Monday, 30 June 2014

‘The War to End All Wars’: Commemoration in 2014

2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, a milestone in world history that claimed the lives of almost 17 million people worldwide. In the following guest blog post our resident historian, Kate Smith, takes a closer look at how both the conflict and its commemoration are represented in our online archive.
The Great War has long since played a significant role in our historical memory but this year Britain is planning several events to commemorate this special anniversary. It is important to remember the bravery of those who fought for four long years and to learn from the lessons of the past.

The centenary has led to a flurry of papers focusing on the commemoration of the war. Remembering War, Resisting Myth: Veteran Autobiographies and the Great War in the Twenty-first Century’ examines the reconstruction of the First World War in the autobiographies of the last two surviving British veterans; these men committed their memories to paper shortly before their deaths in 2009. This article, recently published in the Journal of War & Culture Studies, explores the reception of their testimonies and assesses the extent to which their accounts reinforce or resist mythic narratives of the Great War. Trott also considers whether a diversity of perspectives will remain now that the war has almost entirely passed out of living memory and the affect this will have on popular culture in the future.
An article published earlier this year in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, entitled Commemoration of the Great War: A Global Phenomenon or a National Agenda?', explores a different aspect of commemoration. Van der Auwera and Schramme analyse the specific national sensitivities related to the commemoration of the First World War and investigate the reasons why some states around the world commemorate it more strongly than others.

Many noteworthy and thought-provoking papers have transpired about all aspects of the war including the causes, military strategy, the Home Front, literature and science. However, it appears that, as time passes, our understanding of the First World War will rely more than ever on archaeology. The Editors of Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Tony Polland and Iain Banks, explain the growing interest in the archaeology of the First World War in 'Not so Quiet on the Western Front: Progress and Prospect in the Archaeology of the First World War’. They conclude with the following:

“Thanks to the work of a small number of archaeologists in recent years… we now have the tools to do the archaeology of the First World War justice, what lies ahead is the difficult task of ensuring that they are applied as part of a meaningful research framework and not just for the delectation of television audiences or as a means of removing problematic barriers to development. Accomplishing this is perhaps one of the most exciting and perhaps difficult challenges facing conflict archaeology today.”
Maney Publishing has made 100 articles free to download to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 >

Monday, 23 June 2014


Today marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a landmark in Scottish history and a key victory in the First War of Scottish Independence.

Robert Bruce, King of Scots, battled the English army led by Edward II. Edward, keen to retain the stronghold of Stirling Castle, had led a huge army through Scotland to lift the Scots’ siege of his garrison at the Castle. Achieving this was vital to Edward’s hopes of re-establishing his weakening grip on the country, but he was stopped short by the army of Robert Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn.

To commemorate the occasion we have made 'Protecting a Bloodstained History: Battlefield Conservation in Scotland' from the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, and written by the journal's editors Iain Banks and Tony Pollard, free to read:

"Scotland’s battlefields gained legislative protection in March 2011 with the publication of the Inventory of Scottish Battlefields. The background to the Inventory is explored, with a consideration of how similar issues have been approached in other countries. The paper then goes on to examine the approach taken in the creation of the Inventory, looking at the issues that arose and the solutions adopted.

In 1995, English Heritage established a register of the battlefields of England. This was the first time there had been any form of official interest in battlefields as components of the cultural resource or the historic environment in the UK. It was not until 30 April 2008 that a consultation on an Inventory of Scottish Battlefields was announced, which led to an announcement on 28 July 2009 that work would proceed with an Inventory. The first part of the Inventory is now in the final stages of production, and will see battlefields of national significance becoming a material consideration in the planning process, with more to be added should they meet the criteria. Creating the Inventory has been a complex process, and although there is still some way to go the following article will map this journey."

Read the full article for free >

Learn more about the Battle of Bannockburn >

Friday, 13 June 2014

Preserve or prosper? Georgia's gold mine dilemma

What happens when a nation's opportunity for cultural enrichment is in direct conflict with an opportunity for financial prosperity?
That is a question Georgians have been grappling with since their government gave permission for industrial excavation to start at what scientists claim is the oldest known gold mine in the world.

According to the BBC:

'The archaeological area, known as Sakdrisi, is a small grassy hill in the Bolnisi region, in the picturesque foothills of south-eastern Georgia. For 10 years Professor Thomas Stoellner, a leading specialist in mining archaeology from the University of Bochum, Germany, has been studying the archaeological record at Sakdrisi together with his Georgian colleagues.

"When we went to do the first survey we found hammer stones - typical mining tools - thousands of them," says Prof Stoellner, who believes that tunnels inside the hill date back 5,400 years.

"At once I realised the importance of the site. When we got the first value carbon dates, and they were around 3,000 BC, it was clear that this was an exciting find which had never occurred in pre-historic mining."'

This is certainly a discovery of considerable cultural significance and offers the opportunity not only to learn more about Georgia's past but also to invest in the education of its youth and develop scientific and archaeological studies around the site.

Unfortunately it appears Georgia has made up its mind. Despite a protest camp that was set up in mid-April which is still in full swing, they will proceed with mining on the site as company RMG Gold has already invested $300m in the project.

I'm sure that this is not the first time the status of being a 'protected cultural heritage site' has been both a blessing and a curse for a nation's government and in the long run, if and when the money runs out, hindsight will be 20/20 in this case.

'Georgia's Gold Mine Dilemma' >

Friday, 6 June 2014

Mapping for D-Day: The Allied Landings in Normandy, 6 June 1944

As I'm sure you all know, Friday 6 June was the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. I took a look in our online archive to find an article suitable to this austere occasion and came across 'Mapping for D-Day: The Allied Landings in Normandy, 6 June 1944' in The Cartographic Journal.

Operation Overlord, with Neptune, its naval counterpart, was the largest amphibious assault in history. On 6 June 1944, after years of planning and benefiting from the topographical preparations for, and experience of, the landings in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, over 150 000 men landed from more than 4000 ships along 80 km of Normandy coastline.
Careful examination of existing maps revealed that because of its relatively flat terrain and lack of obvious physical obstacles, the area was the most suitable for an Allied invasion. Vast quantities of new maps — many drawn up from existing maps, postcards and photographs, and updated using aerial photos and intelligence from various sources — had to be prepared.
Montgomery subsequently commended the D-Day survey effort, stating that map supply never failed or prejudiced operations. In turn, the planning and experience of the Normandy landings informed the preparations for operation Anvil, the landings in the south of France on 15 August 1944. This paper examines the development of Allied mapping and geographic support programmes during the two-year period of preparations for D-Day, and during the landings, establishment of the bridgehead and breakout.
The authors conclude that:
"What was remarkable about the Overlord operation was the way in which inter-Allied, and inter-Service, cooperation and goodwill overcame the inevitable friction. There were certainly serious problems in the early stages; the British Lt-General. Morgan (COSSAC), after repeatedly re-reading an American invasion planning paper, admitted that he did not understand a word of it! The appointment of a single Task Force Commander and joint-services staff would have increased planning efficiency, eliminated duplication in survey and mapping, and in intelligence and target acquisition, and would have resulted in quicker allocation of fire support tasks to the various services. Coordination of the huge numbers of large-scale assault maps and defence overprints was essential in order to avoid duplication of effort, but did not happen. Full use was not made of COSSAC's Theatre Intelligence Section until after its integration with SHAEF.
The various Anglo-American accords on mapping, intelligence and so forth (which can actually be traced back to 1917-18...served as the model for NATO in the post-war period, and indeed up to the present day)."

Monday, 2 June 2014

FAME Forum 2014: Remodelling the Market

When? Friday 27 June
Where? York, UK
How much? £75.00 or free for FAME members

This year’s FAME Forum will focus on design and value in development-led archaeology.

Development-led archaeology is a relatively young profession. During its formative years it has competed immaturely, driving prices down and undermining its perceived value to its clients. The current market is largely a product of our own making, in which all parts of the profession – national agencies, local government, commercial and university-based practices, not-for-profit and charitable organizations – are complicit.

This year’s FAME Forum will bring together practitioners from both archaeology and related sectors, to ask:
  • How can the market move from crude price-driven competition to more mature procurement, based on quality, outcome and enhanced value?
  • What we can we learn from kindred professions about design, quality and value in a commercial marketplace?
  • Are we in step with new strategies and digital developments in the construction sector?
  • How can we design quality and innovation into archaeological work on major infrastructure projects?
  • How will the priorities of new national heritage agencies affect the quality of archaeological practice?
  • What will be the impact of IfA Chartership on the quality of archaeological practice in the UK?
Speakers will include John Eynon of Open Water Consulting on Building Information Modelling, John Orrell of DLA Design Group on the RIBA Plan of Work, Jay Carver of Crossrail on project design in infrastructure archaeology, Steve Trow of English Heritage on the English Heritage New Model, and Peter Hinton of the IfA on the Royal Charter.

The Forum will take place in York, on Friday 27 June – this year for the first time in the spectacular setting of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the country.

The Forum is supported by York Archaeological Trust, and admission to the Forum provides free entry to the Trust’s many visitor attractions.

Admission to the Forum is free to FAME members and £75 to non-members, including lunch, morning coffee and afternoon tea.

We are expecting a high demand for tickets, so advance booking is essential.
Click here for the programme and booking form.