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The ethics of digging

Article about: Seeing the variety of threads on battlefield digs makes me wonder about the ethics of such projects. While it is fascinating to see what is recovered, I wonder what history might be lost fro

  1. #41

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Quote by Digger View Post
    ..... contact the PAS (have you spoken with them Steve?).
    I must admit I gave up after the complete lack of interest from the first lot I tried to contact at the local council !

    I'll give them a blast Digger, but for my past finds the horse may well have already bolted from what you say below....

    Quote by Digger View Post
    .......can allow us all to work together and mutually support one another in a similar hobby.
    Couldn't agree more. All I needed to know was who to speak to and what to say !

    Quote by Digger View Post
    The next time you go digging Steve, just take a camera, ruler, pencil and pad with you. Im sure you already mark down the GPS or grid pos anyway....
    Funny you should say that but I do always take a camera and ALWAYS mark the grid pos, but not for the same reason as you. I mark it so I don't re-search the same area ! . I have recently got a nice GPS thingy-ma-bobby as well so will be taking that in future. As to taking a ruler pencil and pad, hmmmmm . Never taken one before because firstly, it's difficult to write when all you have to lean on is a tree/bush/sand dune/pile of mud, AND it's hacking it down with snow/rain/hail/sleet/cats n dogs, and secondly I already have a good 50lbs of stuff I am carrying and that'd just about be the straw that broke the Steve's back.

    How about I take my phone and make notes on that instead, estimating depths and such like ?

    Cheers Digger

    Steve T

  2. #42

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Quote by Digger View Post
    No - Im making an informed opinion based off the examples posted up on the forum....Id be happy for you to prove me wrong.

    Whilst I know Steve takes a camera.....the advice is also generalised for other peoples benefit.
    Read Steve's last post....

    By the way, wasn't you complaining earlier about generalization

  3. #43
    ?

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Digger one of the problems here is what Steve has experienced with the officialdom of the archaeology world.

    Can you tell me how many proffessionals in the UK are interested in Battlefield archaeology, particulary the recent wars ? How many have ever done a dig on a WW2 Site ? From Steve's experience , not many if any !!

    I am not a trained archaeologist but during my youth was very interested in it and participated in many official Roman and medievel digs with the pros during which i did learn the rudimenetary skills of the art. As a result i can see your point about correct recording of locations and finds etc.

    Since then i have never dug in the UK but only on the old Battlefields of the Eastern Front where i have been lucky to dig , excavate, whatever with some very skilled and enthusiastic diggers some of whom are proffessionaly trained , where possible records are kept but on many occasions the conditions do not lend themselves to such a process , the conditions are not those where a nice covered and sanitised dig site can be made and records kept , as Steve has pointed out.

    Many of the Eastern diggers have evolved techniques through experience and take great care with artifacts and any remains that are found even though they may not have had much idea when they started, many of these guys are now used by the German Volksbund and Russian wargraves as they are totally trustworthy and both organisations know that if these guys didn't do it nobody would as the majority of pros aren't interested, it,s too recent and isn't very sexy or newsworthy.

    As an example one of the main official search groups at Stalingrad when i was last there found within a short stretch of trenchline the remains of almost 500 hundred people !!! Normal rules do not apply here due to the scale of things , whilst every effort is made to identify the remains the scale of things prevents what you would do on a dig ,if you found that amount of remains on a dig in England you would be there for years !!! Out there the Russian winter doesn't give you that sort of timescale.

    Many of these guys receive no remuneration at all, unlike the proffesionals and do it out of a sense of duty and because they enjoy it.

    For me the situation in the UK is the same and lets be honest here most of the pros are not interested in WW2 and if " amatuer " guys wern't doing it , it just wouldn't be getting done and certainly history is not the preserve of the proffesional historian.

    Maybe it wasn't your intention but your posts have sounded like a pro beating the amatuers with a big stick as you feel that the amateurs shouldn't be poking our noses into something we know nothing about.

    regards

    Paul
    The gates of hell were opened and we accepted the invitation to enter" 26/880 Lance Sgt, Edward Dyke. 26th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers , ( 3rd Tyneside Irish )

    1st July 1916

    Thought shall be the harder , heart the keener,
    Courage the greater as our strength faileth.
    Here lies our leader ,in the dust of his greatness.
    Who leaves him now , be damned forever.
    We who are old now shall not leave this Battle,
    But lie at his feet , in the dust with our leader

    House Carles at the Battle of Hastings

  4. #44
    Jan
    Jan is online now
    ?

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    As an archaeologist and militaria collector I have to agree with Paul. My opinion is that professional archaeologists are totally overworked with prehistoric and medieval excavations and research. Amateurs and people with interest in things underground are a valuable resource to professional archaeology, this has always been the case and always will be. Happy digging but make somekind of documentation for the generations to come

    Rgds Jan

  5. #45
    ?

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Maybe its because Ive just spent the last few days living in the freezing cold, being thrashed around and waking up at 4am to find ice accumulating on me - and maybe I shouldnt be writing this in my current state but -

    What you've written Paul is pretty much what Ive already said myself on this thread concerning ethics. And I didnt want to appear too judging about the OstFront, as my only experience lays through sources and viewing the photos posted up here. You've given a further understanding of the constraints which are encountered and this really helps.
    However, I often get the opinion on here that there are those who would rather carry on "business as usual", and would rather hear praise/applaud at their aquisition than take constructive criticism.
    Ive gone out of my way to try and explain that in the UK there is a proffesional interest in this stuff (else why would anyone be on here?) - and Ive provided UK diggers with links to agencies that can help them develop their technique and hobby in-line with the "proffesionals"....so really, am I bashing? Or would people rather see it that way, and ignore it for an easy life?

    All the best
    Tom.

    Quote by Paul E View Post
    Digger one of the problems here is what Steve has experienced with the officialdom of the archaeology world.

    Can you tell me how many proffessionals in the UK are interested in Battlefield archaeology, particulary the recent wars ? How many have ever done a dig on a WW2 Site ? From Steve's experience , not many if any !!

    I am not a trained archaeologist but during my youth was very interested in it and participated in many official Roman and medievel digs with the pros during which i did learn the rudimenetary skills of the art. As a result i can see your point about correct recording of locations and finds etc.

    Since then i have never dug in the UK but only on the old Battlefields of the Eastern Front where i have been lucky to dig , excavate, whatever with some very skilled and enthusiastic diggers some of whom are proffessionaly trained , where possible records are kept but on many occasions the conditions do not lend themselves to such a process , the conditions are not those where a nice covered and sanitised dig site can be made and records kept , as Steve has pointed out.

    Many of the Eastern diggers have evolved techniques through experience and take great care with artifacts and any remains that are found even though they may not have had much idea when they started, many of these guys are now used by the German Volksbund and Russian wargraves as they are totally trustworthy and both organisations know that if these guys didn't do it nobody would as the majority of pros aren't interested, it,s too recent and isn't very sexy or newsworthy.

    As an example one of the main official search groups at Stalingrad when i was last there found within a short stretch of trenchline the remains of almost 500 hundred people !!! Normal rules do not apply here due to the scale of things , whilst every effort is made to identify the remains the scale of things prevents what you would do on a dig ,if you found that amount of remains on a dig in England you would be there for years !!! Out there the Russian winter doesn't give you that sort of timescale.

    Many of these guys receive no remuneration at all, unlike the proffesionals and do it out of a sense of duty and because they enjoy it.

    For me the situation in the UK is the same and lets be honest here most of the pros are not interested in WW2 and if " amatuer " guys wern't doing it , it just wouldn't be getting done and certainly history is not the preserve of the proffesional historian.

    Maybe it wasn't your intention but your posts have sounded like a pro beating the amatuers with a big stick as you feel that the amateurs shouldn't be poking our noses into something we know nothing about.

    regards

    Paul
    Last edited by Digger; 02-22-2010 at 12:30 PM.

  6. #46
    ?

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Tom i do take on board your points and you are in a much better position to answer some points than the rest of us, but personally i would be very interested in your vierws on how many proffesionals have any interest in WW2 either here or abroad ?

    regards

    Paul

    Ps Are you SAS ?
    The gates of hell were opened and we accepted the invitation to enter" 26/880 Lance Sgt, Edward Dyke. 26th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers , ( 3rd Tyneside Irish )

    1st July 1916

    Thought shall be the harder , heart the keener,
    Courage the greater as our strength faileth.
    Here lies our leader ,in the dust of his greatness.
    Who leaves him now , be damned forever.
    We who are old now shall not leave this Battle,
    But lie at his feet , in the dust with our leader

    House Carles at the Battle of Hastings

  7. #47

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Digger

    Perhaps it would be an idea to get a sticky thread in this forum with some useful links to the correct archeological depts/people we need to talk to.

    cheers

    Steve

  8. #48

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Perhaps we should all start by agreeing what "military archeology" is. To me, it's digging in order to understand a battle. In my country (USA), a good example of military archeology, I think, is the excavations at Little Big Horn, where a US cavalry unit led by General George Custer was annihilated by a large group of American Indian warriors in 1876. About 30 years ago, a careful excavation led by military archeologist proved that the American Indian warriors were in fact better armed than we understood, and that Custer's men were scattered and probably fleeing when they were killed. That disproved the popular version, from Hollywood movies, about what happened at "Custer's Last Stand."

    I'm not aware of true World War II "military archeology" in the European Theater. Is that correct?

    If that is correct, then I think the ethics of digging is to, at the least, alert the proper authorities that you've found a soldier's remains at a certain site - whether you meant to or not. And, at the least, to alert the authorities of any dangerous munitions that you uncovered.

    I realize that's easier said than done, especially if you are trespassing and shouldn't have been digging at the site in the first place.

    Thanks for this forum and the information provided...it is most interesting. Thanks also to the groups that are doing the honorable task of retrieving soldiers' remains from both sides.

  9. #49

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Conflict archaeology seems to be a growing discipline:
    BRILL Publication: Journal of Conflict Archaeology

  10. #50
    ?

    Default Re: The ethics of digging

    Quote by Steve T View Post
    I must admit I gave up after the complete lack of interest from the first lot I tried to contact at the local council !

    I'll give them a blast Digger, but for my past finds the horse may well have already bolted from what you say below....



    Couldn't agree more. All I needed to know was who to speak to and what to say !



    Funny you should say that but I do always take a camera and ALWAYS mark the grid pos, but not for the same reason as you. I mark it so I don't re-search the same area ! . I have recently got a nice GPS thingy-ma-bobby as well so will be taking that in future. As to taking a ruler pencil and pad, hmmmmm . Never taken one before because firstly, it's difficult to write when all you have to lean on is a tree/bush/sand dune/pile of mud, AND it's hacking it down with snow/rain/hail/sleet/cats n dogs, and secondly I already have a good 50lbs of stuff I am carrying and that'd just about be the straw that broke the Steve's back.

    How about I take my phone and make notes on that instead, estimating depths and such like ?

    Cheers Digger

    Steve T


    Sorry Steve - totally missed your last.

    Do you have one of those posh fancy phones like an Iphone or Blackburry? Alot of my friends are using those when going on digs instead of writing in the rain/snow etc. I know its a ball-ache, but if you can, try and get a quick sketch done which shows at what level you found your items, itl really help you get to know at what depth your likely to encounter other artefacts whilst your digging (see, not just helping out the squints eh lol!) - and gives an archaeological context. Also - take a tape measure as when you take photos, it gives you an instant scale to look at.


    Ive put up a quick thread here: http://warrelics.eu/forum/battlefiel...80/#post119889

    Highlighting the popularity of Conflict Archaeology, and providing some quick links for those in the UK. Other than that - always contact your local Archaeology Unit, and if they arent interested - contact the next borough/council unit as they might be able to help.

    All the best
    Tom.

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