Exhibition and book: Traces of War. The Archaeology of the First World War - Ieper - 16/02/2018
In the Koninklijke Zaal of the In Flanders Fields Museum the new temporary exhibition “Traces of War. The Archaeology of the First World War” can be visited till 26 August 2018. 

At the end of the First World War the landscape along the front line had been turned into one big waste. After the war the population returned and faced the enormous challenge of rebuilding the region and making it habitable again. At that moment the traces of the war were erased and thus became part of the archaeological archive. Everywhere in the Westhoek, hardly thirty centimetres below the surface and invisible to the naked eye, archaeological remains of the war are slumbering. 

For the first time the exhibition presents the results, finds and insights of over 150 small and large-scale projects from the past decade in the Westhoek: from amateur excavations at the beginning of the 21st century to large-scale ones such as during the construction of the Fluxys gas pipeline. The latter archaeological excavation could be seen on Belgian television, Channel One, in the serial Under Flemish Fields.  

Plenty of spectacular finds originating from military camps and hospitals behind the front line, from the battlefields of the Yser and the Ypres Salient will be exhibited. Objects from the trenches tell about the daily life at the front. Material relics of the trench warfare and the story of killed soldiers, whose bodies were salvaged, are presented. 

Absolute eye-catchers in this exhibition are the skeletons of a horse and a mule, an authentic British and German trench, a tunnel and the personal belongings of six German soldiers buried in a mass grave and accidentally discovered not so long ago. 

Today the last human witnesses of the war have gone. What remains is the landscape. While crop marks have disappeared in the post- war years and one no longer can read the former front lines in the landscape, still plenty of traces of the war are preserved. With the advanced techniques from the archaeologists’ toolbox these layers are brought to light. That’s why the display is strewn with multimedia (films of archaeological discoveries, innovative 3d models of archaeological sites etc.) 

The exhibition runs from 17 February till 26 August 2018.
Traces of War is an initiative of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ghent University and CO7 with the cooperation of the Agency of Archaeological Heritage, the province of West-Flanders, Ruben Willaert bvba, Groep Monument, Ack & Bracke bvba and Gate bvba. The exhibition was designed by TOTEMS. 
  • For the first time a survey of over 15 years of archaeological activities in the Westhoek
  • Over 200 objects from archaeological excavations
  • Eye-catchers: skeletons of animals, authentic trenches and a German tunnel
  • Lots of personal objects taking life and death at the front right up to the visitor
  • Lots of gear
  • Strewn with film fragments and 3d models of excavations
  • Unique drone shots reveal the traces of war in the landscape for the first time ever
  • Interactive installations
  • State of the art archaeological research methods made accessible by means of interactive arrangements
  • Extensively illustrated publication edited and published by Hannibal Publishers 
At the occasion of this exhibition a book of the same name “Traces of War. Archaeology of the First World War” is published by Hannibal Publishers. This beautifully laid-out book, the first of its kind, brings together insights and results of more than ten years of First World War archaeology in Belgium. Clear essays dig into numerous spectacular archaeological finds which are the result of over 150 excavations in the front area. The role of the landscape as the last witness of the war is highlighted in a fresh way. These material remains from military camps, hospitals and trenches show the everyday life at the front and tell the personal story of killed soldiers and animals. Abundantly illustrated with archival material, photographs of excavated objects and expounding maps composed with the latest techniques in aerial photography.

  • Birger Stichelbaut (Centre Historical and Archaeological Aerial Photography)
  • Piet Chielens (IFFM)
  • Jan Decorte (CO7)
  • Annick Vandenbilcke (IFFM)
Please find below some pictures from the press presentation on Friday, 16 February 2018.


Piet Chielens
















Birger Stichelbaut









The authors of the book.



  Page made by In Flanders Fields Museum / Foto's: Filip Van Loo.