Time Team: The Team's Favorite Digs

Time Team: The Team's Favorite Digs
Time Team: The Team's Favorite Digs. Acorn/Athena Learning

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Time Team: the Team's Favorite Digs. 2013. Eleven episodes, original production dates between 1994 and 2012, 500 minutes or 8.5 hours. Featuring Tony Robinson, Mick Aston, Phil Harding, Carenza Lewis, Robin Bush, John Gater, Chris Gaffney, Guy de la Bédoyère, Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Francis Pryor, Stewart Ainsworth, Mary Ann Ochota, Andrew Price, Helen Geake, Victor Ambrus, Emma Wood, and others too numerous to mention.

RLJ Productions and Athena Learning. DVD and Blu Ray

Since 1994, the motley gang of archaeologists and historians fronting the Time Team reality television series has introduced the British citizenry to the breadth of European history. Led by comedian and actor Tony Robinson and consulting archaeologist Mick Aston, each episode of the Time Team features the brief, intensive three-day investigation of an archaeological site, using a combination of geophysical, historical, and archaeological methodologies.

The rest of the world has had only had a nodding acquaintance with the Time Team. While North America got its own Time Team America series from PBS in 2009 (a second series is in production), the original series has only been available outside the UK recently, when collections such as "Unearthing the Roman Invasion" appeared in formats usable outside of the UK.

The "Time Team's Favorite Digs" is available in the DVD and Blu Ray format from RLJ Productions and Athena Learning, and on three disks it includes eleven of the favorite episodes recommended by long-standing members of the team.

Each disk features a handful of one or two hour-long episodes selected by Team members, plus a bonus episode, for a total covering a whacking great eight and a half hours. Also included are brief biographies of the team members who suggested the episodes.

Disk Contents: Disk 1 (167 minutes)

Llygadwy, Wales (Mick Aston's Favorite): Llygadwy is a peculiar site in Wales where a megalithic site, a Neolithic tomb and a Roman spring are located in the same pasture: all of which the team suspects are the archaeological remnants of the activities of a 19th century eccentric (very eccentric) amateur archaeologist.

Gateholm Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales (Francis Pryor's Favorite): In an episode prominently featuring a zip line, the Team investigates a Mesolithic ringfort, a Roman and early Christian cemetery and an Iron Age promontory fort on the mainland of Pembrokeshire, and Bronze, Iron Age and Roman occupations on the island itself.

Wierre-Effroy, France (Tony Robinson's Favorite): In a farmer's field in France, the Team finds the remains of the World War II wreck of an RAF Spitfire which crashed in May 1940 after being shot down by a German fighter plane.

Bonus Feature: Wedmore (Altheney, Somerset). In this, the first Time Team episode aired in 1994, the Team investigates the fort where Alfred the Great rested before conquering the Vikings in the 9th century AD; and they find the 14th-15th century Abbey, discover a iron workshop dated between post-Roman to Anglo-Saxon periods; and possibly identify the original fort built by Alfred.

Disk Contents: Disk 2 (167 minutes)

Turkdean (Gloucestershire) (John Gater's Favorite). In what must be the Time Team's most enormous discovery, a late Roman villa is identified near the old Roman community of Cirencester, dated between 270s-500 AD. Bill Oddie visits.

Breamore (Hampshire, Helen Geake's Favorite), is a fascinating Saxon period cemetery site where grave goods for the unusual double burials include much older artifacts such as a Byzantine brass bucket made 2,000 miles away in Antioch.

High Worsall (Yorkshire, Steweart Ainsworth's favorite) is one of numerous deserted medieval villages mentioned in the Domesday book, and dated to the 10th-12th century Saxon period.

Bonus Episode: Turkdean Revisited. When the Time Team revisits Turkdean 18 months after the first visit, they discover yet more late Roman features including the foundations of a manor house and still-running water channels used between 330s-360s AD.

Disk Contents: Disk 3 (167 minutes)

Nevis (West Indies, part 1), Victor Ambrus' Favorite). The Time Team travels to the Caribbean island of Nevis, where they investigate an 18th century British sugar plantation, a large manor house, and a slave village.

Cirencester (Gloucestershire), Carenza Lewis's Favorite). The modern town of Cirencester is visited in this episode, where bits of a Roman road, early Christian church, and a Roman mosaic floor, are found within narrow walled gardens and car parks.

Bonus episode: Part 2 of the Nevis episode, where the Time Team discovers evidence of Jamestown, which legend says washed out to sea in a great tsunami; and the remains of a prehistoric village dated 600 AD.

Bottom Line

The "Time Team's Favorite Digs" is great fun. The interaction between the team members is a hoot to watch (can an archaeologist ever really be "too precious?" No, I'm sorry--no). The unbelievable ability for the team to investigate archaeological sites and learn something new in the space of three days is fascinating to watch. And frankly, watching Tony Robinson lose his hair is some compensation for the fact that his youthful enthusiasm and drive never recedes.

I strongly suspect, but have no evidence to back it up, that the Time Team are at least partly responsible for engaging the continuing support of archaeology in the United Kingdom, and with any luck, it may do the same for the rest of us.

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