Archive | March 2016

Day 3 (31 March): The Meaning of a Boot.

While we recovered from the suggestion that our latrine may not be a latrine, but a food store and kitchen (we tried, therefore, to ignore the somewhat solidified toilet roll that Isobel found …), there were more discoveries and head-scratchings today.

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Isobel with solidified loo roll of goodness-knows-what vintage – mercifully unused.

I was also rather taken with the Conundrum Of The Boot today. Yesterday we found several shoes and boots in the latrine / potato store; we had also found some last year. The problem is this: if this is the footwear of forced labourers, then this makes the boot a rather poignant find and increases its value. If it is a post-war boot, then it is without value. Should it by thrown away? We’d value your thoughts.

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We were also visited on site by local journalist, Charlie McArdle, from BBC Radio Jersey, who had a little guided tour:

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BBC Radio Jersey visiting the camp

We carried on examining trench 5 today and Isobel walked away with the gold star for best find: a padlock! I was very pleased with this because it is symbolic of incarceration. There are those who say that there was no barbed wire around the camp but we dispelled this myth two years ago. Does this padlock speak of forced labourers being locked in to the camp at certain times, or was it used on a food store? A day of discoveries and head-scratchings, to be sure.

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Day 2 (30 March): Latrine or potato store?

Today the cat was put firmly among the pigeons when our investigation of the latrine end of the ablutions block revealed no evidence that there was ever a latrine there! If the latrine was indeed a latrine, we should have found a drain, or waste pipe and a hole in the wall of the structure. But we found only a solid floor and walls. This means that we need to rethink not just the function of the end room, but even the function of the whole structure. If the room was used for storage, for example, what might have been stored in an ablutions block? Perhaps a better question (prompted by Ivar) is: if this was, for example, a potato store, what, then, was the function of the whole structure? Perhaps the area that we securely identified last year as a washing area (complete with drain, drainage channel and water trough / shower area (we don’t know which as whatever it was was ripped out of the ground) was actually a food preparation area / kitchen? I don’t think that it was a cookhouse as there’s no evidence of an oven. But last year we found so many bathroom-type objects in the building, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, medicine, etc, that now I’m rather confused. There is one other option: it is possible that the rooms of this three-room structure were not part of the same thing. We don’t know where the partition wall was between the first two rooms and it may not have been possible to move between them. Was one a wash-room and the other two some kind of food storage room only? Does the presence of large numbers of whelks and limpets in the second and third rooms last year back up the idea of a kitchen? If anybody else has any other ideas about the use for the room, please leave a comment and let me know!

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Ivar and Isobel excavating the end room of the latrine block

We also opened up an extension to trench 5, which last year revealed so many great objects. Murphy’s law dictated that we found very little, but just as we were scratching our heads at finding almost nothing but hoggin (compacted grit and stones), Ivar found a fractured sewage pipe, almost intact, 3 foot 6 inches long and 6 inches in diameter. Of course, the key question is: does it belong to the camp? We all think so, but of course it doesn’t have ‘1943’ stamped on it, so this is only conjecture. It didn’t line up with the modern drain cover on the road outside the camp, which also possibly backs this up. But where is the sewage coming from? It’s quite close to the latrine block, which moves interpretation a little further in the direction of it being a latrine block.

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Ivar revealing the sewage pipe

While the sewage pipe may not seem as sexy as the mug with the eagle and swastika that I found last year, it tells us a little more about camp infrastructure and layout. But that doesn’t mean that the archaeology gods can’t also leave us another Nazi mug to find tomorrow.

29 March 2016: Day 1 of season 3 of the excavation of Lager Wick

Today marked the first day of the third and final season of the excavation of Lager Wick, a forced labour camp in Jersey, used during the German occupation. The project this year is supported by the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. The team members for 2016 are me, Dr Gilly Carr (University of Cambridge) as project director; Dr Ivar Schute from RAAP in the Netherlands, who I invited to join the dig because of his experience at other Nazi camp sites, including Westerbork and Sobibor. Mr Peter Masters joins us once again as the dig geophysicist, and we are also joined by Isobel Lloyd, a student volunteer from University of New England in Australia.

Storm Katie disrupted Peter and Isobel’s travel plans, so Ivar and I worked alone today. We focused on the latrine block, which Claudia Theune and I partially cleared last year. The end room within this block was partially flooded (because of all the recent rain) and full of rubble. We cleared quite a bit of it and decided to excavate the left hand side (as you can see). Having excavated the right hand site last year, we were surprised to find no drain or evidence that this end room was a toilet, as previously hypothesised. I wondered if perhaps we’d find a drain or something at the other end, but we found nothing. Ivar and I are still scratching our heads about the function of the room and are trying not to think about having to empty the entire area of mud and rubble and barbed wire in order to be absolutely sure.

Day 1 latrine block (23)

The toilet of the latrine block – possibly.

We found quite a lot of large lumps of stuff among all the rubble. As I mentioned, there were many strands of barbed wire, but also loads of fragments of water pipe (although no holes to show where it might have gone), a couple of roof tiles, three long metal posts with barbed wire attached, similar to those which can be found around the perimeter of the site; a few pieces of mirror; a door hinge; and my personal favorite: a lump of concrete with a wooden stake emerging from a hole. I think that this was one of those stakes which once had barbed wire attached, and you can see the evidence on 1944 aerial photos of the concrete lumps having been dug up, leaving behind holes. Amazing what archaeologists find to interest them …

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The pile of stuff (mainly water pipes) emerging from the latrine block today

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Concrete lump with wooden stake emerging.

Third season to begin soon!

A quick post to let you know that the third season of excavation at Lager Wick will begin on 29 March 2016. Our final day will be 3 April, so just a short run, but enough to finish the work we set out to do. Keep your eyes peeled for the latest posts!

Day 2 (34)