Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Food & Drink

Without the assistance of Claude and Nelly at the Auberge in Ploegsteert we wouldn't have the succesful, nor as well fed project that we do.

For amazing moules or the best carbonade of beef, you should visit the Auberge, just opposite the Ploegsteert memorial to the missing. Claude will also do amazing vegetarian food!

Thanks again, from the whole team!

Over the Parapet

As promised, here are some photographs of the project, these are of the trenches excavated but there will be more, including finds coming soon!

The blown off roof of the bunker in T3. The small scale is in the alcoves for used to store German stick grenades, ready for use in an attack.

Remains of the battered German bunker in T4

The remains of the collapsed shelter in the side of the crater investigated in T6. More to see there next year, I feel!

The intercutting German Trenches in T5. These had been filled by the upcast from the mine! The postholes were supporting the revetment of the walls and were almost a metre deep!

Part of theamazing architecture in T1.

Brian, Avril & Egg hard at it with trowels in T2, only to discover in was empty - still, even negative evidence is evidence!

Henry and Bev working in Trench 4.
As you can see the team were pretty busy. Next time, more images of the treasure uncovered!

Ave atque Vale II

As Richard and Martin were on the ferry out to Belgium they caught the end of Henry Allingham's funeral in Brighton on a TV in the ship's lounge. Meanwhile, Harry Patch was buried in Wells while we were actually engaged in work on site.

How poignant to be engaged in a project as the events it investigates pass from memory into history. Harry Patch would have heard, or felt the Messines mines go off, as he was nearby at the time.

We wonder how long it was between the death of the last Roman, Saxon or English medieval monk and the first archaeological excavation of their sites? We feel strangely priveleged to stand on the threshold.

Our work is driven by academic considerations but it also embodies acts of remembrance for in the action of investigation we remember, respect and commemorate the people involved here, of all nationalities and whether in uniform or civilian clothes and in some small way restore them to history by our narratives.

Changing the Geography

The Plugstreet Project team was on site between Friday 31st July and Thursday August 6th. Unfortunately, rather intermittent internet connections at the Peace Village in Messines meant that we were unable to blog while actually out in the field. However the next few entries will give you a flavour of what happened, as well as a few thoughts and reflections on the site, the Project and some of the wider issues attendant on Great War conflict archaeology.

This summer the main team was based, once again, in the field by Ultimo Crater, where we opened a number of trenches, some more confusing than others. Meanwhile we were ably supported by the Finds and Conservation team back up at the Peace Village. Meanwhile Team Colonel was primarily out on Hill 63 at Le Rossignol surveying features around the Chateau de la Hutte, getting bitten by horseflies and trying to avoid the field with the bull in!

Trench 1 produced the most spectacular results, architecturally speaking, as Steve's team uncovered a very nice right-angled fire trench dug into the lip of the mine crater and overlooking no-mans-land and the German positions.

Trench 2 was a speculative test pit and produced nothing.

Trench 3 crossed two sections of German trench and also revealed the roof of a demolished German concrete shelter. This area also included a rather nice midden deposit that included the star find (of which more later)... as well as bottles, tins and a number of stick grenades.

Trench 4 was intended to find the in-situ remains of the German concrete shelter, which it did. Unfortunately we got the front face and the breastwork cast up around it, rather then the rear, which was the target, so that we could see the relationship between trench and bunker.

Both trenches 3 & 4 were in the trees and suffered from very hard ground, as it hasn't rained as much in Belgium as in UK, so the trees have taken up much of the groundwater! All credit to both teams. However, they did have shade, unlike trenches 1 & 5 - until I put team 4 into the crater!

Trench 5 saw the redeployed team from T2 opening an area on top of German communication trench. The maps and air photos were unclear about whether it had continued in use following the capture of the area in june 1917. They actually produced remains of at least 2 German trenches, as well as communications wire, post holes and trench boards. Both trenches appeared to have been filled by upcast soil from the mine, as there was no evidence of post-war clearance debris in them. So the date of the fill is between 03.30 and 03.35 on 7th June 1917 (so for any Prehistorians reading that's a really secure date, without need for Bayesian analysis)

Trench 6 saw the T4 team go down beside the water-filled Ultimo Crater where they uncovered the remains of what is probably a collapsed shelter dug into the face of the crater following its capture by the Anzacs. Such utilisation of craters was common, with shelters in the crater and defensive positions on the lip.

Photographs will follow later, once I can upload a few.