Soldiers battle badgers on Salisbury Plain as innovative project reveals Anglo-Saxon remains

By Culture24 Reporter | 16 July 2012
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A photo of a skeleton with teeth buried in a light brown and yellow stone and clay ditch
An army team excavating on Salisbury Plain have found two Anglo-Saxon bodies
© Cpl Kelly Williams RLC - Crown Copyright
Soldiers digging Salisbury Plain as part of their recovery from injuries sustained in Afghanistan have uncovered the bodies of an Anglo-Saxon warrior and a lavishly-buried 6th century woman.

Operation Nightingale, an investigation into Bronze Age deposits at the Barrow Clump monument, found the male buried with a bronze shield.

A photo of three soldiers in camouflage gear crouching in front of archaeological remains
The innovative project has won a British Archaeology Award
© Cpl Kelly Williams RLC - Crown Copyright
The woman, named Davina by the diggers, is thought to have died in her late teens or early 20s before being buried at the prestigious site.

The project team from The Rifles – the largest infantry regiment in the British Army – have been preserving finds at risk from the attentions of wildlife on the Plain, where badgers have been known to move grave goods and remains while burrowing.

Personnel will now compile a land survey and report from the extensive Operation, which has won a British Archaeology Award for its work in helping soldiers enhance their skills and career prospects. Eight of the team are now preparing to study archaeology at Leicester University.

“There are long-standing connections between archaeology and the military,” said Richard Osgood, the Senior Historic Advisor for the Defence Intelligence Organisation and a co-director of the project.

“This work continues to draw on a number of important skill-sets to give the soldiers an enduring interest in heritage and their environment.

"The project has proved of immense value in assisting soldiers in The Rifles, while at the same time accomplishing some great archaeology.”

Sergeant Diarmaid Walshe, a qualified archaeologist and member of The Rifles, also praised the impact of the initiative.

“The award means as much to the soldiers participating as it does to those of us leading the work,” he said.

“These soldiers have all endured a lot during operational tours. The complex nature of the injuries that are being experienced in Afghanistan means the army is looking at new ways to promote recovery.

“We have already seen that archaeology helps their rehabilitation process. It also gives soldiers a very different view of Salisbury Plain and the heritage associated with it.”

Deidre O’Sullivan, an archaeology expert from the university, said the institution was “delighted” to join in.

“We have been keen to be involved at all levels, from working with injured soldiers on the excavation to helping them take further steps in their future career,” she added.

“From an academic perspective, we are thrilled to be closely involved with such interesting archaeology.”

More pictures:

A photo of a man in a green t-shirt measuring an archaeological skeleton in a ditch
© Cpl Kelly Williams RLC - Crown Copyright
A photo of an archaeological project involving hills and mud ditches in parkland
© Cpl Kelly Williams RLC - Crown Copyright
A photo of a man in outdoor clothing working with various implements on mud land
© Cpl Kelly Williams RLC - Crown Copyright
A photo of a team of soldiers, some of whom are in camouflage wear, standing in an archaeological pit
© Cpl Kelly Williams RLC - Crown Copyright

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