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[Cross-posted to Revise & Dissent]

Time Team at the Palace
Tony and Phil visit the Queen to get permission to dig up her lawn.

I like Time Team even though it’s fashionable to scoff at it. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s an archaeology documentary series. Rather than talk about what has been found though, it follows the process of an archaeological dig over three days. Its not a view of a typical dig, there are masses of equipment that simply aren’t available to the average excavation teams and it only lasts three days, but it’s a very good attempt at showing the archaeological process. In recent years the idea has been taken further with ‘live’ digs. These are digs usually over the August bank holiday where instead of the one-hour summary you get daily shows on the finds.

This year they’re hitting three sites similtaneously: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyroodhouse as part of their Big Royal Dig. That’s a lot of medieval and post-medieval archaeology for one weekend – but they did have a Big Roman Dig a couple of years back, so I can see the attraction of the palaces. My initial reaction was that this was a mistake. The three sites are different. Buckingham Palace is quite modern, while Windsor Castle was a Norman foundation. Holyroodhouse, belongs to another royal tradition and the three sites have tended to have different functions. Beyond the fact they’re associated with modern royalty is there enough to sensibly draw them together? Having seen the first programme last night I think there might be, and it’s the modern connection that makes the programme interesting. It’s the difference that could highlight what the British perceive as regal and how that has changed over time. If I can get over my own republicanism* then it could be an interesting weekend.

Improvements in communications for this dig over previous years are plentiful. As before Channel 4 has a website, but this year there’s a lot more to it. There are also blogs being updated throughout the day and live live coverage on More4. If you can’t get More4 then you’re missing the opportunity of watching someone scrape a trowel over the same block of bricks for ten minutes. Or the archaeologist who patiently cleans a trench by pulling back the loose soil and softly swears under his breath as the camera follows him along – standing in front of him.

If you can register and get the link to work you can also watch the show over the net via a simulcast. It’s on at 19:25 to 21:25 today, 20:00 to 21:00 tomorrow and 21:00 to 22:00 on Monday – all times BST.

*To say you’re a republican in the UK carries a different meaning to the USA. A British republican thinks it’s a bad idea for someone to become Head of State simply because their father was.