Protecting the Battlefield of Hastings from today’s battles

Each year hundreds of people re-enact the Battle of Hastings on the traditional site of the 11th century battle. Thousands more watch it. Archaeologists are now worried that these people are leaving behind material that could compromise the historic site. But now the University of Huddersfield’s Dr Glenn Foard — one of the world’s leading battlefield archaeologists — is developing a unique project designed to unearth whatever genuine material survives from 1066.

Battle of Hastings reenactment - photo by Antonio Borrillo

Beginning next spring 2015, Dr. Foard will oversee a project in which machines will remove the top layers of soil at a substantial area of the battlefield, in order to eliminate modern artefacts. Then there would be an archaeological search for artefacts from the Battle of Hastings.

Dr Foard believes that the 1066 battle was located on what is considered the traditional battlefield site – a topic that has been debated for years by historians. “I have no reason to believe that any of the alternatives are likely,” he explains. “I will never say that they are impossible – not after my work on Bosworth – but all the evidence I saw when I looked at Bosworth suggested that it wasn’t fought on the traditional site. At Hastings, however, everything I have looked at tells me that the battle did take place on the generally accepted site.

“But now the challenge is on to find out what archaeology is there, before it suffers contamination from all the activities that are going on. Whether there is archaeology under the ground to be confused by the re-enactment activities, we don’t know yet.”

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