Friday 26 August 2022

Nightime Filming, Inadequate Consultation and Lack of Direction: How not to Make an "Archaeology" Show


Nightime meetings in fields (still from trailer)

I enjoyed the Review: "Digging for Treasure- Tonight Daisybeck Studios for Channel 5" ( by thePipeLine August 27, 2022), in which the tent featured in the show expresses their feelings and doubts about this way archaeology was presented in this weirdly-named show (apparently the first of four episodes). Apparently they were less than enthusiastic about yet another metal detecting show as all of the ones that have been produced over the past few years by "various production companies and networks [attempt] to give metal detecting a gameshow makeover and none of the formats get beyond the “Whoopee we’ve found some stuff” level. And as for Henry Cole blowing his own bloody horn…”... It seems the writer concluded that this one was no different from the rest. More worryingly, "the Portable Antiquities Scheme was involved in designing it, well eventually it was, and as well [...] Raksha Dave, President of the Council for British Archaeology is the third presenter”. The comment was made that, as was already clear from the trailer and the show's actual title, "Digging up Treasure Tonight", a lot of the scenes were shot in twilight or at night ("In fact there is a really good bit where Michaela gets taught to metal detect while an assistant producer points an LED Softlight at her. The shadows and dark blue sky are stunning”. This is pretty disturbing. There are a whole number of people who go metal detecting in such lighting conditions when they cannot see what they are doing as they disturb the archaeological context of the finds they hoik out, but (more importanly for them), they themselves cannot be seen to be on the site taking things. Two generations of artefact hunters have been trying to get public and professional acknowledgement that these "nighthawks" are not bona fide "history hunters/ heritage heroes" like them, but the ones authorities should be going after. The very opposition "nighthawk/ not a nighthawk" is taken in many circles as the basis for any definition of "responsible detecting". Whatever that means, I have yet to see the promised "guidance" (but here are my thoughts on the matter [navigate from here, format a bit bonkers at the end]). I wonder if it mentions not going out at night so you can see what you are doing?

It's worth noting that this same presenter is also depicted wearing a top emblazoned with the slogan "Just Keep Digging" and shows two excavation tools, a barbeque fork and a garden trowel. Pretty pathetic that they can't even get that right. It's not rocket science - especially in a programme that claims they are in close contact with so many "experts" - none of them presumably were shown this shirt in the pre-production meetings (or perhaps they were, British archaeologists are characterised by passivity and an inability to speak out the moment the phrase "metal detector" is involved).

The programme also discusses metal detecting on the site of a crashed WW2 Lancaster bomber with "some nice artefacts from Lancaster E105 for Dan Walker to show the punters, including parts of the parachute from the crewman who was killed”... Er... The writer points out that the obligations of the PAS/CBA to do archaeological outreach and give "guidance" in any such programme on the legalities of artefact hunting and collection would involve mentioning that to be legal the searcher would have to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Defence under the Protection of Military Remains Act to recover artefacts from a crashed military aircraft.

Likewise in the show there is a feature involving tekkies from all over the British Isles ("come and join us, get diggy with it!"), one of them is from Northern Ireland (Ballinamallard metal detectorist to feature on new Channel 5 show Impartial Reporter 25th August):
“I do metal detecting and I have a YouTube channel with it; it’s only a small thing but this person from the production team messaged me and said they were doing a TV show, and wanted to get a couple of people from around the country to do a wee feature for them, and if I would be interested? [...] Noting that he only recorded the clip last week, Daniel explained that he was told that the show has a “pretty quick turnaround”.[...] Inspired by the TV show ‘The Detectorists’ starring Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook, Daniel took up metal detecting four years ago. “I watched The Detectorists and thought, ‘That looks like fun’. I love history, so I thought I’d give it a go and sure enough it stuck,” he said [...] When metal detecting in his local area, Daniel noted that it’s very important that he asks for permission from the land owner [...] – that’s the only way you can do it, legally. You get farmers’ permissions and then you go out in their field, and if you find something worth anything, it’s a 50-50 split, 50 per cent to the farmer and 50 per cent to the detectorist,” explained Daniel.[...] He went on to explain that for the feature in the upcoming TV show, he filmed himself metal detecting in his father-in-law’s field in Ballinamallard. “[In the clip] I had to say who I was, where I’m from, how long I’ve been doing it for, and then a piece of me going into the field and hopefully finding something. “Sure enough, I found a coin when I was doing it,” Daniel told The Impartial Reporter.
This quote is important, as it shows how the production company went about finding participants (ie not going through the archaeological authorities dealing with "responsble artefact hunters") and also the effects of TV programmes like this in encouraging people to go out and dig up archaeological sites and assemblages. Note the very prominent lack in that statement of how to go out and legally search for historical and archaeological objects, no matter who owns the land, the need for a permit under Article 41 of Northern Ireland's established Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order, and to surrender the artefacts before discussing any "50:50 split" (thought it was NOT about the money). Showing hole-digging in Ballinamallard would require the programme presenters to present that NI legislation, and point out in detail how the legislation on artefact hunting and collecting varies across the United Kingdom. [UPDATE: Overnight a brief Channel 5 tweet associated with the programme does indeed set out the situation in Northern Ireland. There is a similar set for England and wales. Scotland apparently is too far from London to count].

The reviewer's feeling was that in Digging for Treasure- Tonight 
“the “as live” format is all over the place and that they have thrown every method of discovering historical stuff at the TV wall to see which one’s stick, probably because they haven’t had time to work out if they want the show to be Henry Cole or Alice Roberts".
There are also a few first reactions from social media:
TheGorgeousFluffpot @GorgeousFlufpot · 9 g.
W odpowiedzi do @dfttc5 @mrdanwalker i 2 innych użytkowników
This had the potential to be a really interesting programme but ended up being more like a children's daytime programme with all the clapping. Please keep it serious, there was so much more that could have been said but was lost in the presenters' hysteria
linda nixon @lindanixon2 · 9 g.
Way too much clapping ! Here's Dan .. applause ..stop !!
Isla Keys💙🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🇺🇦 @KeysIsla · 9 g.
Why sensationalise? No need for all the clapping and cheering. Real turn off.
kenndo nagasaki @NagasakiKenndo · 9 g.
Yeah.... totally agree. Terrible choice of presenters. Over reaction is cringeworthy. In my opinion, Raksha Dave was the only person needed as a presenter, not an ex-news presenter with obviously no interest in detecting. Michaela Strachan pretending to detect.. Terrible
1952Female @1952Female · 10 g.
W odpowiedzi do @dfttc5 @mrdanwalker i 2 innych użytkowników
Detectorist finds a Roman coin but Michaela grabs it and touches it before he does 🙄
Concerning the "detectorists", one would hope that Mr Pickering's Northern Detecting Events were not chosen randomly, but because of their proven track record in "responsible detecting". In which case, why did the programme producers think it was necessary to have a "talking head" from outside the group to lecture them (and the viewer) on the "regulations" and methods they employ?
Marisa @MarisaRanieri3 · 13 g.
W odpowiedzi do @mrdanwalker @channel5_tv i 3 innych użytkowników
I have had a keen interest in Archaeology and Ancient History, my entire life and was so looking forward to Digging for Treasure. The facile content and unnecessary clapping when you entered the tent and the patronising vocabulary directed at the viewer...made me switch off.
sue kempson @StokieSueK · 11 g.
I enjoyed seeing all the finds but the whooping & the clapping not so much.
Time for tea @4pmtimefortea · 11 g.
Completely confused by all the clapping and cheering. Why is that happening? #DiggingForTreasure
myfatherwasatoolmaker @Jimmyja80049358 · 12 g.
W odpowiedzi do @mrdanwalker @channel5_tv i 3 innych użytkowników
Shockingly bad TV. Where is Tony Robinson?
Admittedly there were some positive comments, mostly from what one might call the 'Gor-blimey' crowd ("Brilliant Dan, loved the show.."; "absolutely awesome"; " Really enjoying the show so far @mrdanwalker - the things you get up to!"; "Genuinely gutted you didn’t get your say on the show name. “Getting diggy with it” is genius").
And British archaeologists, asked if they wanted to participate in this extravaganza, and after having asked the right questions to find out how it was structured and what the underlying ideas were, decided to lend their names and those of the institutions they represent, plus their expertise to this venture thinking this would somehow benefit British archaeology and protect the archaeological record from erosion by collectors. Yes? "Getting Diggy With It, Just Keep Digging... JUST AS LONG AS YOU KNOW WHERE TO LOOK".

1 comment:

Hougenai said...

Ah, the 'Small print'- one wonders how the viewing figures and hits on the 'advice' compare.
What are viewers really going to take from the 'show'? Perhaps Orkney will echo to thunderous rounds of applause from visitors to digs on The Ness?
'Here we have what is believed to be the first building of the complex'- 'Top find, bravo'(what's it worth?).

What has happened to that quaint Olde English concept of safeguarding sites from damaging activities?

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