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Hand-made WWII era British soldier's identification tag found in the vicinity of El Alamein, Egypt, bearing a representation of the sphinx and pyramids.
Such so called 'trench art' provides us with a better understanding of the frame of mind of the soldiers of the time, who although "visiting" Egypt in the context of a deadly war, behaved just like any tourist would and desired to keep a souvenir of their tour to the last standing wonder of the world.
In the eye of the public, there is frequently no understanding of the differences between archaeology and simple digging, looting, collecting or treasure hunting (it must be said that the border can sometimes become very blurred, particularly when archeological expeditions are presented in the form of a hunt for gold or lost treasure).
As explained above, the goal of archaeology is to further the knowledge that humanity has of its own past.
The main difference between archeology and simple digging therefore lies in the intensions and methodologies of the digger.
-all information on the artifacts recovered and the conclusions that can be drawn from the excavation must be made available to other researchers, historians and the public.
There is a huge and all too often overlooked advantage in investigating WWII events as soon as possible, and it is that there are still large numbers of period witnesses alive today that can provide precious information on the battlefield being investigated.
The behaviour of certain metal detectorists is indeed highly destructive to the archaeological record and partialy explains this bad blood.
However, metal detectors are tools that can be used for both good and bad, and metal detectorists are all unique indivudials who should be judged on their personal merits and actions, not as a group.
It is now recognised by battlefield archaeologists that metal detectors enable the rapid recovery of large numbers of artefacts over a wide area, enabling a much quicker and effective search of battlefields than traditional archaeological methods. In the past 20 years however, archaeologists have started excavating WWI battlefields, sparking very strong public interest and proving that relatively recent events are also worth investigating with archaeological methods.
However, archaeologists today are still only extremely rarely involved in excavations involving WWII.