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AVAR-archaeology-poster-comicThis year, I’m doing something slightly different for November 11th. It’s a comics project – but not about commemoration. Rather, it’s about military veterans, and the physical and mental therapy potential of archaeology. A year or so ago I began talking with a colleague, Stephen Humphreys, who had put together a programme that offered military veterans the opportunity to learn archaeological skills. Building on similar projects that had been started in the UK, the programme was based on the idea that working in archaeology could offer therapeutic benefits to veterans as part of medical rehabilitation programmes, or who needed help re-integrating into civilian life.

This programme evolved into American Veterans Archaeological Recovery:

American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) integrates military veterans with physical or mental disabilities into a community of archaeological researchers that supports their rehabilitation through goal-oriented, team-centered excavations. The social bonding and shared experiences of participants are an important feature of American Veterans Archaeological Recovery. Participants share their new experiences in archaeology with others from the community of veterans, and will make new connections in the community of academic and professional archaeologists working to discover and preserve the physical evidence of our common cultural heritage.

AVAR has run excavations at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Scremby, Lincolnshire – in partnership with the University of Sheffield; at the Roman site of Beth She’arim in Israel – in partnership with the University of Haifa; and at the Darrow School Shaker Settlement, Mount Lebanon, New York – a project funded by the National Geographic Society. In May next year, AVAR will be start work on excavations in Saratoga, New York – details will be posted on the AVAR website – where there is also comprehensive information about the organisation and how to take part in their projects.

AVAR does great work not only in supporting veterans, their friends and their families through providing opportunities for them to participate in archaeological fieldwork, they also do great work in highlighting the physical and psychological benefits of archaeological fieldwork – something perhaps those of us lucky enough to work as archaeologists take for granted.

I’ve very much enjoyed putting this comic together. It’s up on their website now, and will be used as part of an awareness-raising campaign throughout the coming year. It’s been really rewarding getting to know a new kind of archaeological community, and I look forward to collaborating more with the organisation in the future.

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