2009

Here are details of the papers given at the 2009 conference.

Beyond the Dotted Line: Second World War Anti-Invasion defences in Wales.

Jonathan Berry, Birmingham University.

Within the discipline of conflict archaeology, the study of UK Second World War anti-invasion defences has emerged as a rich source of archaeological information, both popular and academic. The subject is relatively well researched, described and published in England and Scotland, but much less well known and understood in Wales. This paper deals broadly with the militarisation of the Welsh landscape, in particular the construction of coastal crust beach and inland stop line defences established during the summer of 1940. Following a brief historical overview, the paper will examine the reasons why the resource is so poorly understood in Wales and explain the research methodology adopted to investigate this subject. Using archaeological and historical sources, the interim results of ongoing data collection will be presented, identifying the general character (i.e. number, location, routes and component parts) of the Welsh anti-invasion system. A synthetic study of the processes of militarisation and the subsequent defence archaeology provides a data set that highlights the distinctiveness of Welsh anti-invasion defences and provides a framework for comparison with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The influence of the Welsh physical and human landscape will be discussed, which reveals a nuanced and complex interaction between the fortifications and notions of ‘defence’ and ‘place’ through the subversion of existing and construction of new identities.

We shall defend this island….

Phil Rowe, University of Bristol.

Questionably surpassing the menace from Napoleon Bonaparte to present the single biggest threat of invasion since William the Conqueror and the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD, in order to counter the imminent danger from Germany, extensive defensive fortifications were constructed across the country during the summer months of 1940.Surprisingly, however, though still in living memory, detailed understanding of the response to a possible invasion is still somewhat limited, with the overall general public’s perception of Britain’s anti – invasion defensive network being that of a hastily conceived and constructed defence, short of both men and equipment, and probably ineffective if tested, an image best portrayed by the BBC comedy ‘Dad’s Army’. This notion, however, is one that is now slowly changing, with the last few years seeing increased literature, both academic as well as general, on the subject that counters this ‘Folly / Heath Robinson’ depiction of the defences erected. But how can archaeology assist in the re-addressing of this imbalance in perception?

This paper will set out to address questions such as to ‘Why were the defences placed where they were’ and ‘How effective were they considered to be? By presenting an archaeological landscape study on part of the Bristol Outer Defence, a 5km stretch of the ‘Stop Line Green’, located south of Bristol, in order to establish the perceived strategic effectiveness of the defence’s location within the landscape.

Looking Between the Lines – Developing a methodology for investigating the conflict archaeology of urban landscapes in WW2.

Andy Brockman, Southampton University.

This paper will use research, excavation interpretation and dissemination work carried out as part of the “Digging Dad’s Army Project, ” in east and south east London, as a case study in developing a methodology for a community based Conflict Archaeology of World War Two. Community based because, it will be argued, this is some of the most personally engaged archaeology it is possible to undertake, both as a field worker and as a member of the archaeological audience, with multiple layers of information, ownership and cultural identity. In his book, “Killing Time,” Dr Nicholas Saunders comments that it is ironic that the interest of the archaeological community has been kindled in an archaeology of World War One, just as the last living witnesses are passing on. The author will suggest as far as World War Two and its political and cultural context are concerned, archaeologists have an un-paralleled opportunity to explore the archaeology of that conflict using the full range of techniques available to contemporary field workers. However that opportunity is time limited by the life span of human witnesses.

It will be suggested that the issue of data collection should be fully integrated with a comprehensive programme of dissemination to a range of audiences from the professional to the interested public, not least because well targeted interpretation and dissemination will generate further participation and further data. It is also an archaeology which belongs to the community.

Making Soldiers: The Archaeology of Great War Training.

Martin Brown.

The training of soldiers is an essential part of the military process. At the outset of the Great War the British Army was faced with the prospect of transforming a multitude of volunteers with no military background into soldiers. At the same time they had to adapt to the development of static trench warfare and the introduction of new weapons, tactics and technologies designed to break the stalemate, such as tanks and gas. Military training has long made use of representations of combat locations, whether Roman practice camps or the modern Forward Operating Base encountered in Iraq. Across the home nations and the reserve areas of the Front it is possible to discern training grounds, many of them seeking to replicate, in some sense, the iconic trenches. How successful these features are as authentic representations appears to be shaped by a number of features, including the surrounding landscape, situation within terrain, their use in training, and the skill of the individuals involved in their creation. Study of these trenches reveals varying levels of authenticity, as well as narratives relating to the development of the conflict. Conceptually these fieldworks may not only have represented distilled experience used to educate and train but may also present a narrative of the conflict as it developed. The modern resonance and possible meaning of these monuments will also be considered

World War Archaeology in Belgium.

Tim De Craene. University of Ghent.

For many decades, the former Great War battlefields in Belgium have been scavenged by the local population, initially for profit, later also out of historical interest. Battlefield archaeology on Flanders Fields thus originates from below, but almost a hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the academic world and the government are taking up an interest as well. This paper will give the students an introduction to the field of world war archaeology in Belgium. An overview of the history of the discipline and the main parties involved will be presented. Some practical cases will demonstrate how conflict archaeology is closely tied up with history and anthropology, but also with memory, education and commercialization.

Some ethical and practical difficulties will be put up for discussion towards the public. Would the recognition of large modern conflict areas as archaeological heritage not imply a brake on development? And what about the large amounts of human remains and unexploded ordnance to be found on the sites?

A Defence Dictated: The Changing Role of Mushroom-Shaped Communist Bunkers in Albania.

Emily Glass. University of Bristol.

Between the end of World War II and 1991 Albania was subject to Communist rule under the ideological direction of the Dictator Enver Hoxha. An earlier history of invasion and occupation by foreign forces had predisposed the population of Albania to be sensitive regarding its neighbouring countries. One of Enver Hoxha’s defensive responses to this was the production and installation of vast quantities of mushroom-shaped bunkers across the entire country. These small bunkers served to protect Albania from outside forces but were also utilised internally to maintain a ‘siege mentality’ and control the population to the advantage of the Hoxha Leadership. Mushroom-shaped bunkers form one of the most ubiquitous legacies of a paranoid and xenophobic dictatorship, which lasted for over 40 years. Since the collapse of Communism, bunkers have persisted both materially and psychologically in Albanian society as a tangible element of the country’s cultural and social history. This continued influence on the population can be observed through the re-use and reinterpretation of these structures for functional, recreational and commercial purposes.

This paper will explore these bunkers from a material culture perspective and investigate the complex layers of meaning and identity, which are encapsulated within them. It will also show that as Albania moves from Communism towards a Capitalist economy the previous bunker connotations of terror and control are being reordered towards a new Albania.

Desert Conflict and the X files, 1916-1918.

John Winterburn, University of Bristol.

This paper will initially explore how the Great Arab Revolt Project is approaching the archaeology of an episode of the First World War, in what is today southern Jordan and will then examine the role of a multidisciplinary approach to combining historical research with satellite imagery and rapid reconnaissance in the field. This is conflict archaeology with the ability to create conflict in an area where public engagement with the archaeologists has, at times, resulted in hostility towards the team and has raised questions about drawing attention to surviving archaeology. The paper will conclude with my own research, which is associated with the project. The study of Conflict Archaeology of the First World War can be complex mix of Industrial, historical, contemporary and landscape archaeologies, blended with social anthropology and material culture. In what is today southern Jordan, during the period 1916-1918 there was a period of conflict that was radically different from the wholesale slaughter of the Western Front. The Ottoman Imperial Army was tied down in static defences guarding a long logistics tail stretching over 2000 km to the “ends of empire” in Mecca and was threatening Britain’s own Muslim territories in India (via the Suez Canal) and Egypt.

The Great Arab Revolt of 1916 -1918 saw a highly mobile guerrilla force lead by the princes of the Hashemite dynasty and supported by the British, and most famously by TE Lawrence, engage with the Imperial Ottoman Army. Within this conflict a small band of pioneer aviators battled with the technical limitations of early aircraft and a hostile mountainous desert region to conduct a series of reconnaissance and bombing missions along the Hejaz railway.

Historical research is uncovering a series of reconnaissance and bombing reports made by X flight of the Royal flying Corps in 1917 – 1918 which are being utilised to locate surviving archaeology and to question the interpretation of encampments along the Hejaz railway. A number of the reconnaissance reports contain sketch maps made by pilots. By analysing the maps and reconnaissance reports and combining this with an intimate knowledge of the landscapes depicted further information can be obtained about how memory and scale were used to record features in a manner similar to that employed by archaeologists of today.

Conflict Material Culture made from Human and Animal Bone, 1898 -1945.

Sussie Callow. University of Bristol.

Expanding upon material culture-centred conflict studies, such as the work of Nicholas Saunders and Simon Harrison, this paper discusses artefacts made of human and animal bone produced in Western conflicts between 1898 and 1945. Whether souvenirs, trophies, or occupational therapy, I argue that these artefacts are a material manifestation of the varying effects of conflict upon human behaviour. For example, artefacts such as human skull trophies reflect the psychological impact of involvement in violent conflict, altering attitudes to the body and blurring the boundaries of acceptable conduct. The objects frequently provoke revulsion. The material culture of necessity created from animal bone in prisoner of war camps demonstrates individual and collective struggles against the hardships of confinement, often inspiring admiration.

Thus, the type of bone used affects the objects’ abilities to influence human emotions. This paper reveals a dichotomy of associated meaning between human and animal bone artefacts, attributable both to varying experiences of conflict and to the inherent significances associated with the raw material.

Material Culture and the Micro-Politics of Change.

James R Dixon, University of the West of England.

Urban regeneration is both constant and traumatic. Any general trend of development finds itself punctuated by daily moments of conflict surrounding the proposed fate of particular trees, buildings, lampposts etc. Placing contested material culture at the centre of analysis, we can use these moments of conflict, and the way in which they come about and are resolved, to understand the process of change, on a daily basis rather than with hindsight. This leads us to a truly contemporary archaeology where, in material-centred conflict, we see past, present and future physically manifested in the present day, and we can even begin to consider individual hours or the duration of a planning meeting as having archaeological significance.

This paper seeks to answer two questions. 1) To what extent and in what ways does material culture inspire conflict and to what extent does it come to reflect it? 2) Can the study of contemporary urban conflict make significant steps in developing an archaeology of ongoing daily life?

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