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Proof of Life: Mark-Making Practices on the Island of Alderney

  • Caroline Sturdy Colls (a1), Rachel Bolton-King (a2), Kevin Colls (a1), Tim Harris (a3) and Czelsie Weston (a1)...

Abstract

Currently, mark-making practices as a form of identification and proof of life are an unrealized resource. Over a three-year period, systematic walkover surveys were conducted on and within fortifications and other structures on the island of Alderney to locate historic and modern marks. The investigations presented in this article demonstrate the importance of non-invasive recording and examination of marks to identify evidence connected to forced and slave labourers, and soldiers present on the island of Alderney during the German occupation in World War II. Names, hand and footwear impressions, slogans, artworks, dates, and counting mechanisms were recorded electronically and investigated by using international databases, archives, and translation services. We discuss the value and challenges of interpreting traces of human life in the contexts of conflict archaeology and missing person investigations and underline the need for greater recognition of marks as evidence of past lives.

L’étude des marques comme forme d'identification et de preuve de vie est un domaine actuellement peu exploré. Une enquête systématique, dont le but était de repérer des signes d’époques historiques et modernes, a été menée sur une durée de trois ans autour et à l'intérieur des fortifications et autres structures de l’île d'Alderney. L’étude présentée ici démontre l'importance des relevés de surface et de l'examen des marques laissées par les prisonniers, forçats et soldats présents sur l’île d'Alderney au cours de son occupation pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Les recherches ont révélé des noms, des empreintes de mains et de chaussures, des slogans, des œuvres d'art, des dates et des systèmes de comptage qui ont été enregistrés, numérisés et étudiés à l'aide de bases de données internationales, d'archives et de services de traduction. Notre discussion porte sur la valeur et les défis posés par l'interprétation de traces de vie humaine dans le contexte de l'archéologie des conflits et des enquêtes sur personnes disparues et souligne le besoin de prendre davantage en compte le marquage en tant que preuve de vie. Translation by Madeleine Hummler

Heute stellen Markierungen als Ausdruck der Identität und als Nachweis eines Lebens eine nicht ausgebeutete Quelle dar. In den letzten drei Jahren wurde eine systematische Aufnahme von verschiedenen Zeichen auf und innerhalb der Festungen und anderen Anlagen auf der Insel Alderney durchgeführt. Das Ziel war, Markierungen aus historischer und moderner Zeit zu dokumentieren. Die in diesem Artikel vorgestellten Untersuchungen unterstreichen die Bedeutung von nichtinvasiven Aufnahmeverfahren und der Auswertung von Kennzeichen, die es ermöglichen, die Anwesenheit von Zwangsarbeiter, Häftlingen und Soldaten auf der Insel Alderney während des Zweiten Weltkrieges zu beweisen. Namen, Abdrücke von Händen und Schuhen, Leitsprüche, Kunstwerke, Daten und Zählsysteme wurden elektronisch erfasst und mit Hilfe von internationalen Datenbanken, Archiven und Übersetzungsdiensten ausgewertet. Im Vordergrund der Ausführungen stehen der Betrag und die Schwierigkeiten hinsichtlich der Interpretation von Spuren menschlichen Lebens im Rahmen der Konfliktarchäologie und der Suche nach vermissten Personen. Diese Diskussion unterstreicht die Notwendigkeit einer besseren Anerkennung von Markierungen als Lebensbeweise in der Vergangenheit. Translation by Madeleine Hummler

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