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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.




Christmas Gifts

Monday, December 21st, 2009
 
       

Martin models the SOS hat and wristband in a British trench at Plugstreet 2009.

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We find evidence of gifts for the troops in the trenches at Plugstreet, including toffee tins and the like. It was an important part of trench life, getting parcels. The most famous gifts were the Queen Mary tins that included cigarettes and chocolate but colonies sent chocolate and individuals sent the men on all sides presents to keep their morale up.
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This Christmas gifts for the troops on deployment are as important as they were in 1914. If you would like to contribute to gifts to our boys then go to:
www.supportoursoldiers.co.uk and make a donation.

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The Project has donated to the charity before and sent some more money to them this evening.
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We wish them all safe home, but in the meantime we remember them and use the insights from the archaeological evidence to reflect on the soldiers’ experience, far from home, eating boring food and having, at best, an unusual Christmas…
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Support SOS
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Merry Christmas

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Happy Reading

Thursday, November 26th, 2009
 
       

Hello Readers
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As Christmas is coming and you’re no doubt stumped for gift ideas why not consider a copy of “Digging Up Plugstreet” by Martin Brown & Richard Osgood. It’s a cracking read.
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On the subject of great reads, you could also have a look at the “Chroniques de l’Archaeologie Wallone” 26, 2009. It’s published by the Province of Wallonia and includes short reports on work undertaken in the region in 2007, including Plugstreet.

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Cross-Media Challenge 2009

Thursday, November 12th, 2009
 
       

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© Jacqui Bellamy 2009, Pixelwitch Pictures

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The PlugStreet Project (pitched under the title “Magnum Opus) was selected as one of five finalists for the National Film Board of Canada Cross-Media Challenge 2009 competition at The Sheffield Documentary Festival. Angela delivered a presentation to the international judging panel and gathered audience, which was well received.
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© Jacqui Bellamy 2009, Pixelwitch Pictures

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Unfortunately we didn’t scoop the main prize, but were very pleased to have reached the final and obtained some useful feedback and encouragement.

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Finds from 2009

Saturday, September 26th, 2009
 
       

In a recent post we promised to show a few of the finds recovered from the site this year. Here is a small selection.
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Thanks are due to Rob, Egon, Shirley and their team in the findsroom who cleaned, catalogued, conserved and generally made things recognisable again.
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A set of German ammunition pouches.
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The plate and badge from a Saxon pickelhaube helmet.
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A patent medicine bottle – troops often took their own cold remedies and lice powders into the line.
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Lots of cartridges, mostly fired, which are probably evidence of battlefield salvage that someone dumped in a position when he couldn’t be bothered to carry them to the rear!
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Our star find,the German 1915 snipers face mask. This is a particularly evocative artefact as it leaves no doubt about its evil intent. No aesthetics, just malevolence. It is also very rare, only one of 1500 made.
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And we found all this rusty munition but thanks to Gontrand and Rod it wasn’t a significant problem. There are German stick grenades and trench mortar rounds, as well as a British Stokes mortar bomb and some other bits and pieces. DOVO have now removed them from the safe area on site.

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Recording Methods

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
 
       

Those of you that have visited us on site will know of all the many methods we employ for recording our work. One of these is to film our work to provide detail on decisions made and methods employed. This has the added benefit of the potential for producing documentary work on the excavations. Angela and Derek have filmed all of the fieldwork so far and Angela has now put together a 1 minute clip of the work as a trailer for a documentary proposal. We hope this leads to further work for the project!
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An Irish Memorial

Friday, August 14th, 2009
 
       

The team was fortunate enough to have Billy Quinn working with us this summer. Billy has posted his thoughts on the excavations here:
http://mooregroup.wordpress.com/my-summer-holidays-by-billy-quinn-aged-41-and-a-half
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In other news – there is the possibility that this week we will hear the results of the stable isotope work that was undertaken on the remains of the Australian soldier recovered in 2008. Was he from Western Australia, New South Wales, England, Scotland or…..Sweden?

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Lastly, it is confirmed that the volume on the project so far is now out: you can purchase at many book stores or Amazon… http://www.amazon.co.uk/Digging-Up-Plugstreet-Archaeology-Battlefield

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Food & Drink

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
 
       

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Without the assistance of Claude and Nelly at the Auberge in Ploegsteert we wouldn’t have the successful, nor as well fed project that we do.
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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!
www.auberge-ploegsteert.be
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Thanks again, from the whole team!

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Over the Parapet

Sunday, August 9th, 2009
 
       

As promised, here are some photographs of the project, these are of the trenches excavated but there will be more, including finds coming soon!
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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.
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Remains of the battered German bunker in T4
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The remains of the collapsed shelter in the side of the crater investigated in T6. More to see there next year, I feel!
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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!
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Part of the amazing architecture in T1.
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Brian, Avril & Egg hard at it with trowels in T2, only to discover in was empty – still, even negative evidence is evidence!
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Henry and Bev working in Trench 4.
As you can see the team were pretty busy. Next time, more images of the treasure uncovered!

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Ave atque Vale II

Sunday, August 9th, 2009
 
       

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.
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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.
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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 privileged to stand on the threshold.
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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.

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Changing the Geography

Saturday, August 8th, 2009
 
       

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.
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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!
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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.
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Trench 2 was a speculative test pit and produced nothing.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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)
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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.
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Photographs will follow later, once I can upload a few.

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