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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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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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Rain Stopped Play

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
 
       

Thunder storms are a bit of a thing while we are in Belgium, this afternoon saw dark clouds rolling across the fields towards us.
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Dark clouds bringing heavy rain, swirling winds and the rumble of thunder. A gentle rumble this time, nothing like the sharp crack of thunder which woke us on Thursday night a matter of hours after we had laid Alan Mather to rest in the peaceful place that is Prowse Point, or the violent cracks that echoed over the battle scarred landscape the night after we had found him, as the team stood guard over the site.
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It may be a coincidence, but in the emotion soaked fields where men lived and died, there is an evocative echo of the big guns perceptible in nature’s voice.

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Hello from the Finds Room!

Monday, July 26th, 2010
 
       


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It has been a bit quiet the last few days as our dedicated diggers get down to the archaeology. We’ve got the usual finds coming out – 7.92 mm German rounds, .303 British rounds, shrapnel balls, some textiles (probably blackout), domestic items and a wonderful array of the aptly named “rusty crap”.
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We’ve also had a few nice finds that we will share with you.
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First of all, we have a shoulder badge that would have been worn by the Australian Imperial Forces, with a modern example for comparison:
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A piece of timber a with a standard .303 British round still in situ:

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Shirley and Rob cleaned up this nice example of a number 85 fuse made in September 1916, manufactured by ALCO.

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Lighting in the Dugouts

Sunday, July 25th, 2010
 
       

Over the last couple of days a selection of broken light bulbs have been recovered from Avril’s trench, if the large timbers are the remains of a dugout, it looks as though it may have had electric lighting.
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Cleaning in the finds room has revealed a batch number in cyrillic figures on the remaining glass.

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Thank you to our Sponsors

Sunday, July 25th, 2010
 
       

The Plugstreet Team would like to thank Ypres Flanders Battlefield Tours and Cherry Blossom B&B at Brandhoek, for their support.

Part of the fund has been put towards essential services to help make our stay on site more civilized.

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The project is still seeking sponsorship in exchange for advertising on our website, if you are interested in advertising on this site please get in touch

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