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Broken Pots, Mending Lives (Hardback)

The Archaeology of Operation Nightingale

Military > Weaponry P&S History > Archaeology > British Archaeology

By Richard Osgood
Imprint: Oxbow Books
Pages: 240
Illustrations: Colour and B/W
ISBN: 9781789259384
Published: 5th July 2023


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For those that survive, the traumas of military conflict can be long lasting. It might seem astonishing that archaeology, with its uncovering of the traces of the long-dead, of battlefields, of skeletal remains, could provide solace, and yet there is something magical about the subject. In archaeology there is a job for everyone; from surveying and drawing, to examining the finds, to digging itself. Often this is in some of the most beautiful and restful of landscapes and with talks around a campfire at the end of the day.

Operation Nightingale is a programme which was set up in 2011 within the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom to help facilitate the recovery of armed forces personnel recently engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, using the archaeology of the British Training Areas. Over the following decade, the project has expanded to include veterans of older conflicts and of other nations – from the United States, from Poland, from Australia and elsewhere.

This book is the story of those veterans, of their incredible discoveries, of their own journeys of recovery – sometimes one which can lead to a lifetime of studying archaeology. It has taken them to the crash sites of Spitfires and trenches of the Western Front in the First World War, through to burial grounds of Convicts, camp sites of Hessian mercenaries, and Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. Lavishly illustrated, this work shows the reader how the discovery of our shared past – of long-forgotten houses, of glinting gold jewellery, of broken pots, can be restorative and help people mend otherwise damaged lives.

The book features a foreword and illustrations by Professor Alice Roberts, presenter on BBC's The Big Dig, Digging for Britain and Coast, alongside superb photography by Harvey Mills.

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About Richard Osgood

Richard Osgood works as Senior Archaeologist for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation within the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom. He has excavated widely with research interests including the North European Bronze Age, the archaeology of conflict, and the psychological benefits of archaeology.

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