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Twilight over England? Archaeological Excavation in England 1938–1945

  • Tim N.L. Evans (a1)

Abstract

This article examines the location and context of archaeological investigations in England between 1938 and 1945. The analysis of sources, including national inventories and contemporary journals, dispels any notion that archaeological practice was suspended during World War II, despite the absence of some leading practitioners, and reveals that a surprising amount of salvage and research fieldwork took place. Fieldwork was primarily in the south of the country; it reflects pre-war investigative trends, contemporary knowledge, opinion of the archaeological resource, and the increased threat of war-related construction work, but also the impact of immediate post-war concerns such as housing and infrastructure. Although primarily undertaken by established excavators employed by the Ministry of Works, a substantial amount of rescue work was carried out by small groups, local societies, and individuals often outside State funding, which reflects an independent culture of fieldwork that continues to the present day.

La répartition des interventions archéologiques en Angleterre entre 1938 et 1945 et le contexte dans lequel elles s'inscrivent forment le sujet de cet article. L'analyse des sources, qui repose sur le dépouillement d'inventaires nationaux et des revues archéologiques de l’époque, révèle que la pratique de l'archéologie de terrain n'a pas souffert de hiatus, malgré l'absence de certains archéologues de pointe, et démontre qu'un nombre surprenant d'opérations de sauvetage et de fouilles programmées ont été effectuées. Les fouilles se concentrent surtout dans le sud du pays, reflétant les courants de recherche d'avant-guerre, les connaissances de l’époque et l'opinion que l'on se faisait des ressources de l'archéologie; elles témoignent aussi de la menace croissante des aménagements liés à la guerre et des effets de la reconstruction d'après-guerre tels les ouvrages d'infrastructure et les constructions de logements. Quoique surtout conduites par des archéologues de formation employés par le Ministère des Travaux Publics, une part non négligeable des opérations de sauvetage a été menée par des petits groupes, des sociétés locales et des individus souvent en dehors du système de subventions de l'Etat; ces travaux sont symptomatiques d'une attitude indépendante envers les recherches de terrain qui perdure jusqu’à nos jours. Translation by Madeleine Hummler.

Die Verbreitung von archäologischen Untersuchungen zwischen 1938 und 1945 und die Umstände, in welchen diese unternommen wurden, stehen im Mittelpunkt dieses Artikels. Auf der Basis von nationalen Inventaren und zeitgenössischen Zeitschriften zeigt die Auswertung der Quellen, dass, trotz der Abwesenheit von führenden Archäologen, archäologische Tätigkeit nicht unterbrochen war; sie weist auch darauf hin, dass eine überraschend große Menge von Notgrabungen und Feldforschungen stattfand. Diese sind vor allem im Süden verbreitet, was die Forschungsschwerpunkte vor dem Krieg, der damalige Wissensstand, die Einschätzung der bekannten Befunde, aber auch die wachsende Drohung von kriegsverbundenen Baumaßnahmen und vom Wiederaufbau nach dem Krieg wie Infrastruktur und Wohnungen widerspiegelt. Obschon die Notgrabungen meistens von Berufsarchäologen, die vom Amt für öffentliche Arbeiten beauftragt waren, durchgeführt wurden, wurde eine erhebliche Menge von Rettungsgrabungen von kleinen Gruppen, lokalen Gesellschaften und Einzelpersonen oft ohne Staatssubventionen übernommen. Diese Situation verdeutlicht, dass England damals (und auch noch heute) eine eigenständige Feldforschungskultur besaß. Translation by Madeleine Hummler.

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Twilight over England? Archaeological Excavation in England 1938–1945

  • Tim N.L. Evans (a1)

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