Archive for the ‘archaeology’ Category

RIP Time Team’s Mick Aston

Mick AstonMick Aston was probably more important to the Show Time team than Tony Robertson. While Tony was the public face who kept the show going, Mick was the person who was responsible for the idea behind the show.  Not to mention he worked to popularise archaeology.

Mick was partly responsible for its creation after telling Professor Tim Taylor, the Time Team series producer, that it would be possible to evaluate a site in only three days.  The show was developed from the an earlier Channel 4 series Time Signs, first broadcast in 1991. Both Time Signs and Time Team were produced by Taylor and featured Mick Aston and Phil Harding, who went on to be regulars on the Time Team Series.

Mick was a passionate believer in communicating archaeology to the public.  he possessed an incredible knowledge of the subject and had an effortless way of making archaeology accessible to people.

Paul Blinkhorn, the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Pottery expert pointed out on Facebook that “there were howls of outrage from many professional archaeologists at the thought of the public doing archaeology. Now, most professional units have an ‘outreach’ team doing the very thing that was condemned by many of them at the time, and the public are involved in archaeology more than they ever have been.”

The much-respected professor had suffered health problems but the cause of death is not yet known.

He will be missed.

An aside, I think the reason that the US version of Time Team shown on PBS was such a disappointment to me was that it did not have someone like Mick Aston on the show (the original presenter/host, Colin Campbell, was as affable as Tony Robinson and the show has a new host, Justine Shapiro, who I haven’t seen in action).  Also, I think there wasn’t the core crew that the UK version had and it never got the same energy and personal dynamics, which is a shame.  The US really needs to pay more attention to its history, rather than its founding myths.

Macho, Macho, Macho Man

I have been musing on the topic of what would American Males do if they didn’t have their guns, but the Commongunsense post “I Almost Died Laughing” pointed out the insanity of US gun culture. Here we have deadly and dangerous weapons which people mistakenly believe is their “right” to own (Sorry, but the Second Amendment right is to belong to a Militia set up according to Article I, Section 8, Clause 16, but few people want THAT right).

A far more productive pastime comes to mind when I go to the DIY Centre. What is more masculine than building things? That is being constructive rather than destructive (although one can demo old buildings to build on them). The pride I feel when I know that I can handle power tools to build projects. Although, it was dangerous when shopping for tools when the sales person said “you could build a deck in an afternoon with that!”

Not within earshot of my wife, please!

Her abode is a Wendy House as is a large,expensive one, but a Wendy House nonetheless! It would be an even more intricate Wendy House with me spending my free time doing that (of course, that is much more productive than blogging).

But the feeling that you made something on your own is far more empowering than shooting a tin can that is unable to shoot back at you.


Of course, there are my other passions, Archaeology and Astronomy. Even playing with a metal detector can be considered archaeology of sorts, although most archaeologists dislike metal detectorists who just dig things up without consideration for what they have found. Metal detectorists have, however, made some significant archaeological finds: I’ve mentioned the the Crosby Garrett Helmet and Terry Herbert’s Anglo-Saxon hoard before.There needs to be archaeological sensitivity on the part of metal detectorists.

There’s trainspotting as well.  That’s much more productive.  I remember a rail journey where I saw both trainspotters and hunters.  The trainspotters were having much more fun with their flasks of tea and anoraks, whilst the hunters were stalking a dear that was several miles from where they were slogging (and would have been a dangerous shot to take).  What’s the fun of spending hours in the cold trying to kill something that eludes you because it is much smarter than you are?

I can think of several commenters who would be much better trainspotters than they are gunslingers.

Or much else for that matter.

Perhaps, that answers my train of thought that these people are incapable of tasks which require complex skills.  Even trainspotting require than one is numerically literate to track which train one has seen (and where).  I can imagine that the gunsels are lost on dry land, let alone trying to look at the heavens to find messier objects.  These pastimes require thought, which is a characteristic sadly missing in the American mind.

Archaeology for Beginners

One advantage of living in Europe is that there is far more obvious history throughout the continent which means one doesn’t need to go too far afield to find neat things.  For example, metal detectorists have found the Crosby Garrett Helmet and Terry Herbert’s Anglo-Saxon hoard while tooling about in British fields. It doesn’t take too much to find Anglo-Saxon what nots these days as well. Although, I was told of friends visiting the Holy Land being shown pieces of pottery that their guide tossed because they were only “a couple of thousand years old”.

While there are similar antiquities in the Western Hemisphere, they are usually in South or Central America. Viking treasures are hard to come by, with the Kensington Runestone being pretty much taken as a fraud. TimeTeam America just ain’t the same as it’s UK counterpart. And it isn’t just that the US version lacks Tony Robinson. I think the UK version caught people’s attention by showing what could be found in people’s gardens and then grew from there.  The US version just doesn’t reach the collective soul: even if it is good to know the origins of the land.

But, where I am going with this is that someone with a metal detector can poke around and find bits of “archaeology”, which is probably more a Time Team UK concept than one from the US–especially since the UK finds can be far more exciting than some buttons.  Although, the US Time Team did do some very interesting digs, such as trying to find Roanoke, the first (and lost) English Colony.  Who knows what stuff might be lurking under the North American soil that could lead to interesting new discoveries?

Unfortunately, because of the dearth of history in North America, one needs to look across the water to Europe for resources (or South to neat sites).  Or so one would think.  Who knows what is under the North American soil that might provide a new perspective on the peopling of the land?  While Lewis and Clark were the first American (U.S.) explorers, they weren’t the first to set foot in those territories.

Anyway, like most of my posts, this is something to get one’s mind going whether one lives in the Western or Eastern Hemisphere.  If you’re in Australia, you can go looking for the Mahogany Ship (and LaSalle’s Le Griffon if you’re in the US).  But, the real idea behind all this is to explore, discover, and learn.

Some resources:

Time Team on DVD (maybe)

I’m not sure what got me looking at Time Team DVDs on Amazon, but I was there.  Perhaps it was because I was looking at the silly show, Bonekickers, which the BBC describes as an “Archaeological drama series” .  Most people call it comedy who know anything about history of archaeology.  I did also see that History Cold Case is available on DVD as well.

Anyway, Time team has been around for since 1994, for 19 Series with around 200 digs, yet Channel 4 have finally released Series 18 on DVD.  I should add that PBS did a US version which lacked the personality of the UK version (not to mention the wealth of history). Despite this, there have been only a couple of “Best of DVDs” issued (The Very Best Time Team Digs, Time Team Digs-A History of Britain, and Time Team in Your Garden). The recently released DVD, Time Team-Tottiford and Other Digs, is the first complete season to be released on DVD. Nevermind that one can download quite a most seasons of the show on line if one can’t watch it on 4OD.

Despite the cost of this set, I plunked down the dosh to buy a copy hoping that will lead to positive reinforcement for the Channel 4 Marketing types. ALthough, I wonder if, being commercial, they are immune from the lack of funds which plague Aunty. Still, you would think that both the Independent Broadcasters and the BBC would do what they could to make a few quid by trying to flog DVDs of their programmes.

Although, I will add that there is a mystery to me as I watch a couple of historic Panorama episodes from 1955 that have been on iPlayer of Malcolm Muggeridge interviewing Edward R. Murrow and Salvador Dali. These are only available for streaming at the BBC site, but at least they are available. This may have something to do with a page called Talk for BBC 4. Any luck, BBC 4 will add the David Frost Nixon Interview to this list.

And you wonder why I want to connect my TV to my computer? It beats having to watch this stuff on a crappy monitor!

Anyway, there is a lot of material out there which I wish had better availability. Of course, that statement will puzzle the powers that be who think they are making the material pretty available, yet there is a reason that some sites exist which facilitate the downloading of this material. Personal choice is to use the official channels and contribute to seeing more of this material being produced.  Someone also said that other Time Team Series were available in Australia, but I was unable to find these from my sources. Seriously, if people are waving money in their faces of the people who produce this material, why don’t they take it?  It makes a bit more sense than having TV detector vans driving about.

This couild become yet another rant about BBC archival policies, DVD production, and so on.  Of course, I should also plunk down the money to buy the DVDs of some of the other programmes I mention here–even if I will never see them again–if I want to practise what I am preaching.  But, that would come with the hope that the Powers that Be would get the message.

Weekend fun!

Ruins are so much more interesting with the Time Team gang digging them up.

I’ve been wanting to write a piece about how I want to visit all those neat places I see on programmes such as Michael Portillo’s series Great British Railways Journeys, Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland, Coast, Julia Bradbury’s shows, and so on. You know the type of places: Knoydart, Gower Peninsula, Scarborough, The Doncaster Earth Centre, ad nauseum. I’ve been to most of them and they are as good as portrayed.  Still there are other places to be explored that don’t have the media attention.

Of course, that is a huge case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence laadeedah. Especially since I live a couple of miles from an early and historic canal in the city where I live and more than a couple from another much more impressive canal (but nowhere near the C & O Canal). In fact, I believe there are several canals not too far from where I live. Still, seeing Julia Bradbury hike a canal (or anywhere else) makes it look much more inviting.  My train journeys take me through the battlefields of the industrial revolution.  Still, I’ll admit that it is the lure of the media hiking about the celebrity places that makes the one look much more interesting than another less publicised attraction.

Laci and Ruins

And given my proclivity for digging up old guidebooks, I should be able to come up with someplace neat and off the beaten path. Although, guidebooks can be a bit like estate agents’ write ups of properties that get your expectations all built up. Not to mention that I have this unfounded belief that there is nothing worth seeing near where I live (now, would all you tourists please go away!). There’s another post in that, but when you see these places everyday….

Anyway, I decided to go away to a secluded place and found myself in an abandoned spa town. Yes, this was one of those places where the rich and trendy would go “to take the waters” up until toward the end of the 19th century. Then, artists invaded the place to imitate the French Impressionists to do plein air painting. Add in that the place has historic ruins pretty much throughout the village, which makes it a perfect attraction for artists.

Thyme in the herb garden

The place is in some far off, somewhat inaccessible region making it a lovely spot to remain undiscovered.

And I’m not telling where this is…

There is actually at least one Bed and Breakfast, which is the only dining establishment as well. But not a heck of a lot else for the general public other than the public library and government services. Well, there are paths for hiking, some ruins, and remains of the spa buildings.  There was a herb garden in the ruins.

So, one doesn’t need to follow the well beaten path created by the media to find some exciting places nearby to visit and relax.

See also: Heritage Coast (England and Wales)

I missed that episode…

Carenza Lewis about finding food in the Middle Ages on ‘Time Team Live’ said: ‘You’d eat beaver if you could get it.’

Well, it's not Castor fiber or Castor canadensis!

Mair o the Leids o Scotland!

As readers of my blog know I have a thing for archaeology and Scottish languages which caused me to be curious when BBC iPlayer suggested the programme Talamh Trocair: Arc-eòlas fo uisge. BBC Alba translates as Submerged Archaeology, but it’s more like “Archeology Under Water”. English Speakers will recognise “uisge” from the gaelic uisge beathe, “water of life” or “whisky”. Talamh Trocair translates as “Earth Mercy”, but BBC Alba says is “Revealing Scotland’s Past”. But enough of my very limited Gaelic (it’s not my first language).

There are three languages of Scotland; English, Scots, and Gaelic. English is pretty easy since that’s pretty much the standard spoekn English. Scots gets a bit more interesting. Wikipedia says that it is a “lowlands” dialect, but adds the Northern Isles (Orkneys and Shetlands) and Ulster. The Scots version discusses Hieland Inglis and tries to differentiate between Scots and Hieland Inglis, which I disagree with. The problem is that The Scots and Gaelic speakers have an animosity, which probably explains why there is the “difference”.

Gaelic, of course, is its own language and is spoken primarily in the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides (Western Isles). Here is a sample of Gaelic from BBC Alba:

A’ sgrùdadh arc-eòlas an là an-diugh. ‘S e arc-eòlas fo uisge cuspair a’ phrògraim seo far am faicear tobhtaichean aon de na gàrraidhean-iarainn as sine ann an Alba, pàirt de sheann chaladh anns an Eilean Sgitheanach.

Nothing like English. Fortunately, the programme has subtitles when Gaelic is spoken and a fair amount of spoken English. That means it’s comprehensible to those wha daena ken Gaelic. Scots at least is comprehensible to those who speak English. Although, knowing that Scots has its origins in the variety of Early northern Middle English spoken in southeastern Scotland helps to understand why it looks the way it does. Think of Chaucer with more standardised spellings and you get the idea. Although, for those wha arena cannie tae Scots leid find it looks as if the person is illiterate. Robert Burns, the most famous of Scots poets was far from illiterate and could write standard English

I assure you that any thought that Scots speakers are illiterate is not true as these samples demonstrate:

He’s five year auld, he’s aff tae the schuil
Fermer’s bairn wi a pincil an a rule
His teacher scoffs whan he says “hoose”
” The word is house, you silly little goose”
He tells his ma whan he gets back
He saw a “mouse” in an auld cairt track
His faither lauchs fae the stackyaird dyke
“Yon’s a MOOSE ye daft wee tike”

Listen tae the teacher, daena say daena
Listen tae the teacher, daena say hoose
Listen tae the teacher, ye canna say maunna
Listen tae the teacher, ye maunna say moose

He bit his lip an shut his mooth
Whit ane coud he trust for truith
He teuk his burden ower the hill
Tae auld gray Geordie o the mill
“An did thay mock thoo for thee tongue
Wi thaim sae auld an ye sae young?
Thay warna makkin a fuil o ye
Thay war makkin a fuil o thaimsels ye see”

Say hoose tae the faither, house tae the teacher
Moose tae the fermer, mouse tae the preacher
Whan yer young it’s weel for you
Tae “do in Rome as Romans do”
But whan ye growe an ye are auld
Ye needna dae as ye are tauld
Daena trim yer tongue tae suit yon dame
That scorns the langage o her hame

Than teacher thocht that he wis fine
He keepit in stap, he steyed in line
Faither says that he wis grand
He spak his ain tongue like a man
An whan he growed an made his chyce
He chuise his Scots, his native vyce
An A chairge ye tae dae likewice
Spurn yon puir misguidit cries


A canty wee lassie cried Menzies
Speirt, “Dae ye ken whit this thenzies?”
Her Maw, wi a gasp,
Reponed, “It’s a wasp!”
An ye’r haudin the end whaur the stenzies

It’s much easier for an English speaker to get around since it does have more in common with English.

There was a time when Scottish speakers worked at removing Scottishisms from their speech, but it seems that Scots is gaining some respect with the rise of Scottish Nationalism (as is Gaelic).

I like the variety, but do tend toward Gaelic. I agree with the people of Scots Online: If you intend using this site to learn to speak Scots, choose the dialect you wish to learn – all dialects are equally valid. In my opnion, that goes for all the languages of Scotland–Gaelic and Germanic based.

According to the Aye Can site, I am a Scots speaker.

Wir Ain Leed
Aye Can-Scots Language
Leids o Scotland
Languages of Scotland
Scots Leid Online
Faclair ùr Gàidhlig gu Beurla, Beurla gu Gàidhlig le Dwelly ‘na bhroinn
MG Alba Talamh Trocair