Construction work in the area has revealed the bodies of the French soldiers.
The construction site in Frankfurt has been turned over to archaeologists to exhume the warriors of the Grand Army of France retreating from their emperor’s debacle in Russia.
“We estimate that about 200 people were buried here,” said Olaf Cunitz, head of the town planning for the city.
“According to our preliminary estimate, they are soldiers from the Great Army in 1813 who were on the way back from Napoleon’s Russian campaign.”
They had fought battles that claimed 15,000 lives around Frankfurt in October 1813, said Cunitz.
Andrea Hampel, the heritage and historic monuments director in Frankfurt, said it was certain that the “tombs were erected in an emergency”.
ᴍᴏsᴛ ᴅɪᴇᴅ ғʀᴏᴍ ᴡᴏᴜɴᴅs ɪɴᴄᴜʀʀᴇᴅ ɪɴ ᴄᴏᴍʙᴀᴛ ᴏʀ sᴜᴄᴄᴜᴍʙᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴛʏᴘʜᴜs ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ᴛᴏʀᴇ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ ᴛʜᴇ ʀᴀɴᴋs ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴛɪᴍᴇ.
The soldiers were buried in individual coffins which kept their skeletons well-preserved.
Over 30 bodies have been excavated and the rest will be exhumed over the next month.
The Monuments Office in Frankfurt spoke of the find being a “sensation” and along with the well-preserved skeletons were found shards of uniform, buttons, and personal belongings of the dead warriors.
Back in 1979, a handful of individual graves of Napoleonic soldiers were found in the same area. That meant when development began last week to construct a block of flats the local archaeological authorities were present when the diggers moved in.
“This is something extraordinary, something we have never experienced here before,” said Monuments Office official Andrea Hampel after the discovery on Thursday.
The French were forced into a fighting retreat from Moscow and as many as 15,000 troops lost their lives on battlefields around Frankfurt.
It is believed that a French military hospital stood on the site, accounting for the large number of corpses in one place.
The remains will undergo an anthropological investigation which will determine where the dead came from, including how many were mercenaries from Denmark and the Netherlands.