|L-R: Tony Robinson, Professor Mick Aston, Guy|
de la Bedoyere.
As such, you can imagine my considerable delight when, 20 years ago, the Channel 4 show Time Team popped up on British TV screens. For the majority of its career, it effectively had a two-pronged front. The charismatic and genial Tony Robinson was, if you like, the 'everyman' presenter, asking the questions we the viewers wanted to ask. His long suffering and expert foil was the wild-haired, rainbow-sweatered Professor Mick Aston, the team's Archaeological Consultant. His aim in participating in the show, to quote from a recent interview, was:
"[...] to get as many people as possible interested in archaeology, because we [in the profession] all enjoy it and think it interesting. That was my personal aim… and on that basis I think it is a success."Time Team's had a lot of flak, and sadly deservedly so, in recent years, for Channel 4's dumbing down and mishandling of the last few seasons (read archaeologist Raksha Dave's take on it for an idea), and in fact I fully understand why Mick chose to leave the show. But, certainly from where I'm sitting, with the perspective of 20 years of the show to look back at, he succeeded in his initial aim. In another interview he protests that he doesn't feel he has a legacy to leave, but I think that looking at the obituary thread on my current short archaeology course's forum, he would be wrong. There are 37,000 people doing that course, and I would suspect that a surprisingly high percentage can cite Time Team as a reason, even from outside the UK.
Let's not forget that he was a professional archaeologist outside of Time Team, too, and a published author, and as such, respected and missed by the archaeological community as well as those of us who just enjoyed our Sunday afternoon fix of something that actually engaged our brains and our curiosity.
Thanks, Mick, for making me notice the things beneath my feet. Rest in peace.