Four years on from the last new episode of Time Team, I thought it was time to check in with my old cast and crew colleagues and see what they’ve been getting up to…
For those of us who perpetually watch Time Team repeats on Dave and More4, it may not feel like the show ever went away, but four years is a long time. I missed them! And, I wanted the gossip about what they’re doing now, of course. Who better to kick off our interview series with than the cheeky Matt Williams.
Matt has been an archaeologist since the late 90s. He completed his undergraduate and Master’s degrees at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London before embarking on a career in commercial archaeology. He worked for several commercial units including Oxford Archaeology and MoLAS (as was), until he started a career at L-P Archaeology.
In 2003, Matt was recruited as an archaeologist and presenter on Time Team. His sharp, charming wit and fresh-faced boyish looks made him the prime target for the historical re-enactment spots on the show. Matt has dressed up and lived the life of a Roman soldier, Medieval lay-brother and even home-guard infantry, to name a few. But my personal favourite was when he was my Roman slave for an afternoon – just don’t EVER get him to comb your hair though… OUCH!!
Matt now co-presents ‘Digging for Britain’ with Alice Roberts, and the new series will be starting in 2016 on BBC Four. Now, onto the questions!
What did you do immediately after leaving Time Team?
I carried on with my job of commercial archaeology, which I had also continued between TT shoots and between each series. This involves helping people get planning permission and organising excavations if there are archaeological remains on development sites.
What are you doing now?
Still doing it! Although a couple of years ago I started co-presenting ‘Digging for Britain’ with Alice Roberts. This involves several days filming in museums around the country and then a few days in a studio interviewing archaeologists.
If working on Time Team taught you any life lessons, what was it?
Sometimes ridiculously, incredibly, unbelievably hard work can be fun! I also know the Marriott Hotel room service menu off by heart.
What was your best Time Team memory?
Spending two days drunk when living the life of a navvy at Rise Hill. All in the name of experimental archaeology!
And your worst?!
The worst hangover in the world after spending two days drunk when living the life of a navvy at Rise Hill.
There were a lot of pranks played on cast members. What’s your most favourite, salacious or ridiculous memory of these?
I know a lot of of the team would say this, but it has to be when Jimmy Adcock and Kerry Ely made a fake magnetometer out of cardboard and then got Ian to drive over it in his machine when John Gater was watching. The amount of effort and planning that went into the whole event was incredible.
A lot of field archaeologists HATE being asked ‘what’s the best thing you’ve ever found?’ But…. let’s go ahead and try to answer it anyway! Matt Williams, what’s the best thing you’ve ever found?
This one’s easy… it’s the Ogham inscribed stone I found on the Isle of Man. Most Ogham is carefully inscribed on standing stones and records important people, but the bit I found was almost like a note scrawled on a fragment of rock and seemed to record a group of people arriving in a boat, which is extremely rare. I remember Helen Geake coming up to me and saying something like: ‘That’s it Matt, that’s the find of your life. The chance of you finding anything as archaeologically important as that ever again is basically zero.’
Now it’s time to talk about the white elephant in the room. Did you know that at least five people a week find the DigVentures website by googling ‘Matt Williams and Raksha Dave married’. How do you feel about that?
Well I don’t think the DigVentures website gives the answer, so it’s just going to have to remain a Time Team mystery…. I like to think of us as the Scott and Charlene of the archaeology world.
When you’re not doing archaeology, what do you like doing?
I live in Shropshire, and there’s nothing I love more than pulling on my boots and dragging the family out for a good long walk. There’s loads of amazing places to visit such as Oswestry Hill fort, the Stiper Stones, Wenlock Priory… hmm, does that still count as archaeology?
And what’s been your favourite archaeology TV show since Time Team?
Digging for Britain, of course!
What do you think is the most recent promising or exciting discovery or development in archaeology?
We saw some amazing underwater archaeology on Digging for Britain, which really demonstrated how our ability to excavate and record underwater sites has improved in recent years. There must be thousands of waterlogged prehistoric sites in the North Sea (dating from when the sea level was much lower) and finding and recording just one site would be amazing.
What’s your next big archaeological ambition?
I’d love to see some real-time archaeological excavation back on TV, and hopefully be involved in some way!
And finally… which famous actor would you cast in the lead role of Matt Williams – the movie?
I’d get the The Goonies cast back together for that.
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