John Gater Talks Geofizz From Down Under

From the shocking revelation that Phil Harding was once voted Time Team’s sexiest man; to the ‘home goal’ discovery of an apsidal ended villa that turned out to be a football penalty spot.

When John spoke at our first crowdfunded dig at Flag Fen, it was a toss up for what made us laugh most. But surreptitiously buried between the laughs, his lecture Geofizz from Down Under explained the complex science behind some of our most useful techniques – resistivity, magnetometry and ground penetrating radar.

With only ‘three days to find out,’ Geophysics has been the secret to the success of many a Time Team dig, helping the archaeologists home in on features that would otherwise require a much longer timeframe.

For any of our lucky Venturers on site that weekend (or at least, those who’d survived the infamous GSB Disco Disco!) John followed up with a Geofizz master class, demonstrating the kit itself in the fields at Flag Fen – you can see the team in action in the video below.

It was a joy to listen to some of the many tales about Time Team from someone who’d been right at the heart of things for the best part of 20 years, and although this lecture happened before Channel Four decommissioned the show, it already felt like the end of an era. Perhaps that’s why John was also keen to stress the wider contribution of Time Team – yes we all know it was great for archaeology – but it was probably even better for the public understanding of science as a whole.

This quote from one of John’s slides, published in the New Scientist soon after Time Team first aired, hits it right on the head:

‘Time Team takes a very different approach to televising science – it tells us a story, but actually does science. By drawing us in, setting us problems, we the audience do science too. And joy of joys, they sometimes get it wrong. In one episode, team leader Mick Aston convinces the geophysics team to spend the whole day mapping a field to find a Dark Age settlement. He explains his theory: “ditches are dug, maps are made.” The result? A total blank.’

Enjoy John’s talk (at the top) – and remember… don’t worry so much if you draw a total blank!

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Brendon Wilkins

Written by Brendon Wilkins

Co-founder and Projects Director at DigVentures, Brendon heads up our field and post-ex team. Aside from field archaeology, his specialisms are cheese, tea and writing animatedly about himself in the third person.

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