IT was where Napoleon met the defeat which was to mark his fall from Emperor of the French, back to a life of exile.

The battle of Waterloo involved and affected almost every European nation before the British and Allied troops under Wellington, along with the Prussian army, claimed victory.

Now a team of archaeologists led by Glasgow University's Dr Tony Pollard aims to resolve some of the conflicting first-hand accounts of the famous battle which was fought almost 200 years ago on June 18, 1815.

Waterloo Uncovered, a landmark archaeological project to explore the battlefield, has broken ground in its exploration of the area in Belgium.

The team, which includes international archaeologists and British army veterans as well as some still serving in the Coldstream Guards, has been working on site at Waterloo on the project's first excavations.

Through a combination of geo-physical survey work, metal detecting and test trenches, the team has started to explore the area of a former wood that dominated the French army's approach to the Hougoumont farm buildings which were defended by regiments including the Coldstream Guards.

Already, they have discovered spent musket balls fired by both British and French troops at the southern extremity of this wood. These are thought to be some of the first shots fired in the battle.

Dr Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University, said: "The full team has only been working on site for two days and we have made some very interesting discoveries.

"In particular, we have started a comprehensive survey, including metal detecting, of the area of the former wood to the south of the Hougoumont buildings and we have already found spent and unfired musket shots at the southern-most tip of the wood, also fragments of firearms and clothing such as uniform buttons.

"We know that shots were exchanged between the French and Allied armies in these woods during the night before the battle, as the French probed the allied position and the first real fighting took place in the same spot. I am confident these shots were fired very early in the battle, probably in the first exchanges."

Mark Evans, project co-ordinator of Waterloo Uncovered, added: "Understanding what happened in the woods is key to understanding what happened at Hougoumont.

"Having soldiers and veterans - with real experience of battle - offers a unique perspective on what it must have been like to have fought on that day 200 years ago."

Waterloo Uncovered is the brainchild of two Coldstream Guards officers, Major Charles Foinette, who currently serves with 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, and Mark Evans, who suffered from PTSD following his experience in Afghanistan.

The project will also partner Operation Nightingale, an award winning, Ministry of Defence-backed initiative to aid injured veterans' recovery and provide life and vocational skills through archaeology.

British archaeologists are working alongside Belgian colleagues from the University of Ghent's Department of Soil Management.

Dr Marc Van Meirvenne, head of the department, said: "The battlefield of Waterloo has remained largely unprospected for buried remains of the battle.

"Today, we have the technology to scan these lands efficiently in sufficient detail to direct archaeological excavations.

"The opportunity to do this jointly with veterans from a regiment who played a key role at the battle, the Coldstream Guards, is unique and adds an impressive social dimension to this project."

Also on the team is Gaille MacKinnon, from the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, who will oversee the investigation of any graves encountered during the various archaeological surveys undertaken as part of the project.

Ms MacKinnon is a lecturer in Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology. Her expertise has been utilised in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, mass fatality and terrorist incidents, transportation accidents, natural disasters and UK major crime investigations.