2010

Here are details of the papers given at the 2010 conference.

Keynote Paper

Theory in conflict archaeology

Gabriel Moshenska

For a young discipline, conflict archaeology has a surprisingly rich and diverse body of theory, despite its roots in the notoriously turgid fields of heritage management and battlefield archaeology. In this paper I will examine these roots as well as the current state of conflict archaeology theory, particularly the powerful influences of anthropology and heritage studies as represented in the work of Saunders, Schofield, Carman and others.  At present, conflict archaeology is overwhelmingly post-processual, leaning heavily towards the social contexts and multiple interpretive narratives of conflict material culture and research, but there is a growing move towards more traditional analytical archaeological approaches. This is based in part on the unique uniformity and standardisation of much of the material culture of conflict, which invite models based on cultural evolution and agency theory.

These represent one future direction for conflict archaeological research, but I would like to highlight another, that of archaeology of conflict as a history-from-below of human violence and suffering, as driven by the works of John Keegan and others. For archaeologists to make a contribution to the study of the interaction of people, places and things in conflict we need a better understanding of behavioural psychology, particularly in the areas of military training, combat and post-traumatic stress. Conflict is a state of exception, and any theoretically informed study of the material remains of conflict that aspires to relevance and significance must be rooted in a strong appreciation of the atypical human environment in which they were created. As the soldier and archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler observed, ‘we too often dig up mere things, unrepentantly forgetful that our proper aim is to dig up people’.

Rediscovering Fields of Conflict: A Case Study from the WWII Fleet Anchorage Scapa Flow, Orkney

Gavin J Lindsay BA (Hons), MA

On the 17th October 1939 a drone of engines and the wail of air raid sirens marked the beginning of a fierce battle over the skies of Britain. But this was not the Battle of Britain, this was the Battle for Orkney – a campaign of equally drastic consequences that could have changed the course of World War Two and yet one which has traditionally never been viewed as a battle. The histories of the wartime fleet anchorage of Scapa Flow largely document key events or describes Scapa Flow the “fortress,” the most heavily defended WWII ports in Europe with an anti-aircraft barrage more deadly than Malta. However, seldom is there mention of the German attempt at a small scale Pearl Harbour on the British Home Fleet.  Despite recorded textual and oral accounts and well-preserved material evidence, Scapa Flow has not previously been considered a field of conflict. Using all three sources of evidence, this case study demonstrates the benefits of multidisciplinary approaches where textual, oral and material evidence can be combined to reinterpret a series of events as a battle of dramatic consequence.

With the importance of Orkney’s wartime remains realised, the question of management of this well-preserved resource is brought to the fore. This paper takes issue with the definitions of battlefields, our perceptions of them and how such attitudes have influenced the classification and management of 20th century military sites both within and out with the UK. Although it is recognised within the profession that battlefield is not the best term to be applied to recent conflict, it continues to be used for archaeological management and interpretation purposes. This paper raises the question of whether the current forms of monument protection benefit the wartime resource and if they do not then whether the definitions should be readdressed or entirely replaced.

Attention should be drawn to the fact that the stampede occurred among foreign-born inhabitants’: racism and conflict in London’s East End

Emma Dwyer, University of Leicester. dwyer@linuxmail.org

For Londoners, air raids were a common occurrence during the First World War, as bombs were dropped on the capital by Zeppelin airships, and later by Gotha bomber planes, causing thousands of casualties. One of the largest civilian losses of life occurred in January 1918, when fourteen people were killed, not by a bomb, but during the rush to enter an air raid shelter close to Spitalfields, and its large Eastern European Jewish community.

The tragedy was compounded by the findings of the coroner’s inquest, and contemporary newspaper accounts, which blamed the stampede at the shelter on the area’s Jews. Racial conflict has a long history in the East End, from the antipathy towards Jews escaping the pogroms of Eastern Europe, to the aggression exerted by fascist groups towards Bangladeshi migrants from the 1970s onwards. This paper will look at how this conflict has been shaped by, and manifested within, the very streets and buildings of the neighbourhood.

The Wipers Times: text from the Western Front, WWI – an anthropological archaeology

Melanie Winterton, University of Bristol. mw5715@bristol.ac.uk

This paper will explore text as material culture using The Wipers Times as an example. The Wipers Times is the best known of the many trench papers written and published by soldiers during the First World War. It is representative of soldiers’ views of, and experiences in, their perceived trench world and little incidents of daily life in the Salient were turned into adverts or small paragraphs containing a mix of sarcasm and black humour. This paper explores the power of text. Writing and reading the Wipers Times reflects the construction of an identity that offers momentary relief from the hells experienced in the trenches – for a moment in time, in their contested space, the soldiers can think about something else rather than the horrific realities of trench warfare – for a moment in time they are in control of what they experience in their contested space in the trenches.

Today, The Wipers Times is a commemorative legacy and a literary means of remembering soldiers’ experiences.

Leaving their Marks: The Archaeology & Anthropological Interpretation of WW1 Subterranean Military Graffiti on the Western Front

Lt Col (Retd) Mike Dolamore MBE, BSC

The Great War witnessed the use of mining and tunneling on an unparalleled scale in support of surface operations on the Western Front. However, the subject of subterranean warfare remains relatively sparsely documented and its integration with, and importance to, surface operations poorly understood. Much of the infrastructure associated with mining and tunneling remains lost from sight beneath the ground with access rarely gained. However, The Durand Group’s work at Vimy Ridge over the past decade has resulted in access being gained into a number of deep level defensive mining systems, higher level subways and other associated subterranean features where extensive caches of military graffiti have been discovered and are being recorded.

This paper will examine the difficulties associated in reaching and working with these unique historical archives, the problems involved in accurately recording the graffiti and the issues surrounding its preservation as well as that of how best to bring the material back ‘into the light’ for further academic study and research. The typology of the graffiti recorded will be discussed in order to examine the anthropological importance of the material and highlight how it graphically reconnects the modern world with the soldiers of the Great War.

The Soviet Graffiti of Kummersdorf

Hans Hack & Sam Merril

30km south of Berlin lies the former military testing site of Kummersdorf. 3519ha in size, Kummersdorf is a uniquely complex site that was occupied from 1875 until 1994. It has the potential to complement existing knowledge of military weaponry, technology, architecture and policy and provide insights into the lives of its former occupants. However, the number of available relevant historical resources is limited and few historical investigations into the site have been conducted. The soviet period of occupation between 1945 and 1994 has received little academic attention. Within this period parts of the site became the canvases for soviet graffiti and murals. This graffiti can be recognised as an archaeological resource that can help overcome the lack of written evidence and further the objectives of heritage management to understand the site’s cultural significance and develop interpretation narratives and strategies. A survey of the graffiti and related oral histories will be conducted within a framework provided by relevant archaeological and heritage theory and a concise literature review. The proposed paper will illustrate the nature, distribution and development of the soviet graffiti and demonstrate how it can inform us of daily life at the site and contribute to the site’s cultural significance.

Landscape of destruction: An archaeology of Second World War in northern Finnmark, Norway

Heinrich Natho, University of Bamberg (Germany)

The Finnmark, as with the rest of Norway, was occupied by Germany during the second World War. The retreat of the Wehrmacht in the autumn of 1944 changed this region in a way which is unique in Europe. When it became clear that the advance of the Russian army was unstoppable Hitler decided to withdraw and raze to the ground the whole Finnmark region and also parts of Troms. Only two villages in the east of Finnmark and some individual buildings in the region survived this scorched earth policy. The German military bases will be the core of this paper. Even today their remains are clearly visible in the Landscape. Not only did they play a central role in the defence of the Norwegian coast but their very presence was a key element in the physical and psychological occupation of Norway.

In the months to come I will carry out a survey of several of these bases in cooperation with the North Cape Museum and the University of Tromsø. Special attention will be paid to the spatial significance of these bases on the landscape in general and, more specifically, to their impact on the settlements in the surrounding areas. A close look will also be taken at the destruction of the bases themselves.

From Trajan to ‘TE’:  2000 Years of Conflict Stratigraphy in Wadi Yutm, Southern Jordan

John M. Scott, University of Bristol

Archaeological reconnaissance in Wadi Yutm of southern Jordan during the spring of 2010 observed well-preserved Roman forts from the time of Trajan to modern defensive structures built and repaired by the Jordanians that were likely occupied during the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars. Research to the north of Yutm and to the immediate south in Aqaba suggests that Iron Age and Islamic Period fortifications may also be present within this strategic valley. Wadi Yutm appears to be a landscape of defensive and conflict sites from different eras used to control passage through the valley. The reconnaissance was preparatory to a 9000-acre archaeological survey of the wadi to document the Ottoman strongholds of Kethera and Khadra attacked by Lawrence and the Arab guerrillas during WWI.  Neither of these forts has been identified thus far, and additional work is proposed to locate these forts and other conflict sites associated with the Great Arab Revolt of 1916 -1918 and WWI within Wadi Yutm. The results of the proposed inventory can contribute to the understanding of the modernization of conflict and modern conflict Stratigraphy.  Photographs of the Roman fortifications and the modern defences will be presented, as will previous regional research and T. E. Lawrence’s account of the Great Arab Revolt actions within the wadi.