From the rain forests of the Amazon to the sand dunes of the Sahara, Land Rover’s Defender is synonymous with archaeological adventure. After 70 years in production, it’s time to say goodbye to the archaeologist’s favourite tool.
I’ve owned a Defender for half of my professional life – and lusted after one for at least the other half! For the fan boys and girls out there, the big green DigVentures machine is a 1999, 110, 300 Tdi. There she is in the photo above, perfectly captured at Flag Fen (along with the end of the rainbow) by Joan, one of our Venturers. Like a proud father, I’ve stored this on my phone ever since, showing it once to my mechanic when I checked in for a service.
‘Yep, that looks about right!’, he chuckled to himself, before presenting me with the latest invoice for my open-ended investment. And that open-ended investment thing? That’s probably why it’s the end of the road.
After nearly 70 years in continuous production – the latest version looking not too dissimilar to Maurice Wilks’ 1947 original – the archaeologist’s (or at least this archaeologist’s!) favourite tool has finally been consigned to history.
With a dependable, go anywhere image, Land Rover Defenders are still eagerly sought after throughout the world. Unlike more modern vehicles they don’t rely on a computerised electronic ‘nervous system’ to keep running, making them ideal companions for off the beaten track adventure (want aircon? Open a window!). But despite all this, the last model rolled off the production line at Solihull in the West Midlands on Friday, in most part due to increased safety regulations and stringent EU requirements for reduced carbon emissions.
But how to explain the attraction of this brick on wheels to the uninitiated? Granted, it’s an unglamorous, uncomfortable hulk of a vehicle, with the fuel consumption of a tank and the turning circle of a lorry. But its archaeological pedigree is undeniable.
Look through any old dig photos from the 50s onwards and you’re sure to see someone’s trusty workhorse parked trench-side, a mobile tool-shed-slash-site-hut-slash-elevated-viewing-platform. Get behind the wheel and you’re the lord of all you survey. Rivers become fordable, peaks become scalable, tundras become crossable. Check out this Landy’s-eye-view film of Aerial-Cam’s tricked out Defender doing some aerial photography at our dig site at Flag Fen. If ever there was a vehicle that said ‘archaeologist’ – it’s this one.
So it’s goodbye to Solihull’s production line… but surely only Au Revoir to Land Rover. If my own personal reverse pot of gold is anything to judge by, we’ll be seeing plenty of Defenders on our dig site for a few more years to come.
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