Field work and archaeology

An Introduction to Battlefield Archaeology



Battlefields were until recently considered unapproachable by archaeologists, their buried secrets doomed to either remain hidden or to be looted by relic hunters, thereby losing all historical context.

Their unique problems included the fact that battles were fluid, covering hundreds of acres. Also, many times battles were fought in open farmland, and this soil has been ploughed and its artefact locations have been disturbed hundreds of times since the actual battles were fought.(1)

Battlefield archaeology refers to the specific study of a particular archaeological horizon in which a military action occurred. This may include both 'bounded' battlefields where troop dispositions, numbers and the order of battle are known from textual records, and also from the undocumented evidence of conflict. 

The discipline is distinct from military history in that it seeks to answer different questions, including the experiences of ordinary soldiers in wider political frameworks. Therefore, battlefield archaeology is not concerned, primarily, with the causes of conflict but of the sites where conflict actually took place, and of the archaeology of the event.[2]

Battlefield archaeology refers to the scientific study of a cultural landscape on which a military action – or battle – occurred.

Archaeologists understand that by studying what was left behind after the battle occurred, historians, preservationists, and researchers can better understand how the battle unfolded. 

When studying the material culture, or artefacts, it is also critically important to study topography or the physical features of an area. 

Troops often used the landscape to their advantages, such as points of concealment and higher elevations. This just one reason why battlefield preservation is so important – without pristine landscapes, much of the knowledge we can gain through archaeological investigations could be lost forever.(3)

The Mortimer's Cross project is a unique opportunity to learn about the development and techniques of battlefield archaeology and for volunteers to train and assist in field work, helping with detecting for battle-related finds and artefacts.(4) 

External links for further reading :

Foard, Glenn; Partida, Tracey (2011). "Conflict in the Pre-industrial Landscape"
http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/pindconflict_eh_2011/index.cfm


Battlefield Archaeology - British Archaeological Jobs Resource

(1) http://www.bravodigs.org/battlefield.html
(2)Sutherland, T.L. (2005) Pg. 7
(3)https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/faqs-battlefield-archaeology
(4)Volunteers will have to undergo training to a level of efficiency and competence to take part as detectorists. Please note there may be a limit to the numbers involved in this role. 

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