WWI artifacts tell of life on the frontline

U. MELBOURNE (AUS) — More than 100 artifacts from the First World War have been uncovered in an archaeological fieldwork survey on the Gallipoli battlefield in Turkey.

The discoveries are leading to interesting theories about life on the frontline, according to Antonio Sagona, a professor and survey archaeologist at the University of Melbourne.

The Battle of Gallipoli, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, took place from 1915-16 in an area that is now Turkey. The effort by the Allied Powers to secure a sea route to Russia was met with fierce resistance.

Water bottle with bullet hole. (Credit: Australian Department of Veterans Affairs)

Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone (Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, New Zealand)

The survey discoveries were made as part of a second season of fieldwork undertaken as part of the Joint Historical and Archaeological Survey—the only systematic survey of the battlefields of Gallipoli since the First World War.

The survey covered the northern frontline areas on the Turkish and Allied sides. One of the most significant finds was the Malone’s Terraces area at Quinn’s Post.

William Malone commanded New Zealand’s Wellington Infantry Battalion. Malone’s men relieved the Australians at Quinn’s Post in June 1915. This was a key position, where even the smallest advance by the Turks would have forced the evacuation of the Anzacs.

Malone, who was killed on 8 August 1915, greatly improved living arrangements at the post, including building terraces for troops to sleep in. These terraces were thought to have been lost.

The team also uncovered more than a thousand meters of trenches, dugouts, and tunnel openings. Some 130 artifacts depicting life on the battlefields were also recovered and handed to a local museum for preservation.

Some of the findings included three water bottles with bullet holes, pieces of medical bottles, tin food containers, expended ammunition, glass shards, shrapnel, and barbed wire fragments.

“We also found that Turkish kitchens were much closer to the frontline than on the Allied side, indicating access to fresh meals. Processed food containers were common on the Allied side but not the Turkish,” Sagona says. “In some areas it is clear that the Turkish soldiers used local materials—bricks and ceramic roof tiles—to reinforce their trench and tunnels whereas, no bricks or tiles were found on the Allied side.”

The team also discovered the complexity of trenches near the frontline, noting that some trench networks were so dense that they would be difficult to map using even modern day techniques.

The survey was conducted by a team of 17 archaeologists, historians and researchers from Australia, New Zealand, and Turkey.

Maps, images, and more background on the survey is available at www.dva.gov.au/media.

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