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Plugstreet Blog


This is the new blog of the Plugstreet Archaeological Project.


   A Great War themed project exploring sites around Comines-Warneton and Messines in Belgium.    The project is being led by members of No Man's Land - The European Group for Great War    Archaeology and the Comines-Warneton Historical Society.


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We are currently seeking a sponsor for this website as it follows the progress of the excavations on the battlefield, with contributions from established historians and well known experts, as the team attempt to match the historical evidence and family history to the archaeology on the ground.

Please contact us for more details.


If you enjoy this website please consider making a donation towards the costs of the project.




Current Archaeology Awards Nomination

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
 
       

The Plugstreet Team are very pleased to announce that The Plugstreet Archaeological Project has been nominated for the Research Project of the Year in the Current Archaeology 2011 Awards.
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Current Archaeology Awards

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Voting is online at:

http://archaeologyawards.org/2011/research-project-of-the-year.htm

please scroll down to the bottom of the page to register your vote.
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The magazine also has a very extensive article detailing our work.
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Click on the image to read it.

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DVD Now Available

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
 
       

On the 22nd of July 2010 Pte. Mather was laid to rest with full military honours in the presence of members of his family, almost two years after his remains were recovered from the battlefield at St Yvon by members of the Plugstreet Archeological Project.
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The film of the burial service and wreathlaying at the Menin Gate is now available on DVD.

Click for details.

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All profits from sales of this film will be used towards the post-production costs of a documentary detailing the archaeological process of his discovery and identification which will be available to pre-order soon.
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Magazines (the literary sort)

Friday, September 10th, 2010
 
       

The project currently features in the two leading archaeological magazines in Britain.
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British Archaeology includes a piece on Alan Mather’s identification.
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Meanwhile Current Archaeology includes seven pages on the Plugstreet Project with maps, photographs and other illustrations.
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You can find British Archaeology in some larger newsagents and supermarkets and Current Archaeology is available via its publishers:
www.archaeology.co.uk
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There is also a feature in the August edition of Britain At War
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Wreaths and epitaphs for a soldier.

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
 
       

“So far from home, never forgotten, may you rest in peace bearing an honoured name.”
It was with those words, the family of Alan James Mather, left his remains in a quiet cemetery in Belgium surrounded by wheat and cornfields and grazing cattle.
Listen to a radio interview with Kim Bloomfield, great grand niece of Alan Mather, speaks about their experiences in Belgium.

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Team Nosferatu’s epic descent

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
 
       

Nosferatu swung into action again this year after Jon’s unavoidable 2009 absence in the Occupied West Bank. Team this year was mostly old veterans and fully international. Returnees were Keith (Britain), Paola (Italy), James (USA), Swantje (Germany), Nicolas (Wallonie) and new arrival Christine (Britain).
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In order to raise the tone of what might otherwise be an unseemly display of grubbiness we dressed for lunch each day in No1 mess dress black high vis. We were promised a machine, and were very excited about it digging down to where we left off in 2008. Unfortunately the bosses seem to have found it in a Kinder Surprise and it barely managed to take out 500mm. And so the epic descent began.
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Finds were few, though they included the Australian shoulder title and several bullets which were badly distorted after ricocheting off Kirsty’s concrete blockhouse. When we finally hit the top of the feature there was heavy wood galore. This included a possible door with embedded .303 bullet, and heavy mortice and tennon joints. In situ was a pump for drinking water. Apart from being broken this was in perfect condition as we had reached a nice blue anaerobic layer. This also produced a roll of paper. The finds team will excavate it back at Bradford, but we believe it is either a mediaeval manuscript looted from Brugge, or a toilet roll.
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Cleaning up after the machine


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Back to 2008 part 1


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Back to 2008 part 2: The Descent Continues


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Back to 2008 part 3: Hitting Plastic


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New layers for 2010
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Extending the staircase


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Setting the tone


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Getting stuck in to the anaerobic layer

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A Director writes (2)

Monday, August 2nd, 2010
 
       

Monday evening, back in the UK, time for a swift resume of the year.
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The remarkable start to the season was, of course, Alan Mather’s funeral and the opportunity to meet and make friends with his lovely family – if you’re reading this here are some big hellos and hugs from the other side of the world. The privilege of seeing this part of our research come to such a striking and meaningful end was enormous.
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This year we were able to open two separate areas, with two trenches in each. At Ultimo crater we re-opened two trenches from previous years. Avril investigated further areas of her German communication trench and its associated alcove/shelter that seems to have been used as a housing for electrical or telephone equipment. It also included remains of a rudimentary hearth and a small cauldron, so it looks like the German sparks had a constant brew going.
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Meanwhile Jon’s team were able to go back into what we though was either a mortar pit or a shallow dugout. However, following a bit more research and a chat with Johan Vandewalle we now think we are looking at a destroyed tunnel, perhaps leading to an incline to a deep dugout.
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Over at our new site we looked at two German trenches, one on a piece of the third line of the German A stellung (front defence), and the other looking at a German communication trench running back to it from the second line. Steve and team on the fire trench found evidence of some serious shell damage, as well as some rather older pottery than 1914, showing that this was an old landscape by the time the armies arrived. Kirsty’s team looked at the Comm Trench. It had been created in an older ditch running from a medieval moated site. Both had unusual U shaped concrete ducts or gutters in them.
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Meanwhile, the Finds team up at Messines worked on the material we produced and found time to conserve a wonderful Lee-Enfield rifle found during building works at a nearby farm and donated to the local museum in Warneton.
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At the same time the two Peters walked miles in the landscape doing, respectively, their geophysics and map work, as well as further project-related art work.
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A few Thank You’s:

  • Nelly and Claude at the Auberge Nelly et Claude, Ploegsteert, for friendship and amazing food.
  • The Peace Village Messines for looking after us so well.
  • Liz and Gen for their sponsorship.
  • All our new Australian friends.
  • Both our lovely welcoming farmers! Without whom none of this would happen. A la prochaine…
  • Everyone in the team (including the dog) in whatever role – you made Richard and my lives so much easier and our holiday so relaxed.

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Traces of History

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
 
       

Reading letters sent home from the trenches, many soldiers describe the Belgian landscape as being similar to England. Gentle rolling fields dotted with sparse farms, narrow lanes and familiar trees. Today the fields have been restored to their pre-war state and farmers tend the crops as they have for a thousand years, for this is an old landscape, briefly disturbed by the war. Our trenches on the German third line remind us of this, evidence of the trenches is mixed with shards of Roman and medieval pottery left by those who called this place home. The older archaeology obliterated by the battle, leaves us wondering if the men who dug these impressive fortifications were aware of these traces of the past; evidence from other sites suggests that some of them were.

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A co-Director writes…..

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
 
       

Hmmmmm
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Well, as readers will have perceived the morale of the teams is high, despite baking heat, thunder and lightning and the mercurial and arbitrary decisions of the bosses.
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Seriously, everyone has done incredibly well. Finds are telling an interesting story, including the Roman and medieval material found redeposited in Steve’s trench, which tells the ancient landscape in which the war was fought. Meanwhile, the structures show us much about how much the armies changed the geography between 1914 and 1918, sometimes in ways we didn’t expect, such as the concrete guttering or the reuse of much older landscape features.
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Two more digging days to go and still much to expect, including the solution to the mystery of what lies beneath the timber in Jon’s trench.
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Keep Watching!

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From Damier Farm

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
 
       

2010 saw the start of excavations on a new site courtesy of Monsieur Lefebvre.
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2 trenches were opened following geophysical survey to explore German trenches. One of them, located on the third line of the German first line of defences, has revealed a wide fire trench with traverses. In the bottom of this trench we have found a U-shaped concrete lined drain or conduit for cables constructed from prefabricated sections. The trench also showed evidence of shell damage including the 1916 dated fuze of a British shrapnel shell.

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concrete drain or conduit

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A head scratching moment!

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A German communication trench is also under investigation; this feature reused a pre-existing drainage ditch that was converted to military use. Today excavation revealed trench boards in the base of the main east-west trench and a second trench cutting in from the north. The latter had been badly damaged by shell fire and appeared to have lain unused for some time.

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Trench Two; Trench Wenches at work (and Henry!)

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Thank you!

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
 
       

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A big thank you to Claude and Nelly of L’Auberge Ploegsteert for providing the Team with delicious lunches and evening meals through out the dig.
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