Archaeology news: Long-forgotten WWI cemeteries point to ‘several dozen more’ secrets
The archaeological discoveries were made in southeast Poland, where fierce battles were fought in the winter of 1915. World War I, which was fought between 1914 and 1918, is estimated to have mobilised some 60 million Europeans and killed more than 20 million people. And although Poland did not exist as an independent state during the conflict, it served as a theatre of war for the Prussian, Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires.
The first of the newly discovered cemeteries was unearthed in Łupków, a small village in the Subcarpathian region.
Archaeologists have determined the cemetery was most likely divided into two sectors, for Russian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers respectively.
A second cemetery was then found in the nearby village of Zubeńsko.
There, the cemetery was divided into four sections, including one for Czech troops fighting under the banner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
However, archaeologists from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków believe many more burial grounds are hidden throughout the region.
Lead researcher Dr Marcin Czarnowicz said: “The areas of both cemeteries have been restored to their original state, that is, the excavations were filled in.
“To mark the places, crosses were raised with the information that these are war cemeteries.”
The expert added “a lot more, maybe even several dozen more” cemeteries are in the region.
To mark the places, crosses were raised
Dr Marcin Czarnowicz, Jagiellonian University
Following intense fighting over Łupków pass in 1915, the dead were typically laid to rest on the battlefield.
According to Dr Czarnowicz, they were buried in trenches and mortar impact craters.
Only once the fighting ceased were the bodies exhumed and interred into war cemeteries.
But after the subsequent horrors of World War II, their existence was forgotten.
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The Kraków archaeologists were able to piece together some clues about their location with the aid of local researchers and history buffs.
Their suspicions were confirmed by analysing digital models of the terrain around Łupków and Zubeńsko.
They then selected a number of sites for their excavation efforts.
For five years now, the researchers have been studying areas along Poland’s border with Slovakia.
Between 1914 and 1915, many bloody battles were fought there between the Russians and Austro-Hungarians.
In past years, they have found field fortifications, artillery positions and communication lines.
One goal of the work is to highlight the role Poles fought in WWI.
Many Austro-Hungarian units carried Polish soldiers recruited from Subcarpathia, for whom the war was a chance for independence.
Starting in 1772, Poland was partitioned and stripped of its independence by the Habsburg dynasty, Prussia and Russia.
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