Dirt Brothers Road Trip
Tim Taylor, Executive Producer of
the UK's Famous Time Team television show!
An exclusive interview!
July 2003

Producer and Professor Tim Taylor with Dirt Bro Bob before the Interview
BOB: What5 pieces of advice would you give the aspiring amateur archaeologist? 
Would you give the same advice to collectors?

TIM: Well, what I think we’ve done in England is we had to bridge the gap between the fact that we were doing things much more quickly than archaeologists normally do it, and in order to make that work, we had to make sure we covered some key bases which were some of the five things you were referring to. And one of those is that everything we do we record scrupulously where its come from… I’ve already shown you the GPS gear, we record the trenches,  any finds we record the layer of stratigraphy, and there’s a record. So, quite a lot of my film budget is spent on writing up an archaeological research report. As you know, one of the things that worries an archaeologist are finds where there’s no reference to where they come from, or incredible things found in trenches, but we can’t go back and find the trench in 5 or 10 years time. And I’ve dug on sites where archaeologists have tried to say to me “Where was that dig I did 5 years ago?,” and they can’t remember. So what we do is to make sure that we locate everything we find and we record this in a report so they can go back and look at it, and we put everything together--- we have geophysics reports, we have reports on the finds and that all goes into an archive. 

The other thing we do is when we work we have a load of experts along. So we probably have along with the Time Team, for three days, like we are doing now, the top two or three guys in the country on this subject, such as Victor doing the drawings, and others that give people the confidence that when we come into a site like this that we’ve said this is a furnace, or whatever, and because this has been said by what are the top experts on this in the world, it gives people confidence that when they read a Time Team report that it’s not something I just made up after a few drinks, that it’s the expert’s opinion. So, we’re fairly careful like that.

So, when people are doing trenches, for people who are looking for stuff, collecting, whatever you are going to call it, they’ve got to decide, well am I going to dig a hole? If you dig a hole, essentially, you are going down into the earth and find information at different levels, and it’s important that each time we go down a level, you’ll see that whatever the filming is that’s going on, it doesn’t matter, we’ll have one of the team standing by drawing it, photographing it, and making the record. And I sometimes sit there thinking, c’mon guys, I’ve only got three days, but I always let them do that because that way we know from where the find came, what level it was at, and that’s everything! And again, what’s happened in this country, after doing that for 10 years, archaeologists will let us go onto World Heritage sites, like Hadrian’s Wall, Palace sites that are really important near London, because they know that when we dig those holes, they’re dug well, and we record them.

BOB: The “Big Dig” was a revolutionary experiment in interactive science. Are you planning another one…. Are you planning any other experiments?What other types of events are you planning that involve the public?

TIM: Well, The Big Dig was great….in many ways it was quite another step for archaeologists to swallow….. you can’t be in this business and annoy all the archaeologists, you’ve got to get them on your side….What we did was we spent a lot of time talking to archaeologists before we did it…. Even then, when it came out, they got quite worried about it because we were involving large numbers of the general public who didn’t necessarily have a degree in archaeology. But we made sure on each of the sites they were digging that they had an archaeologist to refer to…. The enthusiasm was fantastic. Yes, we are doing another because Channel Four thought it was incredible. We got great viewing figures, nearly 20 percent, that’s one in five people watched the show in Britain. 

I think the main thing with Archaeology was that with every one of those pits that went in, the kids who were digging it, were pretty meticulous. You know, when I was watching those kids doing it, for a start, their eyesight is better than most archaeologists, ha-ha, they’re lower to the ground…. But they did such a good job, I think, that archaeologists have now got that much more information. We dug 1300 holes and each one of those pits effectively had a record written about it…. Photographed every 10 centimeters down, and all that archive is available to archaeologists. And even if we didn’t find anything in some pits, at least the archaeologists know there’s nothing there.

But yes, we’re planning more. Yes, I’ve got other ideas for inclusive archaeology and those will be coming out next year or so.

BOB: Do you believe that progress and development will make  the Time Team concept more popular to professionals? And will it alter the methodologies now used by professionals?

TIM: I don’t think it’ll alter the methodologies, but I think it might make them brave to acknowledge what they’ve always done anyway. When we dig, what we do is evaluation, and when you do an evaluation in Britain, a new motorway, new supermarket, something like that, you dig reasonably quickly, and that kind of level of archaeology, is the kind of level we do, evaluation archaeology. Basically, I think quite a lot of archaeologists realize that that kind of archaeology is very valuable. I think that it might make some people own up to the fact that sometimes they do do it at a reasonably fast speed--- you can take ten years to write your PhD thesis on it, but actually when a job’s got to be done, it’s a rescue situation,  then as long as you keep all the standards high, you can work at Time Team speed. The big advantage we’ve got, is that we’ve got 45 people here, geophysics teams, helicopters, we’ve got all the bells and whistles that a lot of archaeologists can’t afford to have.

We’ve worked with archaeologists who’ve said, “My God, this is the way we used to work. We used to work, excavate, we used to move quickly, but we kept the standards very high”, and by putting intensive labor into it we’ve managed to do just that.

BOB: When can we expect to see the Time Team in the USA?

TIM: WGBH are doing something right now with it…. We’ve started to look for great American archaeologists and we’re hoping to get a really great team together and work with the establishment, talk to them, say this is what we’re going to do, show them the reports we’ve written, show them the awards we’ve won from archaeologists, and say well, look, you’ve got fantastic archaeology. The thing I’d like to do, in the case of America is to say “Look, you are fascinated by pyramids, you are fascinated by “Holy Grails” and stuff like that, Well, there is another kind of archaeology which you find in the back gardens of American homes…amazing Indian artifacts, you know this, and that’s the kind of archaeology the Time Team is really interested in… Washington’s brewery, something like that, we’re going to be there making that as exciting as all of that pyramid stuff, which, you know, what relevance does all that have to the average guy?  We’re into democratic archaeology, parish pump in America--- we’ll be in somebody’s back garden in America in about a year’s time, we hope. We also hope Americans will visit our website and post something up there. We will be in America and hope everyone will get into what we will be doing.

The Time Team stands for crossing the bridge between the public’s involvement and archaeologists, but we stand for doing it the right way.

BOB: Convincing “Joe Bubba”, that’s the hard part!

TIM: You can’t always convince everybody, but Joe’s kids, that’s another thing. The kids are sharp. You know what one of the biggest growth areas in American archaeology is? It’s young kids wanting to become archaeologists because they want to discover the “hunting past,” generations of the past…. These guys want to do the archaeology properly…. They don’t want Coca-Cola and television, what they want is to find the “hunting past”, one spear head that belonged to great-great-grandfather, located and found in the past, the whole thing done right, all the rest of it, that’s what they want. For them, that’s great and young kids do that so well. Every Boy Scout should have their Archaeology Merit Badge.

BOB: Thanks for your time…. We all look forward to seeing your show in the US!

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