The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 100

Issue 100

May / June 2008


There is more content online than usual for this bumper issue!


Early Scottish gardens unturfed

Axes could be 0.5m years old

In the press

Listing lobby was no hot air

Kent Anglo-Saxon cemetery could be royal

Poetry to assist transfer of Hadrian's Wall collection

In Brief & Phase 2


John Wymer
Mike Pitts introduces an archaeologist with a fine eye for illustration

The Lost Royal Cult Of Street House, Yorkshire
The excavation of a unique Anglo-Saxon cult cemetery

Born digital: Making People Believe
How computers have changed the world of archaeology

The Office: Heritage and Archaeology at Fortress House
John Schofield finds unexpected things on Savile Row

Green Men & The Way of All Flesh
Richard Hayman uproots a fashionable myth

on the web

Recommended websites
Caroline Wickham-Jones considers archaeological imagery, and The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland has a new website

100 letters & news

Some of the letters we received and news stories we revealed in the past 100 issues

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Communication is king, says Mike Heyworth, celebrating nearly 60 years of magazines

Extra online content


Sebastian Payne asks, what do forensic archaeologists do?

Mick's travels & more travels

Mick Aston looks for early saints in Cornwall, and an introduction to visiting Cornwall's sites & monuments

my archaeology

Phil Harding, the man with five guitars


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts

my archaeology

Just singing a great blues tune

Phil Harding, digger and experimental archaeologist, known to millions as a member of Channel 4's Time Team, explains how his two great passions in life came together one day on the top of a spoilheap. Interview byMike Pitts

The first dig I ever saw was up by Lake Wood [near Stonehenge], there were two or three ploughed-out barrows. I would've been eight coming nine, 1959. My project for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme was early man. I was in the scouts, doing the archaeologist's badge – got it upstairs! I knew what I wanted to do, but every time you went to careers advisory people, they told you it couldn't be done. So I applied for teacher training colleges. The interview used to go along the lines of,

"Have you got any hobbies?"

"I like archaeology."

"Do you watch television much?"

"I like archaeology programmes."

"Do you read much?"

"I read archaeology books."

"Well it's nice to have a good activity, thank you very much."

And it was, "Oh my god, they've turned me down (that was close)!"

The one bloke who ever gave me one word of encouragement, was in the labour exchange. He said, "What do you want to do?"

"I want to be an archaeologist."

He flicks through the folder. A: accountant, astronaut. B: bricklayer.

"No, we haven't got anything under archaeology."

He said, "If you want to do it enough, go and do it. I don't know how you'll do it, but if it fails, you will at least be able to say, 'I gave it my best shots'".

I was working at the Pelham puppet factory in Marlborough. Mother was still adamant that I should go into the police or the church. I went out to Ludgershall castle when they was digging out there. The supervisor said tome one day, "You're going to come and work with me in Southampton".

"What about my job?"

"You give up your job!"

I did go home, and I did tell me parents that I was going to give up me job at Pelham's, and I was going to be a digger. Not a popular move.When I went up to Grime's Graves [Norfolk] in 72, mother wrote to [the excavation director] Ian Longworth, saying she was very concerned about my future: she didn't like the idea of her son grubbing around in dirty holes for the rest of his life. I still have the letter.

In 74, Chris Gingell was appointed Wiltshire rural archaeologist – Chris was my supervisor at Grime's Graves. I remember him writing tome, and the phrase that sticks in my mind was, "If you want to ever come home to roost in the mother county, there's a job for you". It wasn't an offer... it was like a dream made in 'eaven.

Mother was the church organist for 60 years, her great passion was music. In her later life, she'd go to church, "Is this right, your son is the chap on the television?" Yes!! Now, of course, she used to wear the Time Team badge, bless her! You couldn't blame her, but how the worm had turned! I feel more sorry about me Dad. He saw me being an archaeologist, but he never lived to see what happened to my career.

Outside archaeology, the guitar is my passion. I like to take it to jam sessions in the local pub. They go "Hello Phil" because I'm a guitar player, not an archaeologist or the bloke off the telly, I like that. BB King, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, those are the icons. My iconic guitar there is the fourth one along, the Gibson Les Paul. The black one next door is another Gibson. The big square one's a Fender, but I'm unrepentantly a Gibson man.

One of my great, great moments on Time Team, was opening the Big Roman Dig live. They sat me down on a spoil tip with my acoustic guitar. It was the same time as Live Aid. And I opened up with Nobody knows you when you're down and out, which is a great, great song, I just love it to bits. I can sit down in front of an audience of hundreds, and make a handaxe, and it's water of a duck's back: but I get absolutely petrified when I play. And I got on that heap, and I just sang, and I thought, I don't give a shit. Now that, I wasn't scared. I just loved that. You can talk about all those bloody moments when I've found wonderful objects in the archaeology and all the rest of it, they've been great. But as a sort of great personal moment, just opening up that programme, singing a great blues tune... ah, great. Great for me.

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