Saturday, 20 October 2012

"Time Team" to End

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It has been announced that after some 20 years on the air, the once-ground-breaking and highly popular archaeology 'reality show' Time Team is being wound down by its producers, British TV station Channel 4 (Tara Conlan, 'Channel 4 consigns Time Team to TV history', The Guardian, Saturday 20 October 2012). There will be one more season of 13 episodes running into 2013, and then production will cease. There is a response to the news from its originator and producer Tim Taylor here. The show was always controversial, but there is no doubt that it brought 'dirt archaeology' into the public consciousness in a way other programmes had not.

Of course the problem was that many people thought that it sufficed to watch a few episodes to understand "all about archaeology". The programme also attracted criticism in some circles because it did not always follow the PAS-script and talked openly of the erosive effects of artefact hunting and the difference between hoiking out metal objects when a box of electronics beeps and real archaeology. A typical example of tekkie grouching can be found in comments on the Past Horizons website by one Jerry Morris:
Metal detectorists can show the public more finds over a very much shorter period than Time Team and got very little thanks for their contribution when they tried to participate. If Metal detectorists did find anything Time Team latched on to the find like leaches as if it was theirs [...] Best Wishes to any new style productions and perhaps its worth having a look at the old "Two Men in a trench"serious. that took advantage of the knowledge and finds of responsible detectorists.
The metal detector is a tool (one of many) and there really is no need why the TV programme should be fawning over its users any more than a mechanical excavator driver, mattock user or the girl with a tube of glue that sticks the pots together.  It seems to me also that the PAS and its dumbed-down "revealing secret treasures" approach has a lot to answer for in Britain as "archaeological outreach" when it becomes reduced to a race to see "who can show the British public more and more finds" hoiked from the archaeological record.


UPDATE 23.10.2012:
In the context of the last remark, I thought that, whatever its other faults, the merits of the programme were nicely summed-up by Peter Pickering on Britarch:
The great merit of Time Team was that it did not concentrate on dead bodies, finding treasure, or requiring history books to be rewritten, as so many archaeological programmes seem to, but recognised that a simple wall, or a broken potsherd can be as interesting and significant, and that knowledge of the past is built up steadily. [...]
This was echoed by a slightly later comment there of Dave Tooke:
Indeed - rather than finding buried treasure Time Team really brought home the notion that a great deal of British archaeology is about detecting stains in the soil, and seeing the outline of a ditch, a posthole, a beam slot, the top of a pit... and the evidence in the section for sucessive depositions. How that sort of thing ever made rivetting TV I'm not sure, but it did.
Probably though this aspect was lost on a portion of the viewership, the artefact collecting beep-beep boys. But then, it was their "partner" the Portable Antiquities Scheme that was responsible for putting the alternative: "Britain's Secret TREASURES" on TV, undoing a lot of the good work of other people's outreach.

2 comments:

heritageaction said...


"If Metal detectorists did find anything Time Team latched on to the find like leaches as if it was theirs."

I think he means "as if the article belonged to the landowner and the knowledge to the public and no part of it to the detectorist and anyway the detectorist had signed up to confirm the fact"....

There should be a law against detectorists calling them "my finds". It gives them the wrong idea. It's like Baldrick working on a farm and calling them "my turnips"! ;)

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I think the notion of "teamwork" is missing from the detectorist mindset, if they are (invited to be) part of a team engaged on a project, they are part of a team, but it is clear they expect to be the permanent focus of it.

 
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