Broken Pots, Mending Lives: The Archaeology of Operation Nightingale [Hardback]

Richard Osgood (Author)

ISBN: 9781789259384 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2023 | Language: English 240p, H254 x W198 (mm) Colour and B/W

Broken Pots, Mending Lives


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. 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.

Operation Nightingale is a programme which was 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. Over the following decade, the project has expanded to include veterans of older conflicts and of other nations – from the United States, from Poland, from Australia and elsewhere.

This book is the story of those veterans, of their incredible discoveries, of their own journeys of recovery – sometimes one which can lead to a lifetime of studying archaeology. It has taken them to 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 shows the reader how the discovery of our shared past – of long-forgotten houses, of glinting gold jewellery, of broken pots, can be restorative and help people mend otherwise damaged lives.

The book features a foreword and illustrations by Professor Alice Roberts, presenter on BBC's The Big Dig, Digging for Britain and Coast, alongside superb photography by Harvey Mills.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor Alice Roberts
Chapter 1: Origins at the Midden: The beginnings of Operation Nightingale at an Iron Age feasting site
Chapter 2: The Phoenix and the Eagle: Searching for Hessians and the Band of Brothers
Chapter 3: Legends: The convict burials of Rat Island
Chapter 4: Mud, Blood and Green Fields Beyond: Digging for Tank 796 and the traces of the First World War
Chapter 5: Tally Ho!: archaeology and the Battle of Britain
Chapter 6: Facing Beowulf – excavating remains of Anglo Saxon England
Chapter 7: Locking the House: finding and reconstructing a Bronze Age roundhouse
Chapter 8: Homes of the Dead: discoveries at a burial mound on Salisbury Plain
Chapter 9: Conclusions
Further Reading

Reviews & Quotes

"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

"Richard Osgood’s superb book 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."

Barry Cunliffe

"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

"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

Product Tags

Use spaces to separate tags. Use single quotes (') for phrases.

Memory usage: real: 24641536, emalloc: 24277288
Code ProfilerTimeCntEmallocRealMem