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    Were bones of Waterloo soldiers sold as fertilizer? It’s not yet case closed / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 10 August, 2022 - 20:00 · 1 minute

<em>The Morning after the Battle of Waterloo</em>, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816.

Enlarge / The Morning after the Battle of Waterloo , by John Heaviside Clark, 1816. (credit: Public domain )

When Napoleon was infamously defeated at Waterloo in 1815, the conflict left a battlefield littered with thousands of corpses and the inevitable detritus of war. But what happened to all those dead bodies? Only one full skeleton has been found at the site, much to the bewilderment of archaeologists. Contemporary accounts tell of French bodies being burned by local peasants, with other bodies being dumped into mass graves. And some accounts describe how scattered bones were collected and ground up into meal to use as fertilizer.

It's that last claim that particularly interests Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. He has examined historical source materials like memoirs and journals of early visitors, as well as artworks, to map the missing grave sites on the Waterloo battlefield in hopes of finding a definitive answer. He recently provided an update on his efforts thus far in a recent paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology.

Napoleon had initially been defeated and deposed as emperor of France in 1813, ending up in exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean. He briefly returned to power in March 1815 for what is now known as the Hundred Days . Several states opposed to his rule formed the Seventh Coalition, including a British-led multinational army led by the Duke of Wellington, and a larger Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal von Blücher. Those were the armies that clashed with Napoleon's Armée du Nord at Waterloo.

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    CT shows ancient Egyptian pharaoh was captured in battle and executed / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 17 February, 2021 - 21:59

CT shows ancient Egyptian pharaoh was captured in battle and executed

Enlarge (credit: Saleem and Hawass 2021)

CT scans of a mummified Egyptian pharaoh, once suspected to be the victim of a palace assassination, suggest that he was actually executed after being captured in battle in the mid-16th century BCE.

Pharaoh Seqenenre led his army from Upper Egypt in the 1550s BCE to face the Hyksos, a group of warriors from the Levant who occupied Lower Egypt and demanded tribute from Upper Egypt during what historians call the Second Intermediate Period. It’s known that Seqenenre died during this conflict, but it’s been unclear whether he was assassinated in his bed in the palace at Thebes or died on the battlefield.

A computed tomography (CT) scan offered a look at his wounds, along with the details of his mummification. Radiologist Sahar Saleem of Cairo University and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass concluded that he most likely died near the front lines and was brought back to Thebes for mummification and burial.

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    Scientists ID potential biomarkers to peg time of death for submerged corpses / ArsTechnica · Saturday, 26 December, 2020 - 22:31 · 1 minute

Hamlet, who goes mad and drowns in a brook. It can be challenging for forensic scientists to determine how long a dead body has been submerged in water.' src='' >

Enlarge / Ophelia (1852) by John Everett Millais, inspired by the character in Shakespeare's Hamlet , who goes mad and drowns in a brook. It can be challenging for forensic scientists to determine how long a dead body has been submerged in water.

There's rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we're once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2020, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: identifying potential biomarkers (in mice) for pegging time of death in waterlogged corpses.

Correctly estimating time of death looks so easy in fictional police procedurals, but it's one of the more challenging aspects of a forensic pathologist's job. This is particularly true for corpses found in water, where a multitude of additional variables make it even more difficult to determine how long a body has been submerged. A team of scientists at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK, have hit upon a new method for making that determination, involving the measurement of levels of certain proteins in bones. They described their findings in an April paper in the Journal of Proteome Research.

Co-author Noemi Procopio has been interested in forensic science since she was 14, but initially studied biotechnology because her home country of Italy didn't have forensic science programs. When she moved to the University of Manchester in the UK to complete her PhD, she chose to specialize in the application of proteomics  (the large-scale study of proteins) to the field, thanks to the influence of a former supervisor, an archaeologist who applied proteomics to bones.

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    Famous strange demises get a second look in The Curious Life and Death of… / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 1 October, 2020 - 10:45 · 1 minute

Medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris hosts the Smithsonian Channel's new documentary series The Curious Life and Death of....

Infamous historical cold cases get a scientific face-lift in The Curious Life and Death Of... , a new documentary series from the Smithsonian Channel. Hosted by author and medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris , each of the six episodes takes a fresh look at a famous death with a mystery attached to it and sifts through the scientific clues to (hopefully) arrive at fresh insights.

Per the official synopsis:

Author and medical historian Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris will use science, tests, and demonstrations to shed new light on famous deaths, ranging from drug lord Pablo Escobar to magician Harry Houdini. Using her lab to perform virtual autopsies, experiment with blood samples, interview witnesses and conduct real-time demonstrations, Dr. Fitzharris will put everything about these mysterious deaths to the test. Along the way, she'll be joined by a revolving cast of experts, including Scotland Yard detectives, medical examiners, weapons gurus and more.

A noted science communicator with a large Twitter following and a fondness for the medically macabre, Fitzharris published a biography of surgical pioneer Joseph Lister, The Butchering Art , in 2017. (It's a great, if occasionally grisly, read.)

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