Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The archeology of the species

There comes a time in many a man's life when he gets a sudden, uncontrollable urge to throw everything down, rush out the door, and dig holes in the ground for the rest of his four-score years and ten. He becomes enthused over shards of pottery, cries at the sighting of an outhouse, (circa 1998), and falls over himself in spasms every time he discovers a rare eleventh century relic of a Edwardian-age lawnmower.

I expect it will happen to me in a year or two. In the meantime, I can at least sit back and watch.

Why do they do it, these crazy kids? I've asked this question before, but still haven't found answers. In Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin postulates that species change over time according to the rule of survival of the fittest. In Time Team, a British program playing ABC Tuesdays, and starring (who else) Tony Robinson, an addition to this theory is suggested: that a new species of humans of the palsied and geekish type will take up a new existence under the ground. There they will go from day to day, banging at rocks and speaking to one another in outlandish Yorkshire dialects, complete oblivious to the sunlit lands above them.

The appeal of Time Team is patently obvious: there is no appeal. The participants do dirty work, get excited at rubbish, and end up discovering nothing. Seriously! Here's the one piece of dialogue I remembered from the show last night:


TONY ROBINSON: In the first pit, they didn't find anything. In the second pit, they were had high hopes of finding a slag pit, but were disappointed. And in the third pit...

(Cut to Tony Robinson standing in field next to his archeological team)

TONY ROBINSON: Well, did you find anything?

ARCHEOLOGIST DUDE: Nothing interesting, no.


As an insight into the lives of the geekish and palsied (which I am becoming more and more like each day), it's invaluable. As a scientific or education program, it's worth is more questionable. If Schadenfraude is revelling ion another person's pain, then how, exactly, could you describe a person who is revelling in another's freakishness? This is the attraction of Time Team.

Naturally, I'll be returning next week. It's riveting viewing. Or should that be calcifying viewing? Or petrifying?

Say! This looks like a perfectly innocent bit of ground. Let's dig a hole in it!


Tim said...

I seriously wish I'd become an archaeologist, even though I had to look up how to spell it. The idea of a job where not much happens and you don't have to talk to members of the public really appeals to me. Plus I like history, and digging is ok too I suppose, in the right circumstance (ie. not digging own grave or similar).

Have you seen Tony Robinson's The Worst Jobs In History? Best show ever.

TimT said...

Wait, you're telling me I didn't spell archaeologist right?

Bang go my dreams of becoming a top-class spelling bee champion and winning fame and glory.

Okay, I never dreamed of becoming a spelling bee champion, but fame and glory would do fine.

Never really watched worst jobs in history, though you're right, I must next time it's on.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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