Militärhistorisches Museum der BundeswehrLandesamt für Archäologie - SachsenArchäologisches Landesmuseum Brandenburg im Paulikloster
1636 - Trailer

The Mass Grave

Greyish brown “body shadows” are visible in the yellow sand (Photograph: A. Grothe, BLDAM).

In March 2007, the discovery of human bones was reported by workers in a gravel pit near Wittstock. During extraction work, one of the workmen had found long bones and skulls in the bucket of the loader he was driving. Initial examination by a specialist determined that the bones did not date from the 20th century and therefore could not be the remains of victims of the death marches at the end of the Second World War. It seemed more probable that they were associated with Battle of Wittstock, which took place in the area on the 4th of October 1636.

Excavating and recording the skeletons (Photograph: A. Grothe, BLDAM).

The date of the find and the imminent destruction of the site made a detailed investigation necessary. The excavation was carried out by archaeologists and osteoarchaeologists, who worked closely together, providing each other with advice and support, in order to gather as much information as possible in the field.

In order to make efficient use of the available space, the bodies had been tightly packed into the grave (Photograph: A. Grothe, BLDAM).

Complete skeletons were carefully excavated and removed, while bones and other finds were recovered from the damaged part of the grave by sieving. Every stage of the process was documented using modern photographic and surveying techniques.

Around 125 dead soldiers had been laid side by side in the grave (Photograph: A. Grothe, BLDAM).

By the end of the excavation a burial pit approximately 6 m long and 3½ m wide had been revealed. It contained 88 skeletons, preserved undisturbed in their original positions, and many loose bones, belonging to other individuals, were also recovered. Around 125 bodies had been buried in the grave in October 1636.