Battlefield Archaeology: Past, Present, and Future

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Battle represents the climax of political conflict culminating in a loss of life, often on a large scale. Archaeologically, battle is manifest in the rapid deposition of an assemblage of materials and features as well as buried and unburied remains of victims. The social and political consequences of battle often extend far beyond the episode of fighting. Battle can dramatically reshape political boundaries as well political, social, demographic, and economic organization. This symposium focuses on the changing methods, practices, and motivations for the study of battlefields. New technologies, political agendas, historical repercussions, and moral responsibilities to those who died and their surviving families all shape the nature of battlefield studies. Our goal here is to present the latest work within the framing archaeological theory of how we study battlefields, why we do it, and the ramifications of what is learned from battlefield sites. This symposium is limited neither by spatial or temporal parameters. The papers, however, do more than present archaeological contexts; they contextualize the study of battlefields within the science of archaeology and the changing mores of humanity.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • Archaeological Research in the Recovery of WWII MIA's on a Pacific atoll: Tarawa (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Agamemnon Pantel. Mark Noah. Kristen Baker. Chester Walker. Jay Silverstein.

    Archaeological research on 538 MIA’s from WWII has been ongoing on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa over the past two years under the auspices of History Flight, an NGO. Tarawa, one of the bloodiest WWII battles in the Pacific, still has hundreds of MIA’s unaccounted for in one of the most densely populated locations on earth. History Flight, with the collaboration of professionals, para-professionals, military volunteers, DOD and the local community have been successful in locating and recovering...

  • Battlefield Archaeology in Ancient Europe and Southeast Asia: The Challenge of Remote Histories and Personification of War Events (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Laura Junker.

    Archaeological studies of 'warfare' in their cultural settings have multiplied over time and include analyses of fortifications, military equipment, warrior paraphernalia, and human skeletal trauma, usually spanning broad time scales and including diverse archaeological contexts (e.g. town walls, weapons production workshops, cemeteries) that are often remote from the actual locales where warfare is carried out. In contrast, 'battlefield' archaeology focuses on relatively temporally compact...

  • Culture and Battle: An Epistemological Approach to Warfare (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jay Silverstein.

    The continuum of behaviors associated with war stretches from the act of killing to the profound ideology justifying the act. Thus the study of warfare encompasses a constellation of behaviors ranging from the ideological roots of political solidarity to the physical mechanics of death. Of the many aspects of war, battle represents the union of political and individual motive in a seminal action that often leaves a salient archaeological imprint circumscribed in space and time. However, bias,...

  • Finding the Right Spot: Utilizing Historic Maps, Period Imagery, and Archaeological Data to Identify Aircraft Crash Sites within the Larger Battlefield Landscape (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dane Magoon.

    Identifying aircraft crash sites is a critical component of the mission of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. This paper uses several examples of aircraft crash incidents and illustrates the contextual use of multiple lines of data, such as historic imagery, GPS, period maps, and GIS for the effective location of individual crash sites across the greater battlefield landscape. This effort is undertaken to help address the goals associated with DPAA's greater mission: the return of missing...

  • Planning for the Battle(field) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Penny Minturn.

    The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is tasked with recovering missing military personnel from conflict areas all around the world. In the past we have dealt most often with individual ground losses, expedient burials, and aircraft crashes. But soon we will be confronting the daunting, and very different, responsibility of the recovery of multiple individuals from battlefields. Battlefields differ from our ‘standard’ excavation sites in many ways, namely, the number of casualties, the...

  • Reconstructing Korean War Battlefields from Body Recovery Information (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexander Christensen.

    During the Chinese Spring Offensive of April and May 1951, Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces pushed United Nations troops back from their defensive lines in the Republic of Korea, with extensive casualties on both sides. Because UN forces were driven back, many of the dead were not recovered and identified until the battlefields were retaken. In some cases this occurred days after the battle, but for many it was weeks, months, or even years later. Individual Deceased Personnel Files (IDPFs) for...

  • WWII Battlefield Archaeology of Tarawa (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristen Baker.

    A central tenant of military philosophy is "adapt, improvise, and overcome". Navigating battlefields requires constant adaptation to dynamic surroundings due to the interplay of several variables such as 1) pre-existing landscape and terrain, 2) enemy defenses, 3) enemy opposing forces, and 4) friendly and enemy fire. To successfully navigate the archaeology of a historic or prehistoric battlefield, archaeologists must attempt to understand the variables (such as those listed) that contributed...