Britain, man your TVs and iPlayers!Great Britain might be a small island but it has a huge history and, every year, hundreds of excavations bring lost treasures up to the surface. Presented by Dr Alice Roberts, ‘Digging For Britain‘ joins these excavations in a new BBC Twohistory series.
‘Digging for Britain’ is produced by 360 Production (a look behind the scenes) and follows ayear of archaeology around the country, revealing and contextualising some of the newest finds, research and social history.
Its four episodes focus onfocus on the Roman, Prehistoric, Anglo-Saxon and Tudor eras.
Digging the Romans
In the first episode of the series, ‘The Romans’, Dr Alice Roberts follows the story of the Hambleden infanticide and the discovery of 97 murdered babies buried beneath a field in Buckinghamshire. The original excavation made by Alfred Heneage Cocks in 1912 is well documented, but the human remains themselves were believed to have been lost (preview video). Their recent re-discovery has allowed skeletal biologist Dr Simon Mays and Dr Jill Eyers to examine the remains. Was the infanticide at Yweden Villa the result of a Roman brothel?
Dr Roberts is also on the trail of the Frome Hoard, one of the biggest Roman coin hoards ever to be found in Britain. In April 2010, metal detectorist Dave Crisp uncovered more than 52,000 coins dating from the 3rd century AD in a field near Frome, Somerset. Following the three-day excavation,PAS experts Dr Roger Bland and Sam Moorhead spent nine weeks on sorting the hoard, identifying the coins at a rate of 5,500 per week.Dr Robertshears their theories on the treasure trove being a votive offering to the gods and never intended to be recovered from the ground.
‘The Romans’ episode also investigates the mystery of a man buried face down on a bed of meat in rural Dorset and the extensive excavation project at the Fort of Vindolanda.
Digging up Prehistory
The further back in time we go, the more rare those glimpses into our ancestors become and, with no written records, the pieces of evidence pulled from the ground are the only clues about the mysterious world of pre-historic Britain.
At Happisburgh in Norfolk, Dr Roberts follows the discovery of seventy flint flakes showing clear evidence of having been worked by humans a find that pushes back the earliest known human occupation of Britain by at least 200,000 years. The discovery of these tools challenge the conventional belief that the earliest human species would not have been able to survive in northern Europe.
Dr Robertsjoins the excavation team at Bronze Age siteForteviot in Scotland, who have discovered that Bronze Age people placed flowers meadowsweet in the graves of their dead.
Digging for Britain’sPrehistory episode also uncovers a 3,000-year-old tragedy at sea, the earliest rock art ever uncovered in Britain and what is potentially the earliest metal working site discovered in Britain.
Digging for the Anglo-Saxons
At Bamburgh, on the North East coast, skeletons excavated by the Bamburgh Research Project (blog) offer insight into the illnesses and conditions the aristocratic Anglo-Saxons suffered, and hold clues about the societies in which they lived clues that are somewhat at odds with the stereotypical, warlord Anglo Saxon people have come to know.
There are thousands of grave goods to clean and conserve at the Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Sittingbourne in 2008.Dr Robertslearns about a unique way of dealing with the sheer volume of material a pioneering project in the heart of Sittingbourne that’s engaging the whole community.
The programme would not be complete without a glimpse at the richest ever Anglo Saxon find in Britain: the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered by a metal detector last year and a visit to Sutton-Hoo which is still revealing new insights more than 70 years after it was first discovered.
‘Digging for Britain’ (video preview) is a four-part series. ‘The Romans’ airs this Thursday August 19, 9pm on BBC Two. (Prehistory August 26, Anglo-Saxons September 2, Tudors September 9)