For such a small land mass, Britain seems to be chock-full of long-buried treasures waiting to be excavated, without the usual downsides of mummy curses or unquiet barrow wights. Last night, in Digging for Britain’s Secrets, Professor Alice Roberts and the team from Dorset County Museum were looking into a Bronze Age burial site.
Here are five reasons to check it out...
They’re looking at a warriors’ grave site
As anyone working in the field will tell you, when you’re a bright-eyed tween drunk on Indiana Jones adventures, archaeology can be back-breaking, painstaking, dull work with minimal rewards. But that’s mainly because they want to hoard all this stuff for themselves. Can you imagine anything more exciting than discovering the remains of Anglo-Saxon warriors who died fighting thousands of years ago? They’re bound to have all sorts of injuries that experts will be able to tell us happened from this weapon or that disease.
Beyond dead fighters, there are more ancient treasures to eyeball
Not to bury the lede, but this episode isn’t just a bunch of boffins marvelling over the remains of poorly armoured battalions. Roberts and the team are also looking at the remnants of Britain’s first hospital, where lepers were “treated” – i.e. lived and died. And they use metal detectors to unearth a Bronze Age hoard that offers a glimpse into what childhood was like in an era before the Nintendo Switch or leeching.
The ancient Romans make an appearance, too... then leave
The continent-conquering legions receded from this region around 410AD, leaving their influence in myriad ways. In the wake of that withdrawal, there was something of a “twilight” period while the locals figured out what to do with themselves. In addition to looking at that period, there’s also a pretty exciting site at Ipplepen, where archaeologists have found a Roman settlement in a place previously thought to have been toga-free.
Alice Roberts is an expert in anatomy, osteoarchaeology and palaeopathy (among other things)
As anyone who's sat in a training session while the team leader scans through pages of notes mumbling to themselves can attest, you don’t want just anyone guiding you through the ins and outs of an exciting new discovery. If you haven’t seen Digging for Britain’s Secrets before, you should know Professor Alice Roberts is ridiculously knowledgeable on such relevant topics as the study of disease in ancient human remains, the study of human remains in archaeological sites and presenting television shows.
Time machines haven’t been invented yet
Sure, we’d all love to fire up the Delorean/TARDIS, boil some drinking water and see what was happening in Bronze Age Britain for ourselves, but until The Doctor and Doc hand over their respective machines, this is the best way to experience what life was like for the people who lived and died on a rainy island many centuries ago.
Watch last night's episode of Digging for Britain’s Secrets right here: