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Our next subject in this series is Professor Timothy Darvill, who took time out of his busy schedule to provide us with some answers to our usual questions as once again we probe ‘Inside the Mind…’
Professor Timothy Darvill studied at the University of Southampton graduating with a first degree in archaeology in 1979, a PhD based on a study of the Neolithic of Wales and the west of England in 1983, and a DSc on the subject of prehistoric Britain in 2006. He is probably best known for his publications on prehistoric Britain and his excavations in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man. The author of over twenty books and more than 200 papers and articles, he has served as Chairman of the Institute of Field Archaeologists, Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and was a Member of the Council of the National Trust. He is Professor of Archaeology in the School of Applied Sciences at Bournemouth University.
Recognized as one of the leading authorities on Stonehenge and the British Neolithic, in April 2008 together with Professor Geoffrey Wainwright he co-directed excavations within the circle at Stonehenge to examine the early stone structures on the site. The work featured heavily in a BBC Timewatch programme which examined the theory that Stonehenge was a prehistoric centre of healing. Beyond Britain, he has worked on projects exploring aspects of the Neolithic in Russia, Greece, Germany and Malta. He was appointed OBE in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The Ten Questions:
What sparked your interest in Archaeology?
Visits to prehistoric and Roman sites in the Cotswolds where I was lucky enough to grow up. My parents were always keen to visit historic and ancient sites and I remember a fair few school visits to places such as Chedworth Roman Villa and Belas Knap long barrow.
How did you get started?
One of my school teachers put me in touch with a teacher at another school who was running an excavation at Wycomb Roman town at weekends and in the school holidays so I used to go along there whenever I could.
Who has most influenced your career?
Colin Renfrew, who was one of my supervisors as a student. I particularly admire his interest in looking at the big picture of how things might have been in the past and his ability to combine theoretical archaeology with a practical focus.
Which has been your most exciting project to date?
Without doubt my work in the Stonehenge landscape which has engaged me for more than 20 years now and culminated in 2008 with the chance for Geoff Wainwright and I to excavate within the central stone circles. We were the first to do that for more than 40 years so it was great responsibility but we learnt a lot about the site and its development.
What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?
Stonehenge. Because it holds so many challenges that need to be resolved through further detailed study. It seems to have an inexhaustible capacity to engage and surprise.
What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?
There is nothing that I particularly regret, although like many I am continually saddened by the on-going destruction of key sites and monuments around the world, not least through conflict and war at the present time.
If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?
To make financial support for archaeological work stronger in terms of providing secure funds for excavation, outreach, analysis and publication as a total package rather than itemized separate projects.
If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?
My main point would be that our archaeological remains are important to many people and that for this reason we need to develop far more joined-up thinking on conservation, preservation, and the funding of research to tell us more of the story of our Island over tens of thousands of years rather than the limited view of ‘history’ that so often dominates education programmes.
If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?
A mechanical engineer I think, or maybe a lawyer!
Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?
Travel, music, DIY, and playing lead guitar in The Standing Stones.
Many thanks once again to Tim for taking time to provide us with his answers. Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind of’.
If you work in community archaeology and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.