Monday, 10 November 2014

Lest We Forget: Ten Years of Professional World War I Archaeology in Flanders

Archaeology of the recent past, such as the study of the material remains of WWI, is a relatively new phenomenon. It is one thing to see WWI heritage as archaeological heritage but another when it comes to the daily handling of these material remains in the field. Several questions have arisen with the integration of the study of WWI relics in professional archaeology and, by extension, to archaeological practice. So are relics from the war seen as a legitimate subject of inquiry or does WWI archaeology still strive for recognition as a discipline?

Taking the archaeological research that has taken place over the past decade in the province of West Flanders as a case study a recent article in the European Journal of Archaeology investigates how this buried wartime heritage has been approached from  an archaeological perspective based on reports from fieldwork carried out by professional archaeologists.

With the commemoration of World War I (WWI) under way, a preliminary stocktaking can be made of archaeological research into the physical remains of this war. The question is to what extent the perspective on the study of WWI heritage, and consequently the way in which archaeological research into WWI remains has been conducted, has evolved over the last ten years..... These questions relate to the vision for the archaeology of the First World War. Where are we going with this discipline? How can we deal with the details of the material culture and what can they still teach us? What additional information can we gather by studying the archaeology of recent conflicts that we do not already know from written records? These are the most important issues that have been discussed over the last ten years.

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