Mataeriel Culture: The Archaeology of 20th Century Conflict

By John Schofield; William Gray Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

2

Paradox in places: twentieth-century battlefield sites in long-term perspective

JOHN CARMAN

The 'Bloody Meadows' project (Carman 1999a, b) investigates the category of the 'historic battlefield' as a culturally constructed locale. It approaches battlefields from the premise that such places have something to tell us about the nature of human violence as expressed in war, and this makes them important. As a consequence, the project is inevitably concerned with issues surrounding their preservation.

A 'historic battlefield' is a defined space in which organized groups of armed people did regulated violence upon one another. Such places are the main focus of attention for military historians of all periods (Keegan 1976; Weigley 1991) and are increasingly being taken up as part of a nation's 'official' cultural heritage (for example, the preservation of US battlefields as National Monuments: Scott et al. 1989; English Heritage 1995; Foard 1995; Schofield 1998). Bloody Meadows, however, moves beyond the conventional discourses of military history and indeed much 'military archaeology' into a frame where cultural attitudes to battlefields come to the fore. In the twentieth century war was less concerned with defined spaces, and extended its reach. Accordingly, this chapter will examine twentieth-century war from the perspective of the long term in human history and will to some extent provide a justification for a preservationist project in the 'archaeology of war' that comes no closer to our own time than the year 1900. In doing so, it will place the interpretation and understanding of twentieth-century war at the heart of any concern with the preservation of its physical remains.


PRESERVING THE EVIDENCE OF WAR

The process of preservation in archaeological resource management (ARM) classically involves the two preliminary stages of identification and evaluation. Identification involves a process of survey and recording with the intention of establishing the quantity and types of the material available. Evaluation involves a process of giving value to material such that the value given to any one example can be compared with the value given to another. From this, choices can be made as to which examples are to be kept for posterity and which others are to be investigated or abandoned (Cleere 1984:126). This is the system generally applied

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