What happened to Time Team? That’s a question I get asked so often that I set off on a mission to find out. This time, I tracked down Jimmy Adcock and asked him ‘what are you doing now?’. I’ll give you three guesses as to what the answer is…
To Time Team fans, Jimmy Adcock is probably best known as the geofizz whizzkid playing sidekick to John Gater’s ground-penetrating superhero. To the rest of the Time Team crew, Jimmy is known for his loveable banter, quick quips and generally getting up to mischief. Jimmy is almost always implicated in the pranks played on cast and crew and enjoys a spot of karaoke – normally at two in the morning with singing partner Matt Williams!
Leaving all jokes aside, Jimmy is a seriously talented geophysicist. He started his career in 1997 at the University of Southampton where he decided to complete his undergraduate degree in Geophysical Sciences. Jimmy realised he wanted to specialise and embarked on a Masters course at the University of Bradford in Archaeological Prospection. In 2002, Jimmy started working for John Gater at GSB Prospection, the company contracted by Time Team to collect geophysical data on the shows.
What did you do immediately after leaving Time Team?
Cry, steal rehydration salts from the first aid box in the car and eat a huge fry-up. Or were you hoping for something slightly less immediate than the morning after the Wrap Party?
Truth is, I went back to my day job, which was much the same as the Time Team work, but without outside catering, nice hotels, and an enthusiastic audience.
What are you doing now?
I went from using geophysical equipment to working for a company that makes it. The opportunity to do a bit less of the leg work appealed, not to mention having the luxury of choosing which weather to go out in.
RD: I’m just going to add that Jimmy is being modest here. He actually works for ABEM, who develop kit for people looking for mineral ores and water across Africa and Asia. Jimmy’s most notable work has been with the Gates Foundation, where he used his skills to help communities build better water, sanitation and hygiene in Tanzania. That’s right folks – Jimmy IS the Bob Geldof of radar!
If working on Time Team taught you any life lessons, what was it?
You’re never too old to make friends for life. Regardless of how much time passes, we could wander into a pub, have a beer, and it would be like the show finished yesterday. Oh, and that there’s no hangover that can’t be worked through.
What’s your best Time Team memory?
Trips to islands were universally great, but Barra and Jersey vie for top spot. On Barra, we had stunning prehistoric archaeology blowing out of the dunes, a great pub, fun and friendly locals – plus the opportunity to surf on completely empty white sand beaches after work.
And what was your worst memory?
Finding out that Mick had decided not to participate in the 20th, and it turned out final, series. His presence was more than just his wealth of knowledge, he was a great strategist and could always find a middle ground between the TV production process and the archaeological process, which were sometimes at odds.
The Time Team crew were terrible pranksters… are there any that still make you laugh?
Oh gawd… er… too many to choose from! We worked very long days on Time Team and so it was not uncommon for the long, sticky fingers of sleep to take hold of team members whilst they relaxed in the bar after work. We once wrapped one such sleeping colleague in hazard to tape, and were going to leave them there, but Dr. Gater came up with a better plan. Instead, we unwrapped said victim, woke them up and sent them to bed without saying a word about what had happened. Next day, everyone was invited to watch ‘a rather dull but compulsory health and safety video about correct use of hazard tape around trenching’ featuring the poor, unsuspecting victim…
What’s the best thing you’ve ever found?
Without a doubt, Edward III’s 14th century round table under the lawn of Windsor Castle. It was part of the Big Royal Dig and I had pretty low expectations for the survey as there were utilities criss-crossing the lawn. The question of whether this building had ever actually existed had been debated for centuries – and there it was, nestling between the pipes, cables and conduits.
What do you think about whilst you’re zig-zagging up and down a field all day?
The record distance walked on Time Team was 55km over the three days at Cunetio Roman fort in Wiltshire. Some people plan their next holiday, or write short stories or compose tunes while route-marching to the beep of the instruments, but not me. I can only count the beeps. It’s almost hypnotic. I managed a moment of creativity just once in 13 years of doing geophysical survey. The result was a five-stanza poem about breaking wind. But that’s something for another time.
When you’re not doing radar, what do you like doing?
Surfing. Badly. But I live in the Pennines so trips to the sea are a bit sparse.
What’s the most exciting development to have happened in geophysics recently?
We’re getting higher and higher definition instruments, and using multiple data streams to get more-data-per-square-metre, which is revealing some really great finds. The work on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes project is seriously impressive; I could imagine there are a good few archaeological geophysicists who would sell their granny to be involved with that.
Will geophys tech ever get so good that we won’t have to dig anymore?
You’d love me to fight the ‘yes’ corner wouldn’t you Raksha? But we’re never going to be able to flesh out the detail of sites that excavation brings. Absolute dating and the story of the people who lived amongst the sites we detect are likely to always be beyond the geophysicists’ grasp.
What amazing tech are you working on? Can you tell me, without having to kill me after?
I leave the development to the proper boffins – I just help people to learn to use and get the most from the kit. But that said I have put in a request for a system that can dispense fresh coffee in the winter and chilled mojitos in the summer. So watch this space…
What are you hoping to achieve next?
In the space of a year I moved house, got married and started a new job. Is it bad that I don’t really have any great ambitions right at the moment? Currently I’m just hoping to grow into a contented middle-aged man.
If you were a sandwich what filling would you be?
Cheese and pickle. Read into that what you will.
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