Lützen-Almost 400 years since it began, researchers have revealed new findings about the lives and deaths of soldiers who fought in The Thirty Years’ War.

Some 9,000 soldiers were buried by townspeople in Lützen, Germany, midway through the war in 1632, and scientists have now analysed many of the remains.

Their analysis indicates that most of these soldiers were killed by gunfire - something that was very unusual for this time. 

The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618 to 1648, and started between Catholics and Protestants within the Holy Roman Empire.

While most of the battles were fought in Germany, many touched other countries in central Europe.

And it wasn’t just battles that caused huge numbers of deaths during this time – famine and disease also devastated populations.

In 2011, archaeologists discovered a mass grave in Lutzen, and lifted the remains from the ground in a huge 55-ton block.

Now, archaeologists from the State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt have analysed the remains of 47 soldiers from the block.

The findings, which are published in PLOS One, showed that while many of men had cut and slash marks on their bones, bladed weapons were not the cause of most of their deaths.

Instead over half the men were killed by gunfire, with 21 suffering wounds to the head, 11 of which had bullets still lodged in their skulls.

According to the researchers, this high number of gunshot wounds was unusual for this time.

In their paper, the researchers, led by Nicole Nicklisch, wrote: ‘Although firearms were becoming more readily available, bladed weapons were still the weapons of choice for hand-to-hand combat.’

Two of the skeletons also had bullets in the mouths – something that soldiers often did on the battlefield to ensure they could quickly re-load their guns.

Analysis also revealed that most of the men were already injured before their final battle, with several head wounds, and healing bone injuries.

Little clothes were found within the grave, suggesting that the soldiers had their uniforms removed before they were buried.

The researchers suggest that most of the soldiers found were fighting for the Swedish army, though soldiers for the imperial Catholic army could have been buried there too.

Two of the skeletons also had bullets in the mouths – something that soldiers often did on the battlefield to ensure they could quickly re-load their guns.

And while some bodies were placed with care into the grave, others had been recklessly thrown in by the townspeople of Lutzen.

The researchers wrote: ‘It can certainly be assumed that the local population of Lützen did not have a positive attitude towards the fallen soldiers, regardless of any military affiliation.

‘In the Thirty Years’ War, every battle brought destruction and deprivation for the rural population.’