Revisiting the ‘haunted acres’

Posted on: 22 September 2016

Be it the Battle of Kinsale, the 1916 Rising or even ‘Game of Thrones’, there is something compelling about historical conflict. That’s because historical battles have shaped the current political landscape and so have a direct relevance on the present day.

This is something that will be discussed at the Fields of Conflict conference in Trinity Long Room Hub, beginning today and continuing until Sunday (September 22-25).

Fields of Conflict takes place every two years and is the largest gathering of battlefield and conflict archaeologists in the world. This year’s keynote speaker is Douglas Scott, whose work at the site of Custer’s last stand in the US has received international recognition.

Douglas Scott is effectively ‘the father of battlefield archaeology’, an accolade earned in part due to his groundbreaking work on the Battle of Little Big Horn. He specialises in the historical archaeology of the American West, military archaeology, human rights and forensic archaeology.

In addition Paul O’Keeffe will deliver his latest research into the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the effect that geographic information systems (GIF) can have. Paul is an archaeologist with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and is particularly interested in conflict from the 16th and 17th century periods.

Tim Sutherland, from the TV series Medieval Dead, will deliver a paper on the archaeology of Waterloo and in all Fields of Conflict will feature contributions from over 50 speakers.

Event organiser Sarah Alyn Stacey, Director at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Trinity and Associate Professor of French, commented: “The battles and wars covered are in many cases responsible for radically reshaping the political landscape at various times in history. Waterloo, one of the battles to be engaged with at the conference, is just one example, as is the Battle of Bannockburn and the American Civil War. The legacy of this reshaping is still felt today. The conference will engage with methods of enquiry into the past and will thereby shed exciting new light on innovative technologies and advances, for example, in the realm of forensic science.”

Event co-organiser Dr Gavin Hughes, of the Irish Conflict Archaeology Network, added: “Battlefields are ‘haunted acres’ and warfare is, sadly, a fundamental part of the human condition but archaeology has much to offer in understanding this dark side of human nature. As such, we are thrilled to be hosting this extremely important conference at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, with top international experts in their field here in Dublin to discuss the physical landscapes, excavation/survey techniques and cultural impact of many world-wide battlefields and campaigns.”

This is the first time the conference has come to Ireland. “With such an exciting line-up of speakers and subjects, from tracking down evidence for lost Roman legions to rediscovering Irish First World War training camps, it promises to be a hugely valuable few days. Of course, we'll also be covering one of the most influential battles of all time – Waterloo, won by the Allied Army under the great Irishman, the First Duke of Wellington, who sat as MP for Trim just across the road from Trinity." 

The Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Trinity College Dublin is hosting this three-day conference on conflict, battlefield and military archaeology, in conjunction with Trinity Long Room Hub. The conference aims to provide an opportunity for scholars to present, discuss and debate their research in this highly significant discipline.

The Irish Conflict Archaeology Network, based in Trinity Long Room Hub, is an interdisciplinary research project from The Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The network is designed to work closely with colleagues in war studies, history, classics, languages, gender, geography, medicine and anthropology.

Full programme for Fields of Conflict is available here.

*Main image: photograph of British troops in Front Square, Easter 1916, from 'The Great War Revisited Collection 1914-1918'




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