Tuesday, 11 August 2009

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.

1 comment:

Rob Crowley said...

My great uncle, Michael Crowley of the Post Office Rifles was killed near Plugstreet on 3rd October 1918. His body was never found, but his name is on the memorial wall at Plugstreet. I've been there several times now, so finding a website like this is very interesting. Might have to buy the book!
Good luck with your work.
Rob Crowley