This last season of Time Team no longer has Mick Aston (God bless him) or many of the long-serving regulars. Tony Robinson, Phil Harding, Raksha Dave, John Gater (geophysicist) and Jackie McKinley (bone specialist) were there and also Helen Geake who was the Saxon specialist. They had come to help The Rifles Archaeology team with a special project called “Operation Nightingale”. This military project was designed to help rehabilitate wounded and shell shocked soldiers from Afghanistan. They worked alongside serving soldiers and the Military archaeology team. Time Team arrived to continue the excavation with them for 3 days.
Barrow Clump was originally a Bronze-age burial mound sticking out of the plain and had then been used later by the Saxons to bury their own dead. It was dated to be around 2000years BC. The Saxons deliberately chose ancient places to bury their dead. There had been many finds including shield bosses, spear heads, knives and jewellery, and 25 skeletons had been unearthed before Time Team arrived.
Portable x-ray equipment that had been used in a war theatre in Afghanistan was used to look at artefacts that were covered in mud before cleaning them. It was found that the weapons buried with the skeletons were mainly in good condition; this was thought that the men hadn’t seen extensive fighting action, but wanted to be seen as warriors with their weapons beside them.
This project to help rehabilitate the soldiers was found by all to be a life saving and life changer and helped to build their self esteem. They felt they were digging up the warriors of the past.
I think it was good to see damaged soldiers starting to live again, being helped by consummate professionals. Maybe Salisbury Plain will lose the name as the Place God Forgot!