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Photo: German POW camp

Photograph courtesy Parks Canada

About the Project

It may be among the least studied aspects of World War II: the fate of German soldiers captured by Allied forces.

Archaeologist Adrian Myers is hoping to fill in part of this historical gap with his World War II Internment Camp Archaeology Project.

With an NGS/Waitt grant, Myers and his team have begun researching a World War II prisoner of war camp in Manitoba, Canada. Occupied from 1943 to 1945, the camp, at its peak, held about 400 German soldiers captured in North Africa after the Second Battle of El Alamein, an important victory for the Allies. In July 2009, with help from Jerram Ritchie, Adrian completed the first phase of fieldwork.

None of the original buildings at the Canadian POW camp still stand, but many signs of its existence remain visible. Myers and his team used basic equipment, such as GPS, tape measures, digital cameras, and weatherproof notebooks, to record the site. Earth and concrete foundations could be seen where the buildings had once stood. They also discovered the camp's concrete incinerator, two garbage dumps, and a decaying wooden canoe carved by the POWs in their spare time. There were POW-built gardens with walls made of cobblestones. Many of these are still visible. The team also discovered many smaller reminders of the prisoners' daily lives, including a broken mug and saucer and even beef bones leftover from one of their meals.

In summer 2010, Myers plans to return to the site with an expanded research agenda and more team members. They will start with comprehensive and precise digital mapping of all the remains, from large foundation walls down to individual fragments of broken glass. They will collect a sampling of the surface artifacts and then excavate in a few small test areas. This will determine where larger excavations will be carried out in 2011. Any artifacts discovered will be carefully labeled, packaged, and transported to the Historical Archaeology Laboratory at the Stanford Archaeology Center for further study.

Myers hopes his team's investigation of this historical site will contribute to a greater understanding of this time in history.

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