Time Team's Big Dig Plan Gets Really, Really Big

By Richard Moss | 07 March 2003
Shows The Time Team presenter, Tony Robinson.

Left: Robinson has a cunning plan.

Channel 4’s popular archaeology programme, Time Team, is set to take another step forward in its crusade to bring archaeology to the attention of the British public with a massive initiative to get the nation digging in their own back gardens.

The project, called The Big Dig, is to be organised over the next few months, and will be screened over the weekend of 28th and 29th of June.

Shows Mick Aston stroking his chin!

Right: Mick Aston - up to his neck in history.

In a letter sent to various archaeological agencies and bodies across the UK, Tony Robinson and Mick Aston from the programme said, “Quite simply, this is the biggest and boldest archaeological challenge that has ever been offered to the people of Britain.”

Organisers hope that up to 10,000 ‘test pits’ will be dug by an army of eager but hitherto untrained archaeologists. Most devotees of Time Team will know a test pit is a small trench, about one metre square and less than a metre deep.

It allows archaeologists to find out what's buried beneath the ground. Anyone, say the organisers, can learn to dig one whilst causing only minimal damage.

shows the team excavating what appears to be a body in a Weetabix bog.

Right: the team excavate what appears to be a body in a Weetabix bog.

It’s a bold scheme that has already raised concerns among some archaeologists worried about untrained diggers excavating trenches in back gardens without professional supervision.

Now, in an effort to ensure things go ahead in an orderly fashion, the Council for British Archaeology is co-ordinating with Wildfire TV, the production company behind the programme.

Dr Mike Heyworth, Deputy Director of the CBA said, “We are seeking to ensure the event is carried out with due regard both for the personal health and safety of those involved, and for the care and protection of the archaeological resource.”

shows Mick Aston and Phil Harding mulling over trench results.

Left: Mick Aston and Phil Harding mull over trench results.

Channel 4 says applicants will receive full instructions as well as all the information needed to take part. Specially prepared forms will help participants record digs properly, see examples of the finds they’re most likely to turn up and get information on how archaeologists operate in the field.

“We have pointed the TV company towards the key sources of information on health and safety and we understand that issues such as risk assessment, legal restrictions and child protection will be fully covered in guidance notes that they will be sending out to everyone registering to take part,” said Dr Heyworth.

Thousands of viewers write into the programme every year to offer sites to be dug up and investigated by Tony Robinson and his team, so Channel 4 can expect a big response.

To help with the project Time Team have also asked for archaeological experts to be available to help people identify finds and offer advice during the Big Dig weekend in June.

Find out more on the Channel 4 website: www.channel4.com/history/timeteam/test_pit.html
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