You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘TV programme’ category.

I recently watched a shockingly atrocious, but never-the-less entertaining, American pseudo-archaeology program called What On Earth. The description for the latest series reads as follows:

“Thousands of advanced satellites and drones orbit Earth, invisible to us yet scanning every inch of our planet. They capture our world in unprecedented detail, revealing areas that until now have remained a mystery. In an all new season of WHAT ON EARTH, experts look to this state-of-the-art imaging technology to discover bizarre phenomena and strange mysteries including an inaccessible cave of bones on an island off the coast of Africa, a bizarre concrete structure sitting off the coast of the Baltic sea, and a crater in Mexico with extra-terrestrial connections.”

One of the subjects of this particular episode (S09E01) was the – strangely never named in the program – Chun Castle, an Iron Age hill fort in Penwith, Cornwall. 

Built during the Iron Age, in the third century BC, it is over 2000 years later than the nearby neolithic quoit. Although it is in a ruined state, its size is still impressive.  The fort is 85m in diameter, and consists of a central area, surrounded by two concentric granite walls with external ditches. The outer ditch was 6.1m wide, and the outer wall is now 2.1m high, but may originally have been 3.0m high. The inner wall (now mostly destroyed) was some 4.6m to 6.7m thick, and could originally have been some 6.1m high. There were originally some Iron Age huts in the inner area, though no trace of these now remain. 

Possible reconstruction of Chun Castle by Craig Weatherhill

Claims made in the program included the fact that it was built in ancient times to protect the cliff-top tin mines and engine houses (built in the 18th century!) nearby, on behalf of, yes, you guessed it – King Arthur!! An American archaeologist ‘investigated’ the site, and stumbled across what “the Germans (what do they have to do with Cornwall?) call a Hunebed – a burial tomb”. Why not call it a quoit, the local name for such dolmens? More nonsense was spouted about pagan ceremonies for the dead taking part at the quoit, with ceremonies for the living possibly being held in the nearby henge (the castle site). The late local historian Craig Weatherhill who dearly loved this site must be spinning in his grave at this piffle!

Whilst this is all patently nonsense, and Professor Mark Horton should be ashamed of being associated with the program, I must admit to wondering if there could indeed be any credence in the idea of Chun Castle being built on an earlier henge site. I know that a few years ago Sir Barry Cunliffe was involved in negotiations to investigate the monument with an archaeological excavation. Sadly, funding could not be obtained for the dig at that time and so we must wait until a future time for such questions to be definitively answered.

by Nigel Swift

Much will be written by professional archaeologists about the latest (and worst) episode, aired last night. Meghan Dennis. an archaeologist at York University, probably wins 3 prizes for succinctness: “The 1st remains of the episode are found. Disclaimers go up. The footage shows they lie”….. “Gun wankfest time” …. “Overall, this show continues to be a cesspool of bad practice, unethical excavation, and poor science and outreach.”  (A fourth prize for succinctness should go to a Ryan Grove for an unwittingly relevant tweet: If you want to know who the assholes are in a community, suggest the adoption of a code of conduct. It’s like asshole kryptonite.”)

However, while lack of technique is a matter for comment by experts, lack of decency is something we’re all entitled to protest about so here’s my even more succinct characterisation of the series: “A horrible subject treated horribly.”

Nevertheless, I hope anger over the actions of three British detectorists abroad doesn’t divert attention from the less overtly obnoxious but cumulatively far more damaging bad practice by thousands of others at home. A small minority of nighthawks has performed that service for years. An even smaller number of Nazi War Diggers shouldn’t be allowed to do the same. A massive non-reporting rate, farmers ripped off and EBay chock-a-block all warrant the attention of archaeologists too. Self evidently, outreach has only reached the reachable. Here’s one solution:
.

Ethical detector.

But assuming that can’t be done then the only solution to bad practice in both Latvia and Loughborough is to call for laws which make good practice mandatory instead of voluntary. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

.

__________________________________________

.
.
__________________________________________

.

As the sunlight faded in last nights episode of Nazi War Diggers and the four participants visibly chafed at the bit to dig up a dead soldier, 7 dishonest words were spoken that were also probably used at Lenborough a year ago…..

An hour to be thorough
An uncivilised person is someone who chooses to do what they want rather than what they should. That surely applies to the brigands in both Latvia and Lenborough, and indeed in Channel 5 HQ.  All of them falsely claim they acted in the public interest not their own and that anyway what they did was “legal”.

Unfortunately the latter claim is broadly true so it is to be hoped that the hundreds of archaeologists and other civilised people who will today be condemning what was shown on the telly last night will reflect that the primary blame, in both Latvia and Britain, lies in the laws that allow such things to be done. If so then something beneficial may have come out of it.

Update: Perhaps however no-one should hold their breath. See this, part of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ complaint to Channel 5:
“CIfA is concerned that the show did depict a style of ‘excavation’ that must have destroyed a great deal of potentially important archaeological information …….  and the apparent focus was on artefact recovery only”
…. Fine. Yet that’s a perfect description of the behaviour of thousands of British metal detectorists every single week and CIfA and most British archaeologists express zero “concern” about that.

.

__________________________________________

.
.
__________________________________________

.

A year ago a bunch of British artefact hunters pressurised a respectable British archaeologist to unearth the Lenborough hoard in a too-hurried fashion using the lie that “it can’t be guarded overnight so nighthawks will get it if it isn’t dug up right now”.

Last night on  Channel 5’s awful “Nazi War Diggers Rebranded” a British artefact hunter pointed to a car 100 yards away and said:There’s black diggers over there. We’ve got to be thorah as if we leave anything they’ll ‘ave it!.

It is to be hoped that British archaeologists who are currently condemning what happened in Latvia in large numbers will start lobbying the British Government and the European authorities about the all-too-obvious need for proper legal regulation of artefact hunting in both countries.

**************************************************

As Paul Barford has now asked: Why do the English consider that Latvians parking a car by the side of a road in Latvia must be up to no good?” 

"Oooh look, an empty car 100 yards away on a public road in broad daylight. Must be nighthawks planning to wreck the site. We'd better do it ourselves." (Was that self-justificatory lie uttered in Latvia or Leicester? Yes, both. Frequently.)

“Oooh look, an empty car 100 yards away on a public road in broad daylight. Must be nighthawks planning to wreck the site. We’d better do it ourselves.” (Was that self-justificatory lie uttered in Latvia or Leicester? Yes, both. Frequently.)

.

__________________________________________

.
.
__________________________________________

.

An interesting programme condemning Nighthawking on BBC Inside Out West last night. At least, it was meant to be about condemning just nighthawking but it had the effect of condemning all “detecting without reporting” (which PAS has acknowledged is most of it) thanks to this great quote (6 mins 15 secs) from Graham, a Gloucestershire farmer with scheduled Roman archaeology on his land, being interviewed by Mark Horton:

“I’m not so worried about the value of what they’re stealing, I’m more concerned that they’re raping this ground. This is Roman history. Once they’ve dug it up it can never be replaced.”

Bravo. And here’s the crux: Graham’s site is scheduled but Britain has thousands of other Roman sites which aren’t and those are the target of choice for most detectorists. This weekend literally thousands of people will be out detecting Roman sites, perfectly legally. Mostly they won’t be reporting what they find. In other words, as Graham puts it so inarguably, they’ll be “raping the ground”.

Why criticise just these three alleged

Why criticise just these three alleged “ground rapists”? If you know anyone who detects on an unprotected Roman site and doesn’t report all their finds to PAS it’s no good phoning Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 as Britain is barmy and unlike everywhere else doesn’t class it as a crime.

.

__________________________________________

.
.
__________________________________________
.

Time Time is currently recording their 20th series. There is no doubt that the program has been a phenomenal success. And yet it has its detractors, many saying that “proper archaeology can’t be done in 3 days”. But it remains a simple fact that Time Team has probably published more (significant) dig results in the last few years than any other archaeological unit in the country. That’s one tangible benefit, but not the end of the story…

As many of our readers will know, Mick Aston has left the show. Mick was the Lead Archaeologist on the digs, the Project Leader. In the latest series Mick has been ‘replaced’ by Francis Pryor, another Time Team regular. Francis has decided to blog about his experiences on the show, and his blog makes for very interesting reading, giving an insight into the show and the archaeological philosophies behind it. A recent post, for instance, pointed out that publication of the dig results in many cases is just the beginning:

The programme we’ve just finished was centred on an Iron Age hillfort. Very little was known about it. It was also very large and elaborate, but somehow had never been investigated, not even by those nosey local vicars of Victorian times. So the first thing we did was call in our friends from geofizz. It struck me, as I watched John Gator’s team stride up and down their carefully surveyed gridlines, come rain or shine, that in actual fact Time Team is a geophysics show. Because by far and away our biggest legacy to the group of keen local volunteers, who’d invited us over to work on their prize local site, wasn’t the few trenches we were able to open in our three days with them. No, our biggest gift to them was the detailed map of thousands of features still lying buried beneath the soil. That map was worth more than its weight in gold to the group who’d called us in. It would fuel research for decades to come. That research would also help to bind the local community together during the years of economic down-turn that are now staring us all in the face.

Those last two sentences really are pure gold. The potential for a future, ongoing research project, ‘binding’ the local community, arguably at a time when it’s most needed.

Now that’s a real tangible benefit!

Links:

 

La Cotte, Jersey. Image credit Man vyi, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In the final episode of the series Alice Roberts goes in search of our Stone Age ancestors, visiting La Cotte in Jersey where she meets a team of archaeologists hoping to shed new light on the Neanderthals, and embarking on a kayak survey of the coastline looking for undiscovered sites hidden in the cliffs. At the Natural History Museum she sees evidence of cannibalism and the ritual use of human skulls. Alice also meets a team who are hoping to unlock the secrets of Stonehenge, not on Salisbury plain, but in the Preseli Hills.
 
Screened on Friday, 30 September 2011 on BBC2 from 9:00pm to 10:00pm. See also Neanderthal survival story revealed in Jersey caves by Becky Evans.
 
Avebury Manor
Image credit and © Littlestone
 
A BBC1 series will feature experts transforming the 16th century National Trust property, Avebury Manor, to some of its former glory. A spokeswoman for the BBC said, “The series will see a team of experts working together to bring Avebury Manor historic house back to life by transforming its rooms into different periods of history.”
 
The four, hour-long episodes, start in November and will be presented by Penelope Keith, star of the TV sitcom, To The Manor Born. See also – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-14430516

Boudicca’s lost tribe: A Time Team special
Image © Heritage Action
 
“Tony Robinson tells the story of the famous warrior queen and visits a major excavation at Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk, which may throw light on why her Iceni tribe seemed to disappear after their defeat by the Romans.”
 
Wednesday, 4 May 2011, on Channel 4 from 9pm.

Reconstruction of Homo heidelbergensis
Image credit Jose Luis Martinez Alvarez, Wikimedia Commons
 

“Neil Oliver tells the epic story of how Britain and its people came to be over thousands of years of ancient history – the beginnings of our world forged in ice, stone, and bronze.”

 

A damaged example of an early polished stone tool

The first in a four part series, A History of Ancient Britain, begins Wednesday, 9 February at 9pm on BBC2. Series 1, episode 1 is titled,  A struggle for survival in a brutal world of climate change and environmental catastrophe.

More here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00xchyf

Archives

April 2021
S M T W T F S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,461 other followers

Twitter Feed

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: