2018 Speaker abstracts

Francis Buckley, Archaeologist: The First World War and beyond – Dr Seren Griffiths, University of Central Lancashire

Frances Buckley saw service on the Western Front in the First World War, serving as a commissioned officer with the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, and later as an observer.  He published an important memoir of his time in the trenches – Q.6.A and other places. Recollections of 1916, 1917, 1918 – and afterwards undertook a wide range of research into prehistoric flints, early Chinese porcelain, and 17thcentury glass. Despite being a key figure in British Mesolithic studies and a supporter of Grahame Clark, his work is poorly-known.

This paper explores how Buckley’s time in the trenches shaped his subsequent archaeological work, in terms of those with whom he came into contact, and in applying fieldwork practices which he developed as a forward observer. It aims to reassess his influence on and re-establish his place within archaeology, and to show how his First World War experiences helped to define Mesolithic studies throughout the twentieth century.

“We’re not where we expected to land after all. Gracious me, we are having a glorious experience.” Marching through the archives for Egypt 1914/18 – Sarah Shepherd, Independent Researcher, MA  University of Hull

This paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview surrounding the shared experiences of soldiers serving in Egypt during the period 1914 – 1918 with their apparent and well documented interest in the history and archaeology of Egypt. For many young men and women, most of whom had never travelled beyond their home towns, it must have been an incredible experience to look upon the Pyramids at Giza. Troops arriving in Egypt were amazed by the sights and sounds of Cairo and plenty of spare time enabled the opportunity for sightseeing and travel. To date, little attention has been paid to the visual and material record of serving soldiers in Egypt. Their photographs, letters and souvenirs provide a record of life in Egypt during the Great War, an experience which appeared to have left an indelible mark on all who visited. My paper will examine the visual and written record of this encounter by interpreting the culture and practice of a selection of surviving examples of amateur military photography.

“If Only My Balls Had Claws”: British archaeologists at war – Professor Stephen Hill, Emeritus Professor of the University of Gloucestershire and Visiting Professor of the University of Gibraltar

Professor Hill has had a long career in archaeology, working particularly on Byzantine sites in Turkey.  As a postgraduate student, he led a project to open and preserve the photographic archive of Gertrude Bell at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.  He was taught by several of the characters who figure in this presentation.

Archaeologists have long, and with some justification, had the reputation of being spies.  This presentation will explore very briefly the role of archaeologists as significant combatants in the two World Wars and how they made a major contribution to military intelligence and action in the fields of war. It will attempt a narrative about the distinctive and valuable contribution of archaeologists at strategic and tactical levels by exploring how the specialist knowledge and skills of field archaeologists were deciding factors in achieving eventual successful outcomes in the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans. The presentation will point to stories including:

  • Gertrude Bell, David Hogarth and T E Lawrence in Arabia and Mesopotamia. The Arab Bureau and the India Office, the Sykes-Picot agreement and the Cairo Conference.
  • Balkan affairs – the gardeners of Salonika and the Lion at Amphipolis; activities in White Russia after 1918.
  • Why archaeologists were recruited to work at Bletchley Park.
  • Mortimer Wheeler and his brigade of archaeologists in North Africa and Italy; the British contribution to the study of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.

Whilst there will inevitably be some unanswerable questions about such matters as the recruitment of archaeologists to MI5 and MI6 and their predecessors, underpinning this narrative is the issue of how the well-developed multi-disciplinary skills of the archaeologist can be turned to interesting effect in the fields of espionage, military strategy, and even, as in the case of Agatha Christie, writing detective stories. This presentation will be to some extent autobiographical in that it will draw on Stephen’s work on the Gertrude Bell Archive of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and on personal stories told to him by his former tutors and colleagues who served in WW2. Archaeologists, after all, are good at digging trenches whether at the site of ancient monuments or on the battlefield.

From Larkhill to Victory: The Archaeology of a Great War Training Ground – Martin Brown, Wiltshire Council, Si Cleggett and Steve Thompson, Wessex Archaeology

Recent excavations in Wiltshire have revealed a replica of the battlefields of the Western Front. The project has been the single largest excavation of a Great War training site anywhere in the World and has shown the lengths to which the British Army went in training soldiers for the Western Front. Trenches, dugouts and even mine galleries recreated the grim realities of the battlefield, while the objects found, from cigarette tins to grenades, give an insight into the training regime. Remarkably, many soldiers also wrote their names on the chalk of the tunnel walls, meaning that the lives of individual men training at Larkhill may be followed to the Front and onwards. The site creates a unique document for the study of an overlooked aspect of the conflict but also presents a remarkable memorial, not only in the evidence given, but also in its future role as Service Family Accommodation. Indeed, that the excavations took place during the centenary years of 1916-18, exactly a century after the soldiers trained on this ground, added a new dimension to commercial archaeological work, while the end user – The British Army – made the site even more a meaningful space than might have been the case for a civilian client, as a result of military kinship that transcends the years.

This paper will briefly explore the archaeological process employed at Larkhill, before considering what the site tells us about Great War training. Finally, the role of the archaeology in commemoration, both physically and through wider dissemination will be considered.

Building The Trench War: An archaeological view on the evolution of trench construction in the Ypres Salient – Simon Verdegem, Ruben Willaert BVBA

During the last 10 years, increased infrastructural development in the Westhoek – the Flemish region around Ypres – has resulted in a boost for archaeological research on the former battlefields of the Ypres Salient. This Salient, surrounding the Ypres on three flanks, was set in place from the winter of 1914, and continued through to the last battles of 1918. The excavations, all carried out to modern standards, together form an enormous dataset, with opportunity to study in depth the evolution of the trench warfare.

Due to the scale of the work, more often than not there is the opportunity to study in detail what are possibly the most iconic features of the First World War, the trenches themselves. These excavations show a huge variation in trench construction – though until now there has not been a thorough research of these different types. The recent excavations allow questions to be asked of the data. For instance, is it possible to see evolution in the way the trenches were built? And if so, is this a phenomenon common to both sides of the wire? Might it be possible to make a typology? And would that typology differ per region? Is it possible to be definite about trench differences between the different nations? And above all, can typological characteristics help to date trenches?

This paper will provide some preliminary answers to these questions, based on the results of the archaeological excavations, and illustrate the possibilities of a more detailed study of these datasets.

Forte Beisner Opera 4 Ugovizza:  A Cold War bunker protected and studied with and alongside its community in northeast Italy – Anita Pingali, MA, NUI Galway / Ass. Landscapes and Volker Pachauer, Dipl.-Ing., Graz, University of Technology / Austrian Society for Fortification Research

This paper aims to present the activities undertaken to study and enhance an underground commando bunker structure and its surrounding historical landscape. This bunker, known as Forte Beisner-Opera 4 Ugovizza, was built as part of the “Vallo Alpino del Littorio” between 1938 and 1940. It was used throughout the Cold War until as late as 1992.  This fortification is the most extended structure in the area and develops inside the low hill known as “Monte Palla”, on the plain of Ugovizza, in the northeast of Italy.

The local multi-ethnic population living in proximity to the hill rarely engaged with this off-limit military area. The activities carried out by the members of the association “Landscapes” (in charge of the site since 2014), eventually allowed both ex-soldiers (who once had served on this site) and the local Italian, Austrian and Slovenian communities to once again to be involved in the preservation of this site.

The phenomenological interdisciplinary approach applied to record the perception of local witnesses yielded a new sense of place to the hill and the fortification. Moreover, thanks to Volker Pachauer (Graz, University of Technology), it was possible to notice an unknown set of wartime structural remains dating from the 18th century to the end of the Cold War era.

“Monte Palla” and its hidden bunker are now slowly becoming new visible reference key points of an unstudied historical military landscape.  The initial results of this research will be presented, alongside the possible future study developments of these sites.

Concrete Reminders: Changing Perspectives on German WWII Defences in DenmarkCamilla Damlund, Independent Researcher, MA Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, University of Glasgow

In Denmark the most obvious and persistent evidence of the Second World War takes the form of concrete bunkers dotting the landscape. This is especially true of the west coast of the peninsula of Jutland; here, the structures were part of an enormous chain of bunkers stretching from the French/Spanish border to the northern tip of Norway, protecting occupied Europe from Allied invasion.

These bunkers remain today and have become an integral part of the landscape of the west coast. This paper seeks to explore the ways in which this tangible proof of the occupation by a foreign power has been assimilated into Danish culture, and how the Danish people react to and engage with these structures. It will deal with the various ways the bunkers have been used by the people both officially and unofficially: as museums, as parts of art installations, as shelters for local carousing youth, and as canvasses for graffiti both irreverent and containing messages connected to the war. The paper will furthermore explore the strange juxtaposition between the public outrage at their removal and the laissez-faire attitude towards their presentation and preservation.  In this way the paper aims to explore the way this dark heritage from the war, something built at the behest of the German occupying force, has been reclaimed by the Danish, and has been made simultaneously both important and unimportant in terms of the Danish culture.

A Child of Two Worlds: Contested materialities of Albanian mushroom-shaped bunkers from communism to democracy – Emily Glass, University of Bristol

From 1967, whilst allied with the People’s Republic of China, Albania instigated a large scale bunkerisation programme with an output that peaked, then dipped until the fall of communism in 1991. Over these twenty-four years, the most commonly produced reinforced concrete structure was a small, domed infantry bunker, known as the ‘Qender Zjarri’ or ‘centre of fire’. These had a form akin to a mushroom and were installed in such numbers that in many parts of the Albanian landscape they seemed to be sprouting from the fields. These mushroom-shaped bunkers (MSBs) objects are Albania’s cold war legacy, monuments of wartime that represent nationalism, ideology and power across a landscape that was crafted for war, but not subject to invasion during that particular conflict. As an object, the Albanian MSB has existed for fifty years, spending half that time as a communist concept and half as a democratic hangover which has slowly abated and enabled a variety of engagements, reuses and creative endeavours to emerge.

This paper will discuss aspects of MSB object materialities from both worlds as individual and collective entities using the following: manufacture, reuse, MSB spolia, souvenir production and destruction. These will demonstrate how MSBs have pervaded in society, been a subject of foreign-fascination and become the iconic representation of Albania, but conversely, not of being Albanian. The findings are primarily supported through PhD research, interviews, site survey, photography and mapping, but also through news articles and social media information where applicable.

Haunted and cursed: A heritage perspective on Adolf Hitler’s birth house – Laura Langeder, University College London

In the centre of the medium-sized Austrian city Braunau am Inn, between an organic grocery store, several cafés and a florist, lies the house that Adolf Hitler was born in. Although Hitler only spent the first three years of his life in this quiet city, the building, often referred to as the ‘Hitler House’, is the subject of a long, emotional and still ongoing discussion on how to deal with the site. The debate is dominated by conflict over the value, ownership and future use of the building. Up until now the house has had a range of functions: during the Nazi regime it was a propagandistic attraction, while more recently the community has put it to practical use as a school, library and bank. The house is currently vacant and closed to the public since a charity-run workshop moved out of the building in 2011. The debate over the house was re-sparked in 2016 when the Austrian government announced plans for its demolishment, prompting debate over how Austria deals with its Nazi past.

In my discussion I will explore conflict heritage theory by applying different theoretical concepts to the birth house of Adolf Hitler. By analysing conflicting aspects such as ownership, significance, risks and prospects on a local, national and international level, I will investigate the practicality and limits of these theories using the example of this complex case study. Moreover, through an interdisciplinary approach I will assess the benefits of using non-heritage terminology in understanding conflict heritage sites.

Guns and Graffiti: An analysis of State Security Forces Graffiti in the Turkish-Kurdish Conflict since 2015 – Dr Joel Leander Geraets, University of Bristol

Soon after the restart of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in 2015, images started circulating online. These were not images of dead bodies and destruction, or tactical shots of soldiers in combat, but photographs taken of the soldiers themselves, posing in front of graffiti in the ruined cities in the South East. Whilst seemingly tame as conflict imagery, these photos swept through the nation on social media, shocking many with the unbridled brutality of the messages; something matched by the swiftness and ferocity of the resurgence of the conflict, especially in relation to the “peace process” that had recently been a major part of Turkish politics, and the recent accession of the HDP (Kurdish/minority based political party) to parliament.

Assessing the conflict through this graffiti itself, from a material culture and landscape theory perspective, this paper highlights a different power dynamic that exists in Turkey; one that contradicts the oft toted trope of ultranationalist, brutal, military domination by the Turkish state. Focusing upon control and power within the landscape, and the place of graffiti and photography within this, this paper will analyse the relationships between political and social identity in Turkey and materiality in Kurdistan, particularly by drawing out the place of nationalism/identity politics in the conflict.