When it comes to carving out a career in the competitive world of archaeology these days, it’s all about finding your own niche – but few young archaeologists are carving out a future in their field quite as literally as Bristol University student Chantel Summerfield.
The 23-year-old PhD student has become the world’s only expert on arborglyphs – that is, tree graffiti; the inscriptions carved into tree trunks by soldiers with bayonets.
From bored squaddies on Salisbury Plain to terrified GIs trekking through Normandy in the wake of the D-Day invasions – each carving Chantel uncovers tells its own story of a soldier’s life.
“I’ve followed many of the First World War soldiers’ carvings from trees that once stood a few miles behind the front line on the Western Front, through to finding their graves in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries,” Chantel says.
“But with the Second World War carvings – most of which were done by American GIs as they made their way through Normandy – I’ve sometimes been able to trace the soldiers’ surviving relatives. There was one, for example, that I found on Salisbury Plain that had been inscribed by an American GI as he waited for the D-Day invasion – it simply said: ‘Frank Fearing – Hudson, Massachusetts, 1945’ followed by a love heart and the name Helen. Read more.