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“Operation Nightingale – archaeology as a recovery tool for injured service personnel” by Richard Osgood

Archaeological research is used to help rehabilitate injured service personnel through participation in survey, excavation, post-excavation and reporting.

“Operation Nightingale – archaeology as a recovery tool for injured service personnel” by Richard Osgood, Senior Historic Advisor, Ministry of Defence.

Operation Nightingale is a military initiative developed to use archaeology as a means of aiding the recovery of service personnel injured in recent conflict, particularly in Afghanistan. The huge range of sites on Salisbury Plain, many of them remarkably well-preserved within the Ministry of Defence training area, has provided an ideal opportunity for Operation Nightingale to engage in archaeology. For over two decades Wessex Archaeology has been helping the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and its predecessors protect sites on Salisbury Plain, excavating and recording them where necessary, for example in advance of construction of new hard tracks which allow modern tanks and heavy equipment to be transported across the Plain.

One of the major threats to archaeological remains on Salisbury Plain is not military manoeuvres, but burrowing animals. Over recent years increasing damage has been caused to prehistoric burial mounds and other important monuments by badgers. Trying to exclude these animals from certain sites by fencing is costly and in some cases, has proved ineffective.

This was the case at Barrow Clump, a large 4000-year-old Early Bronze Age burial mound, with earlier Neolithic layers beneath and a 6th-century AD Anglo-Saxon cemetery over the top. Continuing burrowing was bringing human bones and grave-goods such as spearheads and glass beads to the surface, and this would eventually have led to destruction of this important monument, which had already been placed on Historic England’s ‘Monuments at Risk’ register.

Recorded on 16 February 2015 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  The recording of this lecture has been made possible through the generous financial support of Sir Angus Grossart QC CBE DL LLD DLitt FRSE FSA Scot.