Operation Nightingale

Yesterday I was out on Salisbury Plain, enjoying a bit of wind and rain and open space, to see a little project that may become big. It’s the brainchild of Diarmaid Walshe (a sergeant with an archaeology PhD). As part of their rehabilitation process, soldiers from 1 Rifles injured in Afghanistan are digging an archaeological site. And it’s no ordinary site: they’re on the vast mound of rubbish that reshaped the hill at East Chisenbury around 700BC, a deep spread of black earth so rich with animal bones and artefacts that excavating it is like turning over a decayed museum store. We don’t understand it. But sometimes there is more to archaeology than just understanding the past.


6 thoughts on “Operation Nightingale

  1. A great idea, good luck with what I think is a fantastic project. I wish our soldiers a warm welcome back and hope they enjoy the experience.

  2. MOD archaeologist Richard Osgood is co-director with Sgt Walshe, and the project is supported by English Heritage, Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Wessex Archaeology and the Army’s survey unit, 135 Geographical Squadron. There are 11 soldiers from the Chepstow-based 1st Battalion The Rifles, camping on site and examining badgers at night: the excavation is in badger upcast from new setts. I’m pleased to say that Richard and Diarmaid are writing about the project for a future British Archaeology.

  3. Reading elsewhere someone quoting my “sometimes there is more to archaeology than just understanding the past”, I realised, of course, that in truth that should be, “there is always more to archaeology than just understanding the past”.

  4. As a ex Greenjacket who is now an archaeologist whenever I can get time of work, I think this is a great idea. This is a side of archaeolgy that needs to be given more public exposure.

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