Broken Pots, Mending Lives
The Archaeology of Operation Nightingale
Imprint: Oxbow Books
240 Pages, 203 x 254 mm, B/W and color illustrations
- July 2023
For those that survive, the traumas of military conflict can be long-lasting. It might seem astonishing that archaeology, with its uncovering of the traces of the long-dead, of battlefields, of skeletal remains, could provide solace, and yet there is something magical about the subject. Operation Nightingale is a program set up in 2011 within the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom to help facilitate the recovery of armed forces personnel recently engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, using the archaeology of the British Training Areas. In the following decade, the project expanded to include veterans of older conflicts and of other nations – from the United States, from Poland, from Australia and elsewhere.
In archaeology there is a job for everyone: from surveying and drawing, to examining the finds, to digging itself. Often this is in some of the most beautiful and restful of landscapes and with talks around a campfire at the end of the day.
This book is the story of those veterans, of their incredible discoveries, of their own journeys of recovery – and sometimes into a lifetime of archaeology. From the crash sites of Spitfires and trenches of the Western Front in the First World War, through to burial grounds of convicts, camp sites of Hessian mercenaries, and Anglo-Saxon cemeteries. Lavishly illustrated, this work will show the reader how the discovery of our shared past – of long-forgotten houses, of glinting gold jewelry, of broken pots, can be restorative and help people mend otherwise damaged lives.
Chapter 1: Origins at the Midden
Chapter 2: The Phoenix and the Eagle
Chapter 3: Legends
Chapter 4: Mud, Blood and Green Fields Beyond
Chapter 5: Tally Ho!
Chapter 6: Facing Beowulf
Chapter 7: Locking the House
Chapter 8: Homes of the Dead
Chapter 9: Conclusions
"A wonderful account of an admirable endeavor to support the recovery of those brave men and women who have served their country. Operation Nightingale not only offers veterans the opportunity to use their hard-won knowledge and engage in significant work but more importantly the team framework and camaraderie that so many veterans miss. Richard Osgood captures beautifully the stories of the veterans, the thrill of discoveries, and the lasting bonds made in trenches and around the campfire.” ~General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan; former Director of the CIA; co-author with Andrew Roberts of Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine
“Richard Osgood’s superb book is about archaeology in action, covering everything from building a replica Bronze Age roundhouse to excavating the impact crater of a crashed Spitfire. The detail of the individual excavations is fascinating but the book is about far more – it tells of the people who took part and the camaraderie and long-lasting friendships made when teams of military veterans, suffering from the trauma of war, get together with professional archaeologists to focus their varied skills on specific historical questions. It is the story of the healing power of archaeology – of compassion, team-building and self-discovery gained in pursuit of a common goal. Broken Pots, Mending Lives is a thought-provoking celebration of our humanity and a reminder of what a remarkable profession archaeology will always be.” ~Sir Barry Cunliffe, author and archaeologist
“It’s been a privilege to work with Operation Nightingale over the years and witness the positive impact that getting your hands dirty on a dig can have on mental health. Talking with veterans has really brought the power of archaeology to heal home to me.” ~Sir Tony Robinson
“I’m in awe of Richard Osgood. His passion is infectious. He believes in exploring the past as much as he believes in living healthy, happy lives; and he shows how the two are linked.” ~Dan Snow, History Hit
“A stunning and memorable book in the concept of the project, the poignancy of the narrative, and the quality of the gorgeous images. Uplifting and inspirational, it is a book we need to keep returning to, to remind us all of those who serve and the damage they endure. Heroes – one and all.” ~Professor Dame Sue Black, Baroness Black of Strome