Introduction to Battlefield Archaeology

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An Introduction to Battlefield Archaeology

The Archaeology of Battles, a more apt name for this discipline of Archaeology, has only recently been recognized as an aspect of substantiating military history. When one thinks of military history we tend to think more of the battle itself and not the actual land that the battle took place on. Battlefield Archaeology is the exploration of that land and she is abounding with frozen history.

Actual remnants of a battle scarcely remain above the surface, therefore examination of a battle site, utilizing the methodology of archaeology, results in a close replication of the events that actually transpired. As you can imagine, those who study such archaeological sites have to make use of multi-disciplined archaeology approaches in order to locate physical evidence of conflict.

Earthwork Surveys
Battlefield Archaeology relies heavily on earthwork surveys and the quality of this data weighs greatly on the time period that the battle took place in. The First World War was one of the first battles that had documented earthwork surveys and this provided valuable evidence on trenches, underground mines and tunnels.

Geophysical Survey
Several types of geophysical surveys are used as an application to the discipline of Battlefield Archaeology. The most prominent tool is the mapping of the location of finds such as artifacts, weapons and ammunition on the land of the battlefield.

Metal Detector Survey
One of the initial tools utilized at the onset of a battlefield exploration would be the electronic conductivity meter, more commonly referred to as a Metal Detector. This apparatus' function is to detect fragments of metal buried beneath the soil.

Fluxgate Gradiometer
The Fluxgate Gradiometer is used to record differences in the earth's magnetic fields over a specific battlefield. This tool has been instrumental in locating mass graves and sub-surface ditches, hearths and kilns.

Electrical Earth Resistance Meter
The Electrical Earth Resistance Meter is used to record differences in the electrical conductivity and the moisture in the soil. This meter has located mass grave sites where the differences in the moisture content could only be measured by its utilization.

Field Walking Surveys
An Archaeologist conducting an examination of a battlefield will do a field walking survey. Here they will be locating and documenting any above ground artifacts that may or may not be evidence to support a battle reconstruction.

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