn't say why the farmhouse location is being excavated, and if it's necessary at all.

 

Mervyn, the "we won" comment always makes me smile. Lord Chalfont wrote a book on Waterloo, dealing with how the French, British and Germans have written about the battle. It's an interesting read, because each of the three nationalities see the battle very differently. On the Allied side, the "British" componesnt of 25,000 men (and another 6,000 for the KGL), compromised a little less than half of the Dutch (17,000), Hannoverian (11,000), Brunswick (6,000) and Nassauers (3,000) under Wellington's command. Then there's the Prussians under Blucher who arrived late in the day adding another 50,000 men against the 73,000 Frenchmen who were there. So, the "we" is due to quite a lot of people who were not British...  ;-)

 

I was seriously tempted to go to the events for the 200th, but decided there were more pressing reasons to not go and get some long overdue things worked on. I have a direct ancestor who was a member of the 4th Westphalian Landwehr that fought at Ligny the day before Waterloo, and arrived with the Prussian I Corps (4th Brigade) towards the end of the day, and then took part in the pursuit. He was proud enough of what his part in the War of Liberation that it was recorded in his local church's records, and also inscribed on his tombstone.

 

Peter, Mervyn is right, take lots of pictures!

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I am not totally convinced either way, regarding to digging up artifacts.  My concern would be that to leave these artifacts alone, undisturbed, sounds like a good idea however I think the action of the acids in the soil and the dampness will soon deteriorate whatever might otherwise by preserved and studied to the point of just being stains in the soil.

 

As far as comparing battlefield artifacts to a crime scene, as soon as the evidence is deposited it starts to deteriorate, either through the actions of nature or human contamination.  The documentation and preservation of evidence (in a crime) is of paramount importance.  To suggest that evidence should be left undisturbed until everyone is certain that nothing that will be done will harm the evidence, no matter the length of time required, and would certainly make the guilty parties quite pleased.

 

Perhaps I have just convinced myself as to my stand on this issue.

 

Regards

Brian

 

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Brian,

 

The article notes the primary focus of the investigation at Hougomont, not the rest of Waterloo, is to locate "graves." It is already known from contemporary accounts, the bodies at the Hougomont compound were collected, stripped, and burned to the immediate south of the farmstead's walls. There is also an 1817 litho of stripped corpses and wood being piled up there, in preparation for burning. Later the same spot was used as the farmsteads compost heap.

 

After the cremation process, not all of the large and dense bones are going to be reduced to ash. There would be many small fragments remaining, and later composting would turn the underlying soil into a very organic rich (not acidic at all) soil that would have been spread over fields as fertilizer. None of this is conducive to finding "graves" although it should be easy enough to locate the cremation site seen in the 1817 litho with the farm building in the immediate background, and from the presence of high concentrations of human collagens (and other related compounds) that leached into the underlying soil. In many ways, we already know what happened, and that raises questions of what is the underling need to know "what."

 

Are the investigators aware of those contemporary accounts? I don't know. I wonder if there's a really some need to know, or a desire to drum up p-r, in the days leading up to the 200th anniversary?

Edited by Les

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Les  -  I agree with your point about sites not being touched unless it is necessary.   Unfortunately, with modern metal detectors -

and the natural greed of people where 'buried treasure' is concerned  -  it  makes it necessary to take defensive action.  However,

unless there is this great pressure, then archeological sites should be preserved until our technology is at a higher stage.   Mervyn

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 and Nassauers (3,000)

 

Actually there were more than 7.000 Nassauers (193 officers and 6.832 men) at Waterloo.

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Hi Les,

 

Your point is well taken; this could very well be an attemt to generat PR prior to the 200th anniversary.

 

Regards

Brian

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Peter   -  do you have any further news for us  ?   What about a leaflet for casual distribution  -  do you think this is feasible ? The alternative would be a card - about the size of a business card  -  giving some details on GMIC and full contact info..  Nick should have a preview of any thing you think you can manage   -  when we hear from you, if the answer is Yes to either of these suggestions. I will draft something for his approval.   What date will you be leaving Canada   ?    Best wishes   Mervyn

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Mervyn

I would be more than happy to act as an ambassador for the GMIC, if that doesn't strike the rest of you as too risky a proposition, given my past record for... ;)

Indeed, if you or Nick wish to suggest a suitable text and graphic - I agree that business card size would be best - I would be more than happy to spread it round the Allied forces at Waterloo.  Among the Emperor's troops as well, should opportunity arise!

Peter

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