Wednesday, 30 July 2008


As the first day of the dig draws nigh the No Man's Land team have been pipped to the post with exciting discoveries by the Wessex University "Bonekickers". For readers not familiar with them the group are stars of a BBC TV drama set in a fictional university department. You can tell it's fiction as they drive nice cars, live in the Royal Crescent at Bath and are all attractive and witty. Oh and they found the True Cross, Boudicca's body and the Tablet of Destiny (gasp!).

Anyway this hugely enjoyable tosh is broadcast on a Tuesday evening and next week's episode centres on the discovery of a First World War Tank near Verdun. We shall all be watching to see how one should really do Great War Archaeology!

If you do watch let us know what you think via the comments!

You will be able to see Martin and Prof Mark Horton (Bristol University, adviser to the series and alleged model for "Dolly" Parton) talking about tanks and Great War Archaeology on the Bonekickers website after the broadcast of next week's programme. It was worth it to crawl around tanks at Bovington's excellent Tank Museum.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Approaching Zero Hour

we aer delighted to be able to announce that the project now has official permission for its excavations at St Yvon this summer. The team will be on site for a week in August and will update this blog with news of finds and thoughts as we did last year

Monday, 14 July 2008

Spreading the Word

Yesterday Richard and Martin gave a presentation to the annual Conflict Archaeology conference at the Royal Logistics Corps Museum at Deepcut. It was good to present to an audience of interested amateurs and fellow practitioners in the field and the responses to our multistrand approach to the landscape and the individual sites was well-received.

The event was a mixture of ancient (Ramesses II) and modern (WW1 & 2 and Bosnia) with an interspersing of post-medieval (English Civil War). Tal Simmons paper on Bosnia was hard viewing and listening but ultimately worthwhile, not only because of her powerful delivery but also because it served to remind us of the reality of conflict, including injury, sickness and death in traumatic circumstances. Meanwhile Neil Faulkner's paper on the Arab Revolt and TE Lawrence threw up some interesting differences withour work, although Plugstreet and Lawrence were contemporary. However there were marked similarities too, including the German trench systems.

The cross current in several papers was that this is essentially a community endeavour, whether those communities are close to the sites in UK, in Jordan or at a remove in a second or third country, as we are for this project. The nature of conflict means that it may have resonance and meaning years after the event for those affected, even indirectly. Archaeology gives some people the opportunity to engage directly with that heritage and, we hope, offers everyone the chance to hear something new about the events and people in the past.

Thanks and credit to Andy Robertshaw and his staff at the RLC Musuem.

Zero Minus 3

Three weeks that is!

We have agreed the trench locations with the farmer and are set to launch our next season of excavation and survey at Plugstreet.

Once againa crack team of archaeologists and fellow-travellers is set to embark. This year the team includes some new faces, including two more American friends and our first representative from the Republic of Ireland. Kat has a missing relative so joins the members of the team with that particular attachment to the battlefields. We are also pleased to have Rod on board, after his absence last year due to a more modern war. Welcome to you all.

As we have said before the idea of No Man's Land is an international venture and so we go on, our common purpose being to investigate something that once divided us.


How could I let the media event of the year go by unremarked?

Bonekickers started last week on BBC1 in the UK. If you didn't watch it you missed out. The new series follows the story of fictional archaeologists from the University of Wessex and each week they will be involved in a plot centring around a site.

I suggest you read the reviews for yourselfs. Particularly amusing are the pieces in The Guardian...

But why am I telling you this?

If you watch the episode coming up in a couple of weeks you'll see a dig on a wreck of a Great War Tank and the recovery of its crew. I'll say no more so I don't spoil the surprise.

Tales of the Bustard

Apologies, dear reader, for leaving you hanging with the tales of the Bustard - our heroes in the rain with only a cake to sustain... Unfortunately the rain meant that we had to work twice as hard on the remaining 3 days to achieve our ends, so blogging rather suffered.

So, I hear you cry, what DID happen?

We opened several areas, some of which were blank and one of which had the most marvellous section of trench in it. The picture is here:

Image Copyright:Defence Estates

Scale is 1m vertical and 2m horizontal. The stain running along the base of the trench is believed to be the marks left by a rotted trench board.

Oddly there were no 1914-18 finds, by contrast to the 2006 dig when we found lots of materiel. This suggests that the soldiers were made to clear up after their exercise.

One find that did turn up was a Prehistoric flint in the backfill of another comunication trench. It just goes to show that the archaeological landscape is indeed a palimpsest, layered and full of artefacts stories and meanings.

Copyright: Defence Estates

Happily the Bristol students were still smiling when they left us (maybe with relief at leaving) and all agreed that it had been an interesting and useful week.

We would have prefered to have found more evidence of the use of the trenches but the excavated section does show that the soldiers were digging proerfeatures to the prescribed deoth to afford head cover and to keep you relatively safe in the battlespace in Flanders or France. Good training? It looks like it!