Beginning with an initial realisation during major infrastructure work in the 1990s, leading to the emergence of a new set of scientific questions and challenges, the discipline of Great War archaeology gradually came to acquire a certain legitimacy and respect. Over the past decade research in the field has intensified in all regions through which the front line passed. The commemoration of the Centenary of the outbreak of war has given the profile of this young discipline a welcome boost. Many archaeologists have felt compelled to devote their attention to the fleeting, hidden traces of the living hell endured by those who fought in the First World War, not least out of respect for the sacrifices they made.
Archaeologists are very clear about this commemorative aspect of their work. However their direct engagement with the hard facts of our collective and individual memories can often raise delicate issues, particularly when the remains of soldiers are uncovered. More accustomed to academic debates among specialists regarding much more distant periods of history, in such cases archaeologists find themselves operating in a field of research where they must deal with an abundance of archival sources. They also need to be attuned to the analyses of this conflict emanating from other disciplines of the humanities, and sensitive to the great majority of our contemporaries who still experience the Great War as a defining element in their social and family history.