University of Glasgow’s Centre for Battlefield Archaeology is the first and only centre in the world dedicated exclusively to researching archaeologies of conflict. The Centre has been a primary driver in gaining recognition for battle site archaeology as a specialised field, and battlefields as critically important in mapping the world’s cultural heritage.
Glasgow research, including initial work in 1999-2000 at the 1879 Zulu war site at kwaMondi, Eshowe, South Africa, helped to achieve international recognition for battlefield archaeology as a specialised research area. This was followed by work carried out at battlefields across Britain, which resulted in new knowledge of the Jacobite Uprising and the Battle of Culloden, and then enormously high-profile work in WWI and WWII sites (Time Team specials: The Somme’s Secret Weapon and Digging the Great Escape).
Glasgow archaeologists’ work uncovered the remains of a WWI mass grave, leading to the identification of 250 soldiers and commemoration of the site and the soldiers by the families, their countries and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Excavations in Flanders and northern France (covered on Time Team and in museum exhibitions) allowed the public to learn about the hidden history of the Western Front, where tens of thousands of Allied soldiers lived in underground tunnels.
Through such work and sustained public engagement, battlefields are now recognised as sites of national and international historical and cultural importance. This recognition has been translated into policy, with the Glasgow researchers delivering an inventory of Scottish battlefields that underpinned the introduction of policy measures for the preservation of battlefields, affording them - for the first time - a protected status similar to that of historical monuments or listed buildings.
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