News and views from the trowel’s edge. This week: April Fools (or, Time team Series 20 begins!)
And so it is here again: a new April, and it’s time for Time Team. Series 20 is now upon us, with the first shoot already having taking place last week. This is mainly my excuse for not being able to fill you wonderful people in on what exactly I have been doing!
I am in my 10th year of filming Time Team and its like putting on a nice warm sweater after leaving it on the radiator to warm up. Yes, we have all been away for the winter, concentrating on the ‘day job’, but it feels as though we have never really left each other’s side. The cosy familiarity of the Team is like an extended family, with numerous siblings and a few eccentric Uncles (….hmm who could they possibly be?).
We are reunited, in the shires, to investigate the possible remains of a Roman villa in a huge empty field. This is what Time Team does best: minimal information given with maximum information gleaned, and more questions arising than we can possibly find answers for! Time Team runs excavations like a commercial evaluation – specific trenches are targeted to answer specific questions, and the evidence gained will then instruct preservation decisions. If indeed there are any archaeological remains, and how significant they turn out to be. In this particular case, the evidence we gain from the evaluation will directly contribute to the possible scheduling of the site.
Being on Time Team is like having your own personal archaeological Wikipedia. Apart from working with amazing archaeology, we are often visited by eminent specialists who gaze into your finds tray or trench, and give out nuggets of knowledge that are truly inspiring. What a pleasure it is to benefit from their expertise, as we are often interpreting things on the hoof whilst trying to encourage healthy debate, before coming to any form of conclusion.
This is often quite timely, as most often a camera is then pointed in your face, with Tony at your heels, waiting for a pronouncement. I had forgotten how liberating this can be, and also how scary and thrilling. The freedom of not working within a traditional commercial outfit is truly magnificent: the buck stops with me, how the trench is run is my call, and I can use my decade’s worth of skills, knowledge and expertise to the fullest.
Nowadays, the prospect of looking stupid or wrong in front of the nation no longer scares me. The programme is about the process, the debate, and our personal conclusions. Archaeology is about employing science to tell the story of our ancient past. You will never uncover exact truths, but using evidence and imagination to come close to it is an exciting rollercoaster ride. I love my job!
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