MCA Conference 2012: Speaker Order and Timings

09.30 – 09.45 Welcome, housekeeping and Dr Nicholas Saunders introduction to ‘Beyond the Dead Horizon’

09.45-10.05 – ‘From Dug-Out to Display Case: The Imperial War Museum and the afterlife of the material culture of conflict’ Alys Cundy (University of Bristol)

10.10-10.30 – ‘Potential for 20th Century Conflict Archaeology in Slovenia’ Uroš Košir (Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia)

10.35-10.55 – ‘The Archaeology of Accidental Decoy Sites: A case study from the WWII fleet base of Scapa Flow’ Gavin J Lindsay (University of Aberdeen)

Short Discussion and Questions

11.05 – 11.30 Break

11.30-11.50 – ‘Profiling the Dead: Demographic characterisation of mass fatality incidents’ Alison Atkin (University of Sheffield)

11.55-12.15 – ‘Assessing the potential contribution of airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) towards the archaeological prospection of 20th century landscape of conflict’ Jack Hanson (University of Birmingham/Staffordshire)

12.20-12.40 – ‘Apprehending the Invisible: Sensor technologies and modern conflict’ Steven Leech (University of Manchester)

Short Discussion and Questions

1pm – 2.15 LUNCH

2.15-2.35 – ‘Archaeological approaches to the aviation materiality of the Spanish Civil War’ – Valentín Álvarez Martínez & M. Carmen Rojo-Ariza (Universities of Oviedo and Barcelona)

2.40-3.00 – ‘Seascape, senses and the social life of a battleship’ – John B Winterburn (University of Bristol)

3.05-3.25 – ‘The Landscape of ‘Black’ Propaganda: The Archaeology of PWE wireless operations during the Second World War’ Derwin Gregory (University of East Anglia)

3.30-3.50 Break

3.50-4.10 ‘A Genealogy of Hybrid Cultural Praxes: Colonial fragments of the Libyan archaeological past’ Benjamin Westwood (University of Durham)

4.15-4.35 ‘Near East: Conflict and Archaeology‘ Roya Arab (University College London)

4.45-5.15 Discussant: Wayne Cocroft

5.30pm End of Day

*Papers will be no more than 20 minutes in length however 25 mins have been allocated to each paper for reasons of changeover/questions etc.

**Further information on the speakers can be found by visiting the Speaker bio page or by clicking here

Paper details

Morning Session #1:

From Dug-Out to Display Case: the Imperial War Museum and the afterlife of the material culture of conflict

Alys Cundy, University of Bristol, Department of Historical Studies

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) was founded in 1917 to record the First World War as it was still being fought. Since then it has acted as one of the principal sites for the collection, preservation and display of the material culture of conflict for Britain and its Commonwealth. Building on the theoretical insights of museum and material culture studies, this paper will explore how the IWM has generated and transmitted meaning in and through this material. Objects of war have been noted for their potential intensity of meaning; born of association with violence, with loss, with killing and with being killed. I will argue that, faced with the symbolic weight of its objects, the IWM has adopted four chief conceptual categories around which its displays have been based; Memory, History, Technology and Aesthetic Value. The present paper will outline the basis for these four categories and describe some of the ways in which they have been manifested at the museum. Ultimately, I will suggest that studying the IWM’s treatment of its objects over nearly a century can tell us something fundamental about the afterlife of the physical remains of conflict.

Potential for the 20th Century Conflict Archaeology in Slovenia

Uroš Košir, Centre for Preventive Archaeology, Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia

Slovenia was the scene of two large armed conflicts: World War I from 1915 to 1917 and World War II from 1941 to 1945. Between 1918 and 1919 there was also another conflict which was comprised of a struggle for the northern frontier, which took place in the border areas of Styria and Carinthia. In the period between both World Wars two larger militarized landscapes were also formed: The Rupnik line of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Vallo Alpino on the Italian side. In the post-World War II period the landscape was further altered by the Yugoslavian National Army creating bunkers, training polygons and army barracks; and finally we can also find traces of the 1991 Slovene War for Independence. In Slovenia we deal with large militarized landscapes, great amounts of remains; trenches, caverns, bunkers, memorials, military cemeteries, post-World War II mass graves and innumerable military and civil items related to conflicts. As a consequence, Slovenia holds numerous private museum collections and commemorations. The events of World War II were an especially important part of collective memory in Post-WWII Yugoslavia and now, since Slovenia has gained its independence, the heritage of the Great War is becoming increasingly important as well.

The study of 20th Century Conflict Archaeology in Slovenia is only in its initial stages of development; but some research has already been conducted and a few instances of archaeological treatment of recent military heritage have been made.

This paper will present some of Slovenia’s 20th century conflict remains and provide an insight into the state of archaeological researches on this theme that have been conducted up until the present day.

The Archaeology of Accidental Decoy Sites: A case study from the WWII fleet base of Scapa Flow

Gavin J Lindsay, University of Aberdeen

As the ink was still drying on the declaration of war between Britain and Germany in 1939, Luftwaffe aircraft were ranging through British skies carrying out reconnaissance. These flights played a crucial role in locating and photographing military sites across the country which informed German military strategy. As war broke out on the 3rd September 1939 Hitler issued orders in his second directive that British naval forces and bases should be the focus of air force and navy operations in the west. As a direct consequence the main anchorage for the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow in Orkney drew a great deal of attention from the Luftwaffe as they searched for targets.

The surviving photographs, maps and interpretive reports offer the archaeologist a fascinating insight into German military intelligence and how their interpretation of the defence landscape influenced their offensive strategy during the opening years of the war. Using Orkney as a case study, this paper will look at how WWI and even Napoleonic defences unintentionally served as decoy sites in the WWII defence of Britain. It is also hoped that this paper will demonstrate how the study of Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance photographs and intelligence reports can aid archaeological site identification and interpretation.

Morning Session #2:

Profiling the dead: demographic characterisation of mass fatality incidents

Alison Atkin, University of Sheffield, Department of Archaeology

In recent years there have been several important archaeological discoveries of mass graves, placing a requirement upon osteoarchaeologists to develop robust methods for reconstructing their demography in order to interpret causative agents of mass mortality.  This paper will discuss recent developments in the application of these methods to episodes of mass fatalities – an area of research that not only contributes to the field of prehistoric and historic archaeology but also influences the archaeology of modern issues, most notably the role of forensic archaeology in mass fatality investigations.

Studies using historical demographic data have identified the distinctive demographic signatures of different catastrophic events, such as civilian and combatant victims of armed conflict.  Using archaeological and forensic assemblages, this paper will look examples from episodes of recent catastrophic mortality and discuss whether the demographic profiles of mass fatality victims from different circumstances and periods differ in their composition and the potential factors influencing these differences; how demographic profiles of mass fatality victims can corroborate what is known from other sources about the composition of the populations affected; the potential impact of these mass fatality events on the overall populations; and whether the current demographic methods in archaeology are sufficient for discussing all the various circumstances and causative factors leading to mass fatality assemblages in the past and the present.

Assessing the potential contribution of airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) towards the archaeological prospection of 20th century landscape of conflict

Jack Hanson, University of Birmingham / University of Staffordshire

The archaeology of twentieth-century conflict and archaeological remote sensing have both rapidly developed in recent decades to become well established sub-disciplines of the study of our material heritage. This research, undertaken as part of a Masters degree at the University of Birmingham, aimed to critically assess the potential application of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) upon historic militarised landscapes. Through a number of case studies the potential for the technique’s considerable contributions to our understanding of landscapes of the more ancient past, have been examined within a more contemporary context.

This paper will argue that the integration of airborne LiDAR within established multi-disciplinary academic frameworks in a manner which attempts to enhance and compliment, but not supersede traditional methodologies, stands to dramatically improve our quantitative records of historic militarised landscapes. Thereby allowing us to more effectively identify, preserve and understand locales and features of interest. Furthermore, the technique’s potential contribution to the study of landscapes of particular significance and exceptionality will be advocated in the hope of instigating further discussion, and therefore progression towards a broader appreciation and application of LiDAR upon militarised landscapes.

Apprehending the Invisible: Sensor Technologies and Modern Conflict

Steven Leech, University of Manchester

This paper will discuss the technological development and cultural legacies of sensory technologies used in the context of air-defence from the First World War through to the Cold War. In particular, it will trace attempts to apprehend invisible and distant hostile forces through the harnessing of technologies which negotiated the intangible. These include site-specific and portable audio location devices, such as the ‘sound mirrors’ along the Kent coast, as well as electronic surveillance technologies at Cold War radar stations. I will argue that these sites were created around technologies that attempted to make the immaterial, such as sound, radio-waves and electro-magnetic pulses, into something sensible, something that could be apprehended. This was manifest in concrete ways at the sites, or rather in the sites (at the heart of their very materialisation, operation and maintenance). I will also consider the implications for contemporary site-specific practices, including sound art interventions and heritage management.


Archaeological approaches to the aviation materiality of the Spanish Civil War

Valentín Álvarez Martínez, University of Oviedo & M. Carmen Rojo-Ariza, University of Barcelona

The air power impact on the development of populations has been pointed out by different scholars from history, sociology and military points of views among others. This described phenomenon emerges throughout the 20th century and maybe it was during the Spanish Civil War (SCW) that these rapid changes in military aviation role can be perceived. This is because, unlike other contexts such as the Second World War in which this role is celebrated, the memory of Air Warfare regarding the SCW has disappeared from the official politics of memory and the subject of how this affected the people has been reduced to a passive element within the study of the SCW. Moreover, the role of the republican air force in the development of the SCW has been underestimated. Through the use of two SCW aviation case studies, our paper will argue how archaeological studies can be used to contest this official discourse in two different regions of Spain: Catalonia and Asturias.

Seascape, senses and the social life of a battleship

John B Winterburn, University of Bristol

At the beginning of the 20th century battleships were a powerful symbol of a nation’s naval power, projecting its military might onto the sea.

These leviathans of the new industrial age engaged in battles by pounding each other with large calibre guns. Warfare on the seas had not changed much for hundreds of years but new technologies began to make the battleships increasingly vulnerable to attack from above and below.

This paper will explore the social life of a battleship over a period spanning the middle decades of the 20th century. It will concentrate on two remarkable  episodes from conflicts separated by 12,000 km and 42 years and will use these example to explore how perceptions of conflict have changed. It will demonstrate how warfare in three dimensional Seascape reduces the sensorial experience to one primary sense, how technology is used to enhance this with devastating success and how this battleship escaped serious damage in one of its battles but not in its last.

The Landscape of ‘Black’ Propaganda: The Archaeology of PWE wireless operations during the Second World War

Derwin Gregory, University of East Anglia

On the 12 September 1941, Winston Churchill announced to Parliament that the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) had been formed. The PWE’s aim was to ‘co-ordinate and direct … all propaganda to enemy and enemy-occupied territories’. Although propaganda was not a new weapon of war, previous operations had been limited in scope. During the Second World War, the PWE developed a new concept within psychological warfare: ‘black’ propaganda. ‘Black’ propaganda tried to convince the audience that their own countrymen had produced the information. The audience were, therefore, more likely to listen to the messages.

The Second World War was also the first major conflict in which mass populations could be reached through wireless technology. As ‘black’ wireless propaganda was a new concept, the infrastructure required to undertake these operations was unique. ‘Black’ scripts were written by multinational ‘Research Units’ housed in a number of private dwellings in Bedfordshire. These programmes were then recorded onto disc at a temporary studio and transmitted from one of the PWE’s W/T stations. Eventually, the PWE would construct a state-of-the-art, purpose built studio for live broadcasts over ‘Aspidistra’, the most powerful transmitter in the world. This paper will examine the archaeology of the PWE’s infrastructure and identify what was required to conduct ‘black’ wireless campaigns.


A Genealogy of Hybrid Cultural Praxes; Colonial Fragments of the Libyan Archaeological Past

Benjamin Westwood, Durham University

Traditional teleological methodologies that trace the origins of Cultural Heritage Management in Libya during World War II and subsequent British Military Administration (1942-51), often serve merely to reconstitute false homogeneous accounts of the intertwining of Italo-British archaeological traditions. Accounts of ‘harmonious collaboration’ via British advocacy should rather be understood as facets of an epistemic process that had far reaching repercussions for archaeological research and the institutionalisation of Libya’s past. (Foucault 1984, p.79; Hyslop 1945, p.vi). A genealogical examination of descents of archaeological praxis moves away from the problematics associated to the usual binary view of the colonial situation and its outcomes, and toward Bhabha’s ‘third space’. We can thus explore a heterogeneous and fragmentary past that does not imply exclusion for those “faults and fissures” of heritage, African/European pasts, outside traditional frameworks envisaged by consecutive colonialisms (Bhabha 1995, p.209).

Despite a recognition of shortcomings (even explicit bad practice) during Italian colonial rule, the modal practices of British archaeologists were contingent upon an, albeit differently descended, colonial hegemonic structure. This paper will explore aspects of this complex relationship focused around the archaeological process during military conflict and later occupation, in which hybridised forms of archaeological cultural praxis became central to the structures created to manage Libyan heritage.

Near East: Conflict and Archaeology

Roya Arab, University College London, Institute of Archaeology

There has been an unhealthy rise in international warfare and illegal occupation since the new millennium, from Palestine and Lebanon, to Iraq and Afghanistan. And, with the threat of a military attack on Iran still on the table, we can be left in no doubt about the increasing number of conflicts and level of destruction wrought in these, due to advanced warfare methods. Wars, whilst posing a great hazard to people and their landscapes are also endangering significant cultural remains across the globe. When you look around the Near East, you will find a region plagued by internal and external wars. All this has a marked effect on the archaeology of the region, and is paving the way for the destruction and
divisive reinterpretation of many of these nations’ pasts. As various pasts are erased and multiple interpretations disseminated by the media and the web, we must accept that in time, history can and will be rewritten. This paper will examine the dangers posed to the ownership, interpretation, preservation and dissemination of Near Eastern heritage by the on-going cycle of battles in the region.

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