Friday 19 August 2022

Digging For Treasure

Fruit boxes for finds, cringe T-shirt (look at 'archaeological tools') pot of strangely-glowing gold coins in background

A viewing treat, eh? Friday 26th August on Channel 5 TV, a new programme: 'Digging For Treasure' with Dan Walker, TV presenter Michaela Strachan (@michaelastracha) and Raksha Dave ( @Raksha_Digs) Public Archaeologist and Broadcaster, President of the Council for British Archaeology (!).

Join our team of detectorists and experts as they peel back the layers of history. We start in North Yorkshire! It’s like Top Gear with spades­čśé #GettingDiggyWithIt

So far there's a frenetic 20-second trailer:

Here's the script:

Scene one: [Interior. gloomy empty marquee, props: fruit boxes, desk, a pot of glowing gold, deer skull with antlers. Two female presenters facing front, one in dig-theme t-shirt, simper and toss their hair as Dan Walker speaks]:

DW: [MS and RD turn towards him beaming, then quickly look back smiling to face viewer]"Join me, Michaela and Raksha , along with...."

Scene two: [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Drone shot pulling up of three men with detectors walking purposefully across a sunlit field strewn with straw bales]: 

DW: " army of experts ..." 

Scene three: [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Low-level camera shot along the ground looking up at six middle-aged men crouching in a stubble field, one with a pinpointer attached to his waist by a thin coiled cable] 

DW: "as we go digging..."

Scene four: [Exterior. Closeup shot looking down into a hole dug in stubble, a man in blue silicone gloves uses an orange pinpointer and takes something from the hole]:

DW: "...for treasure!"

Scene five: [Exterior, sunny field. Close up of woman's hand with jewellery, holding an out-of-focus battered golden-coloured coin or token, presumably hammered]:

RD: "In the UK's most..."

Scene six (07 secs): [Interior. Gloomy marquee, presenters looking pleased with themselves as RD waves hands in excitement]

RD: "... exciting..."

Scene seven (08 secs): [Exterior, Mid afternoon. sunny stubble field. Drone shot from a distance, zooms in on tight group of 12 men some with detectors standing in the middle of a stubble field, some ae walking in different directions]

RD: "... archaeological..."

Scene eight (09 secs): [Interior. Dusk. Props two trestle tables [green-topped], chopping board, photographic station. The sides of the marquee are now rolled up to reveal landscape of stubble field and hedgeline behind. Presenter RD stands left at a respectful distance holding script as a man smugly places object on the photographic station watched by an audience of three middle-aged males and two females] 

RD: " spots".

Scene nine (10 secs): [interior. Close up vertical view of very dry looking medieval harness mount filling screen. No label]

MS: "Who knows what ..."

Scene ten (11 secs): [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Stubble field, looking towards parked car and marquee by hedge, the same group as in scene three from the other side. Six middle aged men in detecting kit and with spades walk randomly in foreground, one crouched over digging something up. No surveying equipment].

MS: "...we'll find..." 

Scene eleven (12 secs): [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Stubble field. Bare-legged presenter in shorts and clumpy outdoor boots moves towards camera holding script, crouches down to see what man with blue silicone gloves and orange pinpointer is doing, handheld camera wobbles as it follows her in]

MS "...beneath our feet".

Scene twelve (13 secs): Interior. Late evening. Gloomy marquee with sides still up, dark sky behind. Presenters DW (left) and RD (right) in foreground by green trestle tables and chopping board look away from the camera expectantly towards somebody off screen, beyond a small crowd of onlookers of different ages and genders. The atmosphere is that of a prize-giving event]

DW [dramatically and excitedly, waving invitingly]: "bring  your coin!" [cheering and clapping]

Scene thirteen (14 secs): Interior. Late evening. Gloomy marquee with sides still up, dark sky behind. View of  small crowd of onlookers of different ages and genders clapping manically and cheering loudly]

Sound track: [Clapping and highly enthusiastic cheering "yay!" "hooray!"]. 

Scene fourteen (15 secs): Graphic screen. Brief programme details.

DW: "Digging for Treasure Tonight, starts next Friday at nine on channel five and my five" (ends. 20 secs). 

I do not know, or care who Channel 5 'celebrities' Dan Walker and Michaela Strachan are or what they represent. The public archaeologist and President of the Council for British Archaeology however I think we should all care about. It is she that in this trailer for the series excitedly announces that the theme of the programme that she signed a contract to take part in, representing archaeology and the CBA, targets "the UK's most exciting archaeological hotspots" as places to look for "what we may find beneath our feet" with metal detectors. What is the aim of this programme? To commercially exploit, for cheap easy excitement, the "mystery" of the past and "what we could find". To promote "archaeology for all" as some form of object-centric Treasure hunt? As some male-centred "outdoor" hobby in which "discovery" and the "hunt" for something worthwhile is the aim? There is not a single means of recording anything in the shots of the fieldwork. Perhaps a female (?) FLO will appear in one or more episodes as a talking head - hopefully not to "judge the best find" and simper at Mr Walker's shirt. 

Evidence (the best we have anyway, in default of bodies like PAS and CBA not doing any actual sophisticated study of the topic in 25 years of 'liaison') suggests that not long ago we may have had 27000 active tekkies artefact hunting and collecting away the archaeological heritage all over England and Wales. Some say numbers went up over lockdown - perhaps we have 30000 now (?). Yet the PAS quite obviously cannot cope with the amount of finds that actually are reported by a few thousand of them (plus non-detecting members of the public). My own figures that remain unchallenged in any substantive way (though of course often simply ignored) are that the ratio between responsibly reported and irresponsibly hoiked and trashed pieces of archaeological evidence ripped out of the archaeological record is "one million in 8.8 million" (so roughly "one in nine"). 

In what way is the President of the CBA appearing on a programme that can only encourage more people to take up "detecting"/Treasure hunting (and thinking it is the same as "doing archaeology") in any way archaeologically responsible?

And yes, when it is on, I will certainly try to get to see the full programme to see whether the actual content is in any way different from what the trailer seems to suggest. Particularly, too, the way women are portrayed in it in 2022. 


Brian Mattick said...

For your information Paul, Michaela Strachan is a very popular natural history presenter who appears alongside Chris Packham and so the idea of conservation flows through her blood. Her involvement is bizarre to say the least. "Let's go and find a Red Kite hotspot and grab 'em for a hobby".

Oh and her T-shirt, Just Keep Digging, I wonder how many thousands of those will now be sold despite the fact that Just Stop Digging is the urgent message in the event of hoards being found from both CBA and PAS?

Brian Mattick said...

In Extreme Conservation, airing in June on BBC World News and BBC Reel, BBC wildlife and conservation presenter Michaela Strachan tours the world meeting the individuals fighting against the extinction of species or even entire habitats, telling the extraordinary stories of their battle against the odds to help us all.

De. William Shephard said...

A very nice Bronze-age spearhead came to light on Graeme Rushton's popular Cumbrian digs, would you have preferred that it remained there and rotted away completely?

Paul Barford said...

Evidence for the use of the word "rotting"? Presumably it has survived some 3200 years intact without "rotting" why would it start "rotting" only after the invention of the metal detector and in Graeme Rushton's lifetime? Serious question, please provide a link to the PAS database entry so we can see what state it actually is in. What was the soil?

Paul Barford said...

Here's the latest on the PAS database, ... does not look "rotting" to me. Evidence of it being saved from "rotting" and oblivion?

De. William Shephard said...

Regarding the PAS database, due to all the suspected illegality surrounding the organization at the moment, and despite many attempts, I have been unable to contact any of the personnel there, resulting in said artifact remaining in my possession. If the facility were available would post a picture for you to see the evidence of corrosion on the socket which, if left would eventually destroy the whole piece. Once again I ask, would you have preferred it to have lain undiscovered until it became undiscoverable?

De. William Shephard said...

Incidentally, regarding your disparaging comments regarding 'Digging for Treasure,' I am in full agreement, as are a great many involved in the metal detecting fraternity. Graeme Rushton, after his appearance, was asked to appear again but due to the frivolous, game-show impression generated by the presenters flatly refused. Even though you find it incomprehensible, we do have our standards.

De. William Shephard said...

Regarding your parody of the 'Digging for Treasure' presentation, I could do a far better job with a 'Time Team' sketch showing a diminutive Baldrick skipping through the mud squeaking 'Mick, Mick, come and see what Phil has found followed by Mick looking into a hole as Phil says, 'Oi fewnd this bit 'o' wood Mick,and oi think it cum of a nearboy building soite, oi just thought you moight wanna see it?'' And so on and so forth, the beard and sweater brigade can provide good entertainment as well you know.

Paul Barford said...

What part of "this-is-not-a-parody-of-this-programme" in my text did you not understand? Oh sorry, you wanted me to WRITE "this is not a parody" so that thickheads reading this blog alongside the others would understand? Sorry, this blog is not written for artefact hunters, collectors or metal detectorists, it's about them.

Time Team incorporates archaeology, features archaeologists, Time Team is not all of archaeology. Read more books.

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