If you want to become a big digger on Test Pit Challenge, you can register through the website www.channel4.com/bigdig or by phoning 09065 999344. If you feel you could serve as a local archaeological consultant (an 'archaeological facilitator'), contact Time Team Special Project Office, PO Box 4000, Cardiff, CF5 2XT.
course, are the exceptional sites: for years we've needed to get into medieval settlements that are still occupied to find out what was happening there in the past. Recently the Whittlewood Project has been doing exactly this - digging test-pits in gardens in surviving villages - and it's completely changing our ideas about the development of rural settlement in the Anglo-Saxon period [see CA 182]. I'd love to see ten test-pits in every village in Britain. It would be fantastic. It could revolutionise our understanding. Likewise the Big Dig test-pits will create little specks of light in the darkness - a situation where we know next to nothing, so almost anything we find out is going to be useful.
Why do you think some professional archaeologists are sceptical about this sort of public involvement? We've all come across members of the public who are good archaeologists. So in principle there can be no objection to proper public involvement, especially when there is so much archaeology that needs to be done. So if you strip away all the rhetoric, I think it often comes down to a worry about jobs. If anyone can dig a test-pit, why have professional archaeologists? It's very understandable, but totally false thinking. A metre square test-pit is hardly the Eton Rowing Lake, for one thing. And something like the Big Dig could never happen without massive professional back-up. But there are lots of willing volunteers offering free labour, skills, energy and enthusiasm. Every time I give a Time Team lecture, I get people asking 'How can I get involved?' If professionals become the facilitators of that, everyone benefits. The public gets the chance to do the real thing and feels they're getting their money's worth from taxes spent on archaeology. Funding should improve because heritage will be more of a political priority. Jobs should actually become more secure. More research will get done. Blanks in the record will be filled in. Museum communities will be enlarged. Hopefully, many of those who get their first taste with the Big Dig will join local societies and carryon. There's an archaeological army out there to be recruited, and the archaeological profession should be ready, willing and able to provide it with the leadership, vision and inspiration it wants! _
Scheduling to extinction? People become archaeologists because they want to dig up the past. So why have several of them just spent hundreds of hours of time and filled a suitcase full of documents in a bitter dispute aimed at stopping a new Roman villa project dead in its tracks?
In CA 176, we reported that inde-' pendent archaeologist Jenny Laing had run into opposition to her planned Barton-in-Fabis project from Nottinghamshire County Archaeologist, Mike Bishop. The aim was to begin a long-term investigation of an important but little-known villa, and to run it partly as a training dig for Nottingham University extramural students. Jenny, with field experience going back to the 1970s and a string of popular archaeology books to her name, seemed an ideal person to lead it, especially as archaeologist husband Lloyd, with whom she has collaborated on many projects, is a senior lecturer at the university.
Local English Heritage inspector Jon Humble agreed that Barton-in-Fabis was 'a very important and intriguing site and one that would benefit much from further detailed work', while the university extramural department declared that 'a local project within commuting distance would be a positive god-send'. So what went wrong?
The site, it turned out, had long been a candidate for 'scheduling' (i.e. for being placed under state control), and this procedure was suddenly brought to completion in September 2002. This gave Jon Humble, on behalf of English Heritage, and Mike Bishop, from whom English Heritage chose to take advice, the power to prevent work taking place on the site without their approval. This seems to have sealed the fate of the project. Jenny had already written a 5,300-word 'research design' of the kind required to secure official sanction, but this had been rejected by
English Heritage on Mike Bishop's advice. Apparently, it did not adequately reflect 'current practices and policies in the management of archaeological sites and excavations'. This also scared off the university, which announced it could not 'go against the advice of the County Archaeologist as that could bring the University into disrepute and could damage future relations with the County'. What a disastrous outcome! At great expenditure of time and money, a new field project has been killed off, students deprived of training opportunities, and much potential information left sealed beneath the ground.
What are we to make of this? All parties had been acting in what they considered the best interests of archaeology. The problem is there is no agreement about what these 'best interests' are. But that, surely, is what puts the authorities - English Heritage and the County Archaeologist - in the wrong.