Wednesday, 6 March 2013


The taxi driver eyed me suspiciously through his rear view mirror. "Archaeologist eh?" He played with the word in his mouth for a moment as if it were somehow distasteful, then he grinned: "doya know Baldrick?"

I get this a lot (although I suspect Tony Robinson gets it rather more), for archaeology (the profession) and Time Team (the TV phenomenon) are (and will probably be forever more) inextricably linked in the public mind. Funny that, whenever I say I'm an archaeologist, no one ever asks me if I know Harrison Ford or if I've recently looted an Egyptian tomb or battled with Nazis in a desert environment - probably, and I'm only guessing here, because they suspect the answer to these questions would all be in the negative.

"Tony Robinson yes, I've met him. Nice chap"

The driver grunted appreciatively. "Liked him in Blackadder. Funny man"

There was an uncomfortable silence. I looked out of the window at the rain, trying to work out how far we were from the railway station.

"And that bloke with the hat and the voice" (the voice? Any voice in particular?) "doya know him an all?"

"You mean Phil Harding?; yeah I've dug with him"

"He really speak like that?"

"His accent? Yes - what you see is what you get with Phil"

Silence again. I wasn't sure if the driver was happy with this particular response (or whether he had secretly been hoping to hear that it was all an act and Phil Harding was actually an Eton educated actor putting on a west country accent) or whether he was casting around for another character in this rapidly developing game of archaeological-guess-who?

"And the bloke in the jumper?" He was now clearly revelling in his chosen area of expertise; his major specialist subject. I smiled. A successful and distinguished career in archaeology distilled to a single colourful jumper - that's the impact of TV for you.

"Professor Mick Aston? Yes. Very good archaeologist - nice bloke too"


"And the one with the beard?" (this wasn't particularly helpful as, in archaeological terms, it didn't narrow things down much) 

"Stewart Ainsworth or John Gater?

Silence, then:

"The one that does geofizz"

"John. Yes I've met and worked with him and Stewart for that matter and Carenza, Helen, Matt, Raksha, Victor, Guy, Henry, Brigid. All solid dependable types. A good team of people"

The driver was scrutinising me more carefully now in his mirror. I shifted in my seat and pretended not to notice for I could see there was an important question brewing in his mind. He cleared his throat and, had we been standing in the middle of a field (and not sat in a Taxi waiting for the traffic lights to change), I'm sure he would have spat on the ground for dramatic emphasis.

"Why don't I know you then?"


  1. Sorry. Who are you again? You need an identifying feature like a Stetson maybe to demonstrate your competence. Maybe a catchphrase.

    I shall ever remember wandering over a cold Maiden Castle to hear your voice traveling on the wind to warn all in the vicinity of the deposition of fresh scat. Maybe the catchphrase you've been looking for.....

    (I also learnt stuff)


    1. Having just seen an old episode of Time Team on Alfriston Roman mansio (thanks More4) I liked your comment "well it could be a mausoleum or it could just be a big pile of pants". A catchphrase if ever I heard one!

    2. Thanks, yes, 'fresh scat' and 'pants'....lovely. An archaeological career summed up in three words!

  2. Don't feel bad. I've been a student at twice, spanning 6 years across two decades. With yourself (and a very few others) I actually really enjoyed learning (shock horror) and still remember much of it.

    And don't under anticipate the academic value of words like 'scat'. As a student, when they come from people you respect, it makes you laugh, but then acts like a flick on the ear and really focuses your attention.

    Your Archaeological career isn't just what you've done & said, it's what all those students you've imparted knowledge to over the years have done and said too.

    +ve rant over.