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Surveyors map WWI battlefield

Istanbul, Turkey: Surveyors from Turkey, Australia and New Zealand congregated at World War I battlefield of the Gallipoli campaign, where throngs gather each April to remember the fallen. They have rolled out mapping of dugouts, trenches and tunnels which is reportedly the most extensive archaeological survey of a site whose slaughter helped forge the identity of young nations.

The study does not involve excavation, instead using satellite-based technology to map battle positions over gullies, dense vegetation and limestone cliffs. Armed with old maps and GPS technology, the surveyors aim to gain a detailed layout of a battlefield whose desperate trench warfare, with enemy lines just a few dozen meters (yards) apart in some places, has been recounted in films, books and ballads, acquiring a legendary aura in the culture of its combatants.

“It will hasten a broader understanding of what went on at Gallipoli,” Richard Reid, a researcher and author of the book “Gallipoli 1915” said of the government-funded investigation. “It will help us as nations that are always interested in trying to preserve what heritage we have.”

There is heightened interest in the battle, especially among Turks who are showing more pride in their past, buoyed by economic and diplomatic advances after decades of internal strife. Australia and New Zealand mark the occasion with a national holiday on Monday, holding dawn services and closing off downtown areas for marches of veterans of all conflicts.

Mapping data is being entered in a digital database that can be compared with information from other sources, including maps used in the 1915 landings and Ottoman-era documents. Fieldwork resumes in September, and is expected to continue, with the help of ground-penetrating radar and aerial photographs, until the campaign centenary in 2015.

Source: Associated Press