From Monumental War to the Monuments of War – Archaeology of the Great War in the Republic of Macedonia

Couple of weeks ago I went on a field trip to Mariovo region (Novaci municipality) for searching the remains of the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia. Field activities were based on surface prospecting of the Macedonian front remains during the Great War. The visit included the 1050 elevation, the upstream of the Black River (Crna River today or ancient Erigon), the villages Skochivir and Slivnica where the hospitals were settled during the WW1 and the field near the village of Bach which was used by the Air Forces. Immense photo and video documentation for some future research was made.

Oh, no, I am not a historian, nor will ever be engaged in modern history, since I am a prehistoric archaeologist and I love working with stone tools. But I am a director of HAEMUS, which is a very big center for scientific research and promotion of the culture based in Skopje and I manage many projects on different heritage topics, including this one about the WW1.


Regarding the Great War, I could surely say that Republic of Macedonia is definitely an open-air museum. “Eastern Front”, known under many names in historical records but mostly as “Macedonian front”, has great importance for the history of Macedonia and the Balkans. I’ve had to pass through hard battles in the last three years in order to promote the archaeology from the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia. As an organization we’ve ran few projects, public debates and we organized very big conference on topic ”First World War in the collective memory – Exchange of experiences in the Balkans”. Still it wasn’t enough. I was devastated to show to everybody that on the modern territory of the Republic of Macedonia took place some of the biggest battles that killed thousands of soldiers of many nationalities and religions, which today are buried on more conceptual organized necropolises/cemeteries. The architectonic remains in places where battles took place, includes parts of the destroyed complexes of bunkers, positions, machine gun nests and trenches that can be seen today. They comprise the physical remains of significant points in European and world history in order to explain the reasons that led to the creation of ‘Modern Europe’. On the entire front line length of about 450 km there are thousands and thousands of artifacts and monuments everywhere, waiting to be explored, excavated, identified, cleaned, preserved and displayed in the museum, to tell the piece of the unknown European history.

WW1_Macedonia_conference_2015_promo WW1_Macedonia_conference_2015_poster

Archaeology of the First World War in the Republic of Macedonia so far has been completely unknown for both, the public and experts. But we won’t give up so easily from this topic. We are trying to contribute to the creation of some domestic archives of materials, as well as the exchanging of international experiences. Building human capacities who would participate in the dialogue for peace and reconciliation in the Balkan countries through scientific research and understanding of the past of this period, is also one of the aims of our work. We would like to express our gratitude to the of Embassy of France in Skopje, the French Institute in Skopje, cooperation Normandie/Macédoine, many municipalities, the citizen associations and all those scientists who actively helped us with own research or as logistics. And we are very happy bringing on daylight a topic less known but very challenging for many colleagues.

Vasilka Dimitrovska
Director of HAEMUS
Center for scientific research
and promotion of culture

For more info check:

* * *

This article was written as part of the action for ‘Day of Archaeologists’ (August 04, 2016). The goal is to raise public awareness of cultural heritage and the responsibility that archaeologists have about it.

A day managing the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework

The day in the ScARF office begins with tea and the newest member of the team reading our old Day of Archaeology posts from 2012 and 2015 (if you haven’t read them, they can be found at and and finally . Since the last #dayofarch, the ScARF team has doubled in size and so now we are two people, making just over 1 full time post. This means that we can split ourselves easily between archaeology and museums work, as part of the plan for the future is to better integrate existing museum collections with trying to answer existing research recommendations, which so far have tended to be born out of pure archaeological thinking.

There won’t actually be much time for me to read #dayofarch posts today though, that will likely be a task for the bus home. Being part time means you have to use every office minute to its advantage and you often feel like reading blog posts and similar isn’t ‘real work’, even if they do have value! One I can read legitimately, though, is the post for today from Anna our Museums Officer at  Instead, today will mainly be about three things:

  1. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones – a major new panel report for ScARF
  2. The ScARF student network
  3. Admin tasks
Future Thinking on Scotlands' Carved Stones - a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Future Thinking on Scotlands’ Carved Stones – a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Firstly, getting the newest addition to the ScARF panel report family up online. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones ( ) is due for release at the end of next month and will mark the culmination of work by a group of over fifty people led by Dr Sally Foster, Dr Katherine Forsyth, Stuart Jeffrey and Susan Buckham. I didn’t contribute to the writing of the report, but my job was to advise on structure and to put the text and images online and link everything together, as well as to link to other existing ScARF sections where appropriate. This means some HTML work, as simply copying and pasting leaves a horrible proprietary mess in the code, and then some design work to fit the images into the text nicely. Very similar, in fact, to what I appear to have been doing for the 2012 #dayofarch post.  I’ve blocked off most of the day to work on Carved Stones because it needs focus and concentration so I can’t let myself get distracted by other ScARF bits at the same time.

Exciting as the work on the new stones panel is, I don’t have time to spend all today on it. It’s already made up the bulk of my work over the past three weeks. So, after a no-break-desk-lunch, I plan on quietly putting the stones to one side and begin the never-ending task of project admin. Mostly replying to emails, you do know archaeological project management is pure glamour, right? Some emails will be routine and won’t need much time spent on them, some I can see from the subject line are to do with new archaeological research so they will get marked to explore properly later, and recently it seems quite a lot are related to some of our upcoming panel meetings so I will be sure to answer them straight away.

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

After that block of admin, it will be time for some Friday Fun and telling the world about some of the work we have supported recently. Over the past few months, ScARF has provided student bursaries to attend archaeological conferences. In return, each student had to submit a short report to us about their time there as well as a promise that ScARF can use their research, if appropriate, to help update the framework questions and recommendations. The reports received so far can all be found at and cover a diverse range of topics including prehistoric beekeeping, iron age object deposition, re-evaluation of insular metalwork from Pagan-Norse graves, Medieval cetacean consumption and Iron Age equestrianism, so something for everyone! I have a few new reports to put up this afternoon from the 14C and Archaeology conference ( that recently took place in Edinburgh, so if science and archaeology is your thing then take a look at the reports section later today. After that, I need to write to all the bursary recipients and see if they want to take up the offer of Society Fellowship (you can find out more about that at ).

I plan on spending some time towards the end of the day working on my papers for the European Association of Archaeologists conference, which is at the end of next month. If you are interested, then ScARF and the Society have papers about digital publication and archiving in session TH3-11 , and open access in session TH3-03.   In a previous life, writing papers usually took place in the evenings and weekends. However, now I’m in my thirties and have responsibilities other than work, so paper writing has to take place during the working day. This is a good example of how, four years on from my first #dayofarch post, how I can/have to spend my day at work has changed even if some of the actual work is the same.

An aside: Writing this post has also made me realise how my views on working in archaeology have changed over the past four years since the first post. In those four years, I have had three different jobs (not all archaeological, and none until now more than a 12 month contract) and become a parent. Archaeology (and therefore work) used to be the all consuming thing in life, and I was quite happy to give all my hours/life to it (Hello Silchester!) but life happens and things change. Some of the best posts from previous years are those that truly reflect on what a job/career archaeology is about and how it is rarely a smooth ride (I particularly like,, and recently I think #dayofarch is a great way for people to reflect on archaeology as a career (whether they are already working in archaeology or not) and provides an invaluable and real insight to a world that, despite what some would have you believe, isn’t all Lego, Minecraft, or easy digging in the sunshine. </endrant>

The very last hour or so of the day of archaeology will be about planning the next few months. We are working in our plans for Orkney and Aberdeenshire museums visits as well as updating panel reports and working with commercial units to keep on top of the current archaeological picture in Scotland. This is the first time writing for #dayofarch that I’ve known I’ll still be working on ScARF for the next one, so I love the opportunity to really get stuck into the work and planning is a big part of that. It’ll be out with the diary, fix some dates and then head home – to read lots more #dayofarch posts en route!

Heritage Data and the National Trust for Scotland

I am the Archaeological Data Officer for the National Trust for Scotland. We are a conservation charity who own and care for almost 80,000ha of land, making us the third largest landowner in Scotland. Across our land we have over 11,000 heritage sites of which 101 are designated as Scheduled Monuments and 271 are Listed Buildings, we also have the dual World Heritage Site of the St. Kilda Archipelago.

The majority of my workload revolves around our heritage data management, databases and GIS; over the last two years I have polygonised all our heritage sites, and these have associated records linked with the RCAHMS Canmore database. Our GIS also pulls in Ordnance Survey data, including historic maps, survey data created by ourselves or contractors, historic estate plans from our archives, condition monitoring data and so on, all of which helps us to efficiently, and effectively manage the heritage for everyone.

Aside from the data management work, I also have a number of different projects on the go which should enhance the understanding and visibility of the heritage sites to our staff, our members and the public. These range from carrying out detailed surveys of our Scheduled Monuments and other archaeological sites, to developing a system for aiding the monitoring of the condition of our heritage sites, to acquiring and processing LiDAR survey data. One area that I’m increasingly working in is the visualisation of heritage sites, artefacts and architectural details through techniques such as close-range photogrammetry. (more…)

Living and managing archaeological sites in a historic urban landscape: Mexico City

“Let’s start from a statement speaking about the city of the ancient Mexicans: Mexico-Tenochtitlán has been and still is the root of all that has happened in this enormous metropolis, it is the substratum of the nation’s capital.”

“Vamos a partir de una afirmación al hablar de la ciudad de los antiguos mexicanos: México-Tenochtitlán ha sido y es la raíz de todo lo que ha acontecido en esta enorme metrópolis, es el sustrato de la capital del país.”

– Miguel León Portilla (2001).

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Sacred Square of Tenochtitlan, at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.


Mexico City is the capital of the United Mexican States (official name of Mexico) and the fourth most populated city in the world with 21 million inhabitants, according to the recent United Nations revision on World Urbanization Prospects (UN 2014), just after Tokyo, Delhi, and Shanghai. Its historical background is vast and currently visible as an expression of continuity of human occupation through time and accumulation of cultural layers by landscape transformation, where its World Heritage value lies.

Founded in AD 1325, taken and afterwards destroyed by the Spanish army during the conquest in AD 1521, the pre-Hispanic city (‘cities’) of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco located in central Mexico was once the capital of the Mexica Empire. Today, for those who live in or visit Mexico City it is difficult to imagine, or be aware, that below the streets and colonial buildings of the Historic Centre, a city on an island, in the middle of a lake, connected to the mainland and surrounding settlements by straight causeways, existed just a few centuries ago. Since the foundation of Mexico-Tenochtitlan until modern Mexico City today, the human occupation in the urban area has been permanent and constantly growing.

Diego Rivera's mural of the everyday life in Tenochtitlán-Tlatelolco (National Palace).

Diego Rivera’s mural of the everyday life in Tenochtitlán-Tlatelolco (National Palace).

I live in Mexico City, more specifically in the Historic Centre, which was declared Historical Monuments Zone by the federal government in 1980, and inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987, alongside with the southern lakeside colonial town of Xochimilco, as one of the world’s outstanding urban landscapes, which illustrates the historic transformation of the environment and the great periods in the history of the Mexican capital. The actual boundaries of the World Heritage Property follows the boundaries of the Historical Monuments Zones, according to the limits of the city in the 19th century (perimeter A), and a buffer zone (perimeter B, where I actually live).

Wider perspective to see the dimension of the urban area of Mexico City with the Historic Centre boundaries.

Wider perspective to see the dimension of the urban area of Mexico City with the Historic Centre boundaries.

Mexico City's Historic Centre boundaries. Perimeter A (red) and Perimeter B (blue). The main archaeological sites are indicated.

Mexico City’s Historic Centre boundaries. Perimeter A (red) and Perimeter B (blue). The main archaeological sites are indicated.

Not only I live in the historic centre, but also I work in the area, in the back of the Metropolitan Cathedral (the biggest in America), next to the Templo Mayor Archaeological Zone. I’m currently working at the Sites Operation Department of the National Coordination of Archaeology, within the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which is the government body responsible of the preservation, conservation, communication and research of the cultural heritage in Mexico. On this matter, it is important to clarify that the cultural heritage in Mexico is regulated by federal law, and this means also the conceptual definition of that heritage, which is identified as artistic (20th century), historical (1521 until 19th century), and archaeological (before 1521, the year of the fallen of the pre-Hispanic city of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco, by the Spanish army).

Bearing in mind those cultural heritage specifications, on my daily basis at the Sites Operation Department as the planning and management in chief, alongside with my colleagues, I look forward to the management of the archaeological heritage, specifically of the 187 archaeological sites officially opened to the public in the country. This is a really impressive number, if we consider that the INAH is the only institution responsible of the archaeology in the whole country, and that in total there’s an estimate of about 45,000 registered archaeological sites. But, my job is not only directed to these 187 sites, also to the 130 archaeological sites with some kind of visit, even though they are not officially opened to the public. The Sites Operation Department have the responsibility to look for the management, protection, regulation, infrastructure development, and operation and logistics of the sites organisation of personal and resources. It is the archaeological heritage, before 1521, the cultural resource that my department is responsible of.

The pre-Hispanic archaeological remains of Mexico-Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco have been identified and excavated in particular areas within the Historic Centre of Mexico City, from the first findings in 1790 of the ‘Coatlicue’ and ‘Piedra del Sol’ monoliths during reformation works of the city’s main plaza (known as “Zócalo”), to the discovery of the ‘Coyolxauhqui’ monolith in 1978, from where the research and excavations of the Templo Mayor next to the Metropolitan Cathedral begun, consolidating the INAH’s Urban Archaeology Project (PAU), until today.

Coatlicue (left) and the Piedra del Sol or "Aztec Calendar" (right). Both monoliths were found in 1790 in the main square.

Coatlicue (left) and the Piedra del Sol or “Aztec Calendar” (right). Both monoliths were found in 1790 in the main square.


Coyoulxauqui monolith (1978).

Coyoulxauqui monolith (1978).

Archaeological research within urban contexts was a new approach in the first half of the 20th century, when the Mexican administration was keen on the research directed to the study and reconstruction of the most prominent and monumental archaeological sites around the country (e.g. Teotihuacan and Chichén Itzá). The constantly growing development and urbanization of Mexican cities brought a new concern with archaeological practice, reflected in the increasing implementation of archaeological strategies to rescue and preserve the archaeological heritage under threat of damage or destruction by the new urban developments, which was (and still is) more evident in Mexico City and the metropolitan area.

Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone, north of the Historic Centre's boundaries.

Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone, north of the Historic Centre’s boundaries.

Cuicuilco Archaeological Zone, in the southern part of the city, all surrounded by urban areas.

Cuicuilco Archaeological Zone, in the southern part of the city, all surrounded by urban areas.

Current research strategies to approach the archaeological heritage within urban areas in the last 25 years in Mexico City and other Mexican cities around the country have been determined by pressure of the constant use of spaces within the city. The archaeological activity is restricted in time and space, and precise and holistic strategies are needed and have to be improved, which sometimes are influenced by the political context.

Going to the office, I walk by every day next to archaeological remains integrated to the colonial buildings or modern urban spaces, which are the visible witnesses of the pre-Hispanic layer of the city, and are mostly un-recognized and misunderstood. Some examples of archaeological remains within the historic centre are the pre-Hispanic stone in Madero Avenue with an Aztec design called “Chalchihuitl”, a military shield; the snake head in a colonial building corner where the City Museum currently is; the temple of the god of wind, also known as the “Temple of Ehécatl” within one of the most crowded metro stations, Pino Suárez (discovered in 1968 during its construction); the Templo Mayor archaeological zone, and even Tlatelolco archaeological zone, further north the Historic Centre’s boundaries but part of the pre-Hispanic cultural landscape of the island-city of Tenochtitlán.

A stone with an Aztec design in a colonial building facade (Madero Avenue).

A stone with an Aztec design in a colonial building facade (Madero Avenue).

Snake head integrated to a colonial building corner (City Museum).

Snake head integrated to a colonial building corner (City Museum).

The temple of the god of wind, within Pino Suárez metro station.

The temple of the god of wind, within Pino Suárez metro station.

Because of this panorama my MA dissertation in UCL was related with the interpretation of the wider context, the historic urban landscape, in order to communicate to the public the relevance of understanding all these remains as part of a single environment, and not as isolated sites without cultural context. At my working department, we look for the development of a management system that considers this current context on the cultural heritage management in the city, trying to take advantage of the Historic Centre boundaries and work in a planning process in all management levels, world heritage, federal declaration, archaeological sites, the public, conservation, interpretation and communication. It is such a challenge, not only alongside the country, but also because the complexity of the city’s cultural layers. Working in the management plans of Templo Mayor and Tlatelolco, we can link both sites not only in a management level, which is regulated by the Institute (which is an advantage in the sense of coordination of resources, processes, and information), but also in the wider interpretation level, looking forward to a better preservation and understanding of the sites within a common cultural landscape.

Diego Rivera's mural of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco. Tenochtitlán on the right, Tlatelolco on the left.

Diego Rivera’s mural of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco. Tenochtitlán on the right, Tlatelolco on the left.

Templo Mayor Archaeological Zone (Tenochtitlán).

Templo Mayor Archaeological Zone (Tenochtitlán).

A model of Templo Mayor Archaeological Zone, where is possible to appreciate the context of the site within the main buildings of the Historic Centre (Templo Mayor Museum).

A model of Templo Mayor Archaeological Zone, where is possible to appreciate the context of the site within the main buildings of the Historic Centre (Templo Mayor Museum).

Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone (also known as "The Three Cultures Square")

Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone (also known as “The Three Cultures Square”)

Another perspective of Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone.

Another perspective of Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone.

Following the UNESCO’s historic urban landscape statement, the key to understanding and managing any historic urban environment is the recognition that the city is not a static monument or group of buildings, but subject to dynamic forces in the economic, social and cultural spheres that shaped it and keep shaping it. The archaeological heritage in Mexico City’s Historic Centre could be sources of social cohesion, awareness of the pre-Hispanic past, factors of diversity and drivers of creativity, innovation and urban regeneration.

Mexico City's main square, also known as "Zócalo", with the colosal flag, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the National Palace.

Mexico City’s main square, also known as “Zócalo”, with the colosal flag, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the National Palace.

Madero Avenue, which connect the main square with the west of the Historic Centre. The Latin American Tower in the background.

Madero Avenue, which connect the main square with the west of the Historic Centre. The Latin American Tower in the background.

Mexico City's skyline, with the volcanos Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl in the background.

Mexico City’s skyline, with the volcanos Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl in the background.

And, finally, I would like to share my personal project looking for a wider and friendly communication of the archaeological heritage in Mexico City, the country, and international context. I created CONARQUEmx, an outreach communication initiative which includes articles, photography, academic perspectives, and guided tours to the unknown and untold pre-Hispanic Mexico City.

The day begins…

Another year, another Day of Archaeology!

It may seem odd to begin a Day of Archaeology talking about accounts… but we are in the process of signing off the 2013-14 accounts so this is uppermost on my mind at the moment. After yesterday’s meeting with the auditors my first task today is to prepare the financial parts of the Trustees’ papers for the Board Meeting next Friday. It will be quite a busy Board meeting as there is a lot to discuss about the various changes I am making at the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust – all very positive news, but a lot of it!

This year is the last year that my administrator Jenny will be with us; she will retire later this year and just at the moment we are recruiting for her replacement. Applications for the job – advertised here – close at the end of the day on Monday, so there is still time to apply. Since I am the line manager of this post, and we have no HR department (just me!), then this has been another time-consuming process… it is always a fascinating one though.

Most of the team are out of the office today on various fieldwork projects. We have just finished two substantial Cadw-funded community archaeology projects and so the building is full of the detritus from those! I am immensely proud of Viviana, Sophie and Richard for their work at Buckley. This was quite a new departure for the Trust, with over 350 schoolchildren involved in an excavation of a post-medieval pottery site over a period of three weeks.

Pupils from Elfed School at Buckley with CPAT staff and members of the Buckley Society. Pupils from Elfed School, along with CPAT staff and members of the Buckley Society. 10535739_260455044150244_8390290249251283690_o

At the same time we also ran the fourth field season at Hen Caerwys, where the oldest and most experienced member of the team – Bob – was joined by our newest and youngest recruit, Menna. It is really rewarding to see experience and knowledge being handed on in a very practical way to the next generation. I was lucky enough to come out from behind my desk last weekend and spend a bit of time wielding a mattock on site at Hen Caerwys.

Mennas dog Merlin helps with the surveying of her trench at Hen Caerwys last week.

Some more Cadw-funded fieldwork will be done later in the summer, and Richard is out for the next two weeks doing geophysics in advance of those. At the moment Nigel is organising everyone’s very busy schedule over the next month or so for various contracts ranging from watching briefs to large evaluation projects – with churches, quarries, medieval villages and prehistoric ring-ditches among the targets.

Meanwhile, on the curatorial side, Mark and Wendy continue to monitor planning applications and, where necessary, issue briefs for work. This year has seen a gradual upturn in the number of applications being received, which suggests that the economic recovery may be cautiously approaching mid-Wales. Finally, Jeff has taken a break from his usual HER duties this week to help Viviana with the first schools placement week. Today the six local pupils will carry on with a variety of field- and office-based activities. Yesterday they were outside my office on the back steps cleaning pottery in the sunshine – great to hear their enthusiasm and interest as a refreshing counterpoint to the tedium of the accounts.

Later this morning I have to go over to my old stomping ground at Ironbridge to give a lecture on the origins of metallurgy to students on the Building Conservation course there. Sadly this is the last time that this course will run in its current form. I am very much looking forward to seeing my recently-honoured former colleague Harriet Devlin MBE!

All in all a typically busy start to a typically busy day in the life of the Director of a Welsh archaeological trust!