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

Research Group

Osteoarchaeology – what can the bones tell us?
Dr Bettina Jungklaus
Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and State Archaeological Museum, Wünsdorf

Dr Bettina Jungklaus (Photograph: BLDAM)

Human skeletal remains are biohistorical documents which can reveal much about life in the past. The ostoearchaeologist has carefully examines the bones of every mercenary. She collects and analyses data on each individual, such as age at death, body height, as well as evidence of disease and other sources of stress. This information provides a real insight into the mercenaries’ living conditions during the Thirty Years War.

Archaeology – modern archaeology needs modern methods
Anja Grothe MA
Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and State Archaeological Museum, Wünsdorf

Anja Grothe MA (Photograph: BLDAM)

Computer based surveying equipment, digital photographs, aerial photographs and databases play an important role in archaeology in the 21st century. The archaeologist analyses the results of the excavation and the metal detector surveys. She reconstructs the layout of the grave at the time of the burials and the sequence in which the bodies were buried. The analysis of the artefacts from the grave and the battlefield, and the interpretation of the spatial distribution of the finds across the battlefield, reveal new information about the course of the fighting.

Historical research – what happened
on the 4th of October 1636?

Dr Sabine Eickhoff
Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and State Archaeological Museum, Wünsdorf

Dr Sabine Eickhoff (Photograph: BLDAM)

Written reports, maps, ordres de batailles, pamphlets and paintings – there are many historical documents about the Battle of Wittstock and each provides us with a different account of the incident. Who is telling the truth and who is distorting the facts? The archaeologist and historian collates all of the available material relating to the battle and the mercenaries who fought in it. This information then forms the basis for a reconstruction of the course of events.

Archaeological science – bone chemistry
Professor Dr Gisela Grupe
Department of Biology I, Biodiversity Research/Anthropology Section, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich

Professor Dr Gisela Gruppe (Photograph: LMU)

This specialist in the chemical analysis of human skeletal material retrieves biological data stored in human bone. She is able to determine where the mercenaries came from by measuring the levels of stable isotopes in the enamel of their teeth. Analysis of the ratios of stable isotopes in their bones provides information about their nutritional status.

Palaeopathology – solving the riddle of disease
Professor Dr Dr Michael Schultz
Centre for Anatomy, Georg August University, Göttingen

Professor Dr Dr Michael Schultz (Photograph: Hubert Jelinek/The Epoch Times)

Even if a person died a long time ago, evidence of many illnesses can still be found on their bones. The palaeopathologist identifies structural changes under the microscope and in x-ray images, and can then diagnose the disease which caused the change. The analysis of the results of this research allows a comprehensive reconstruction of the mercenaries’ living conditions.

Forensic pathology – wounds and injuries
Professor Dr Joachim Wahl and Dr Hans Günter König
State Office for the Preservation of Monuments, Constance;
formerly of the Institute of Legal Medicine, Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen

Professor Dr Joachim Wahl und Dr Hans Günther König (Photograph: BLDAM)

The physical anthropologist and the forensic scientist are experts in the interpretation of injuries found on historical skeletal material. Analysis of the shape, size and type of the injuries, combined with their knowledge of the physical characteristics of the human body and understanding of the mechanics of violent injury, enables them to reconstruct individual acts of violence and piece together a detailed picture of the course of the fighting.

Aerial photography – the view from above
Dr Joachim Wacker and Dr (Hon) Otto Braasch
Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and State Archaeological Museum, Wünsdorf; Landshut

Dr Joachim Wacker and the pilot Axel Jork (Photograph: BLDAM)

Dr (Hon) Otto Braasch before a flight (Photograph: private)

Some details are easier to see from further away. The aerial archaeologists regularly survey the site of the battle from the air at different times of year. They hope to locate the site of the defensive earthworks built by the imperial and Saxon armies, which is mentioned in the written sources, by identifying negative or positive cropmarks in the grain fields below.

Historical Primary source analysis –
did the Scots wear kilts?

Professor Dr Steve Murdoch
Institute of Scottish Historical Research, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Professor Dr Steve Murdoch (Photograph: BLDAM)

During the Thirty Years War the armies consisted of soldiers and mercenaries from many different European countries. The historian investigates the role played by the Scottish officers and ordinary soldiers, who fought  in their thousands on the continent. It takes years of research on primary source material in archives to understand how and why they did this. A comparison with other nations sheds light on the Europe-wide dimension of the conflict.

The study of historical weapons –
what killed Individual 71?

Jürgen H. Fricker

Jürgen H.Fricker (Photograph: BLDAM)

The bones of the buried soldiers often show evidence of injury – small incisions, deep notches or round holes – and many of the skulls and limbs have been crushed. The expert on historical weapons has made his extensive collection of early modern weaponry available for study. By direct comparison it is possible to determine whether a particular injury was caused by a sword, sabre or halberd. Using the same method, it is also possible to identify the deadly firearm.

Human genetics – historic DNA
Dr Rebecca Renneberg
formerly of theInstitute of Legal Medicine and University Hospital, Christian Albrecht University, Kiel

Dr R. Renneberg (Photograph: BLDAM)

DNA can survive intact for hundreds of years within human teeth and this makes them particularly well-suited for the genetic analysis of people who died long ago. The human geneticist examines the teeth of the mercenaries and attempts to recover and analyse genetic material, which provides additional information about the individuals and their physical appearance.

Diagnostic radiology – researching with X-rays
Dr Beate Rehbock

Dr Beate Rehbock (left) and the radiographer Astrid Rosenfeld (Photograph: BLDAM)

X-rays, when shone through the mercenaries’ bones, produce radiographic images in which it is possible to identify a range of diseases. The diagnostic radiologist conducts examinations on selected elements of every skeleton. Defects and deformities become visible which could not be identified by examining only the surface of the bone. These findings are a significant contribution to our knowledge about the burden of disease.

Facial reconstruction – show me your face
Hilja Hoevenberg
Brandenburg State Institute for Forensic Medicine, Potsdam

Hilja Hoevenberg (Photogr: BLR)

It is not easy to reconstruct the face of someone who lived centuries ago. With her innovative approach, the medical examiner has become an expert in the field. Using the skull as a basis she models the muscles, skin and hair to create a full reconstruction of the face of a mercenary who died during the Battle of Wittstock in the year 1636.

Ballistics – even ordinary-looking finds
are important evidence

Eastphalian Metal Detecting Association

Eastphalian metal detectorists and BLDAM staff members (Photograph: BLDAM)

During the surveys, volunteers from the Eastphalian Metal Detecting Association and members of staff from the BLDAM find hundreds of musket balls and other small finds dating from the 17th century. By analysing the weight, diameter and degree of deformation of the projectiles, Anja Grothe can determine the range from which they were fired and the calibre of the firearms used. With this information, conclusions can be drawn about the weapons and military tactics that were employed during the battle.

Numismatics – give me all of your money
Burkard Schauer

Burkhard Schauer (Photograph: BLDAM)

The numismatist identifies the coins found on the battlefield. He can tell whether it is debased coinage from the “Tipper and See-Saw Time” or “honest money” with a higher silver content. Details of the year and place of minting allow conclusions to be drawn about the circulation of money during the Thirty Years War. More coins were lost or deliberately buried during this period than at any other time in German history.