Australians travelling to Belgium in the last year of the Anzac Centenary (2018) have an unprecedented opportunity to participate in an archaeological dig at a newly discovered First World War battlefield, located approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Ypres.
In 2015, a team of archaeologists discovered a well-preserved German strongpoint at a ridge top known as ‘Hill 80’ near the village of Wijtschate or ‘’Whitesheet” in Flanders Fields, Belgium.
What they stumbled upon was unique—a formidable trench fortress originating from 1914 that had remained virtually untouched since the end of the First World War.
In addition to the trenches, the archaeologists also uncovered the remains of British and German soldiers, as they fell.
From April to July 2018, the site now known as Project Whitesheet/Dig Hill 80, gives visitors the chance to either tour the archaeological site or to “be an archaeologist” and take part in the dig for between 1-5 days.
The dig is an international project focussed on education, peace and reconciliation. Participants will have the opportunity to preserve the unique archaeology of a First World War battlefield while digging with a professional team of archaeologists. There is also a chance some of the missing soldiers of Wijtschate, who have no known grave, may be identified and given a proper burial as a result of the work of archaeologists and volunteers.
Visitors will be able to combine Dig Hill 80 with a visit to the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, which is featuring an exhibition titled Traces of War: WW1 Archaeology from 17 February until 26 August 2018.
The In Flanders Fields Museum is part of the Australian Remembrance Trail (ART), which honours Australian service men and women who battled enemy forces along the Western Front during the First World War. The ART includes museums, memorials, cemeteries and other related points of interest. For more information on the ART click here.