The excavation of the Mas de Santa Magdalena grave, a Civil War field hospital in Mora de Ebro (Tarragona), is revealing that 30% of the buried soldiers they were young people of about 17 years or even younger, possibly volunteers or members of the ‘Quinta del Biberón’.
The Mas de Santa Magdalena It was used as a war hospital by the Republican army from July to September 1938, in the middle of the Battle of the Ebro, where emergency operations were carried out on the most serious soldiers and the rest were transferred to the city.
Until now, the remains of 10 people have been identified, including three civilians, three Republican soldiers, two soldiers from the rebel side and two maquis, as the anthropologist who coordinates the relationship between the laboratory and the police has informed Efe. excavation, Antònia Díaz-Carvajal.
Díaz-Carvajal has indicated that around 30% of these recovered bodies belong to young people of about 17 years old, who could be part of the so-called ‘Quinta del Biberón’, while the rest are in a strip that reaches the 35 or 40 years old.
“We are still talking about very preliminary results, but there is some skeleton that could even be less than 17 years old and that, if it were not one of the fifths, could be one of the volunteers that some testimony has referred, but it still has to be corroborated “, explains the anthropologist.
Between 5 and 8 bodies a week
Currently, there are 67 burial points located around Mas de Santa Magdalena, 28 of them have already been opened or are in the process of being excavated and, in them 84 bodies have been located, 69 of which have already been exhumed.
The director of the excavation, Sergi González, foresees at least three more months of work in which they hope to find many more remains of Republican soldiers, “at a rate of between 5 and 8 new bodies a week”, he assures.
The notebook of doctor Miquel Gras Artero, one of the hospital’s doctors and that was provided at the time by the association No Jubilem the Memory, from Priorat, is the only clue to identify with names and surnames more than thirty soldiers who died in the Mas de Santa Magdalena.
Among them are the soldiers Josep Aubeso and Joan Urgell, whose relatives have been located thanks to Dr. Gras’ notebook, although they are still awaiting confirmation of the genetic analyzes.
For Díaz-Carvajal, “from an anthropological point of view this is an important grave because of its size, but also because it shows many medical conditions and their treatment, which are interesting on a scientific level. “
“Several splints and even gangrenous and amputated limbs have also been found”
“We are talking about trauma, serious injuries and fractures, most caused by shrapnelSeveral splints and even gangrenous and amputated limbs have also been found that were also buried next to the body, “he adds.
“Although the objective of the pit is the recovery of the skeletons, it also allows us to visualize the medical rhythm of a field hospital, where they could be taken to the practice new methodologies and, in this sense, the civil war allowed an experimentation that brought many advances “, comments the anthropologist.
The remains that are extracted from the pit are transferred to the laboratory to be analyzed by means of a DNA extraction, thanks to which 315 genetic profiles have already been prepared, which are then compared with a database that currently has some 2,500 DNA samples from living donors.
The census of missing persons also has around 6,000 registered cases and it is estimated that in Catalonia there are some 20,000 people buried in graves from the Civil War, of which the General Directorate of Democratic Memory of the Generalitat has documented 527.
In connection with this excavation, Memoria Democrática is also processing the acquisition of a collection of the photographer Alec wainman, a British brigadista who captured images of the moment when the graves of Santa Magdalena were excavated.
The images are in the hands of his son, in Canada, and in addition to their historical and documentary value, they could also help in the investigation to determine new points to excavate where the burials were made.