letters Why Norfolk shunned the Big Dig WHEN THE WEST NORFOLK and Kings Lynn Archaeological Society (WNKLAS) was invited to suggest 'facilitators' for 'Test Pit Challenge', we approached Norfolk Landscape Archaeology [the county archaeological authority] for their views on the project. After discussion, we agreed to follow the advice received and avoid entanglement.
Our decision was influenced by the failure so far of Time Team to furnish adequate information to the county archive on the three investigations already undertaken in Norfolk at Bawsey, Reedham and Thetford. In particular, and because we were involved in it, we are concerned that no more than a summary 'site report' on the work that took place at Bawsey in August 1998 has yet been produced.
Bawsey must rank as one of the most important sites to which Time Team has obtained access and surely merits more than the superficial and populist publication Time Team '99.
There are several particular areas of concern. No fewer than 13 trenches or sections were dug during the three days of the investigation. Where are the plans and detailed records of these trenches? Were environmental samples taken? If not, why not? If so, where are the results? Where are the detailed reports on the human remains encountered close to the church? A gridded field survey took place over three days in which WNKLAS members, students and metaldetectorists took part. Where are the period-by-period distribution maps?
While we all accept that Time Team has done much to popularise archaeology, we also feel there has to be a clear distinction between archaeology and entertainment. The lack of proper feedback into the archive of investigations carried out belies Carenza Lewis' claim that 'archaeology comes first' (CA 185).
JOHN SMALLWOOD, johnandlis@hotmail,com Secretary, WINKLAS
Big Dig Big Hit BEING NEITHER A 'COUCH POTATO' nor a 'wannabe/active archaeologist' I do not fit into Steve Dickinson's analysis of the followers of Time Team (Letters; CA 186). I did, however, take part in the 'Big Dig' (which I only learnt of, ironically, through Test Pit Challenge; CA
Aston still leads Time Team
I ARRIVED BACK from filming for three days at Roxburgh on the Scottish Borders to find the latest copy of Current Archaeology waiting for me. I always look forward to this, so imagine my surprise when I read the article about the new chief archaeologist for Time Team. I was unaware that I had been replaced. To misquote Mark Twain, 'news of my death has been greatly exaggerated'.
To clarify. Last year I did eight out of thirteen programmes. This was to give me time to work on other projects, such as the report on the Shapwick project, with Dr Chris Gerrard of Durham University, and to give the production people at Time Team the chance to experiment with other archaeologists. Francis Pryor of Flag Fen, Neil Holbrook of Cotswold Archaeology, Neil Faulkner - one of your editors, Nick Shepherd from Oxford Archaeology, Gary Ansell of Qinetiq and Miles Russell of Bournemouth University all helped in this.
This arrangement has continued for the first five programmes of Series 11 (which is being filmed from March to October 2003) while I recover from a brain haemorrhage sustained in March 2003, which very nearly did necessitate my replacement.
MICK ASTON, BA MIFA FSA, Professor in Landscape Archaeology, Dept of Archaeology, University of Bristol
185, to which he refers).
It is true that the relationship between a discipline, the media and the public is always one which must be handled with care and the pitfalls understood from the outset. The mix of entertainment and academic research is inevitably awkward and entertainment always in danger of winning an unequal battle. But, sad as I am, I applied to register - not a foregone conclusion - and was accepted. Not only accepted but filmed.
Our cottage and garden stand on the sight of an Elizabethan blast furnace the first in the area - and clearly had potential for investigation, Carenza Lewis came with a film crew and additional supporting archaeologists. The County Archaeologist and a pottery expert from Stoke Museum also came. It is true that had I been digging on my own or with less support I would not have recognised the significance of what I found, but that is where the support of local museums in viewing finds (in which they were completely positive) and the recording of contexts on Big Dig forms was essential.
The pit was sited where it was for good reasons. It could certainly have been deeper had it not been for health and safety restrictions. Whatever its limitations the pit revealed the blast furnace slag which we knew we would find. It also contained bloomery slag which I can recognise now but not then (can you?). And within the bloomery context we found mediaeval pottery fragments.
The site had clearly been active for longer than anyone had anticipated. Its position by a stream made it possible that this was a water powered bloomery and deserved further investigation. That is why, three weeks later, the entire Time Team came with more additional experts than you could shake a stick at. The three days were exhausting, entertaining and very academically rigorous. What was found was surprising and very significant but you will have to wait until the new year to find out what it was.
Yes, the Big Dig had its drawbacks but the sky didn't fall down for real archaeologists. Without the resources of