Time Team Series 20: My First episode – Rig Day

This is going to be an experiment. As some followers might know by now, for the 20th series (yes, Time Team has been going for twenty years!!), I’m going to be the lead archaeological director for the series, And by ‘lead’ I simply mean that I’ll be doing most of the episodes. For Series 19 I posted blogs shortly before the programmes were broadcast, but this time I plan to do that too, but I’ll also write day-by-day blogs to give readers an idea of what’s been going on inside my head. Now I’ve got to be very careful: I mustn’t give away where we’re filming, or life will become impossible. So I don’t intend to post any pictures: they can appear in the pre-broadcast post, as last time. So let’s give it a whirl. And don’t worry, if it doesn’t work I’ll soon drop it!

Time Team is filmed on three days, but the team is on site for five. The first of these is known as Rig Day (when we rig up all the equipment, fit-out the Incident Room etc.) and the last as Record or Back-fill Day, when we note down what we found in the dig. I’ll post blogs on the first four (on the fifth I’m normally collapsed in a heap in a train somewhere). So I’m writing this on Rig Day, bright and early, before I go out and feed 200 sheep.
To be honest I’m a bit worried about this shoot. As some might know by now, Time Team had a difficult winter and I’m wondering now whether the old, relaxed atmosphere will be back. The site too, is going to be difficult. It’s an Iron Age hillfort on the outskirts of a large city and we’re going to be using large numbers of keen local volunteers. The trouble is, archaeology is a very disciplined business and it doesn’t always mix very well (a) with large numbers and (b) with keen volunteers who may not have any practical on-site experience. The site, too, sounds very tricky. Sometimes hillforts in this part of the country can be very light on finds: pottery can be scarce and soil acids can have removed most bones. And if you find nothing on a Time Team it can be disastrous:
‘What d’you think about this pebble, Francis?’
‘It’s a pebble…’
‘Yes, but how old is it?’
‘I’ve no idea…’
‘But surely it suggest that Julius Caesar passed close by?’
‘No, Tony. It doesn’t…’
And so on. It can be tough. When sites produce few finds we tend to favour the cameo, where somebody sets out to make or recreate something ancient. These little mini-films are great, and they help flesh-out the past, but they shouldn’t become the main subject of the programme – which is what happens if the trenches don’t produce any finds. So all in all, I won’t say I’m dreading the next few days, but whatever happens, they won’t be dull… Fingers crossed – stay posted!
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