Grave Goods – Tim Darvill.
Welcome to Grave Goods, a series of interviews in which a guest is invited to select five items to accompany them on the Awfully Big Adventure (click here for the full list of categories).
For our latest outing we welcome guitar hero, pre-historian, broadcaster & author, Tim Darvill.
Tools of the Trade
As an archaeologist who has always been involved with excavation it has to be a trowel. I used to be a great fan of the trusty WHS 4-inch pointing trowel and managed to wear out quite a few that remain as stumps in the bottom of my digging box. But in recent years I have come to favour the Philadelphia pattern 4.5-inch Marshallstown pointing trowel with a wooden handle. The blades are more flexible than the WHS and the wooden handles a more comfortable shape. The only snag is they wear-down rather quickly which means stocking up whenever I’m in the States. What the airport security guys make of half a dozen trowels in my suitcase on the way home is anyone’s guess, but they probably don’t worry unduly about such things crossing the Styx on the ABA.
Food for the journey
It must be a Mars Bar or two. Each a mini-meal and, if we believe the advertising, something to ‘help you work, rest, and play’!
Having worked in the Stonehenge landscape for 25 years, excavated within the stone circles themselves, and walked the eastern Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire in every direction, a freshly broken flake of spotted dolerite would conjure up so many memories. This blue/green rather granular rock with its distinctive white star-burst spots was the most aesthetically appealing of all the various kinds of stone transported more than 220km from west Wales to Stonehenge. Tellingly, it was the stone exclusively used for the oval setting in the centre of Stonehenge in its final major refurbishment just before 2000 BC. What exactly this stone meant to prehistoric people, what powers they thought it had, and how it worked for them remain amongst the big questions that we are still working on.
With so many great books to choose from this is a tricky one. On balance it would probably be Stuart Piggott’s Neolithic Cultures of the British Isles first published in 1954 and reprinted in a reduced format in 1970. How he got so much information into 420 pages is a miracle of compression and economy of style. While the dating and the explanatory models used are very much of their time, his attention to detail and his concern for the material culture and the monuments of the Neolithic are just wonderful. It is one of those books we all wish we had written (the same applies to Isobel Smith’s report on Keiller’s excavations at Avebury and Windmill Hill published in 1965 – if only every excavation report was as clear and concise…).
My favourite axe – not literally a tool for chopping trees (which might in fact be useful in the underworld) but my black 1968 Gibson Les Paul Custom electric guitar. It’s quite the most perfect guitar in my collection, weighs a ton, and has a natural sustain that goes on and on and on. Naturally, I’d need a decent amp to go with it so as, quite literally, to wake the dead. For this I think my Marshall LM6100 Anniversary head with some customising by the Spinal Tap sound engineers so it goes right up to ‘11’ and a couple of 4×12 cabs would fit the bill even if they are rather cumbersome to move around.
A Message from Beyond the Grave
It’s a maxim that might need modifying when ABA is done, but as a positive statement for life I truly believe in the toast: “The best is yet to come!”. Curiously, there are two songs that use the line as their title. One was composed in 1959 by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh and popularized by Frank Sinatra. It was the last song he sang in public, and also the song used as a wake-up call for the crew of Apollo 10 as they orbited the moon in May 1969. Quite different, the second was written and produced by Rika Muranaka for the soundtrack of the action-adventure stealth video game Metal Gear Solid. Cheers!
Tim has been digging on archaeological sites since he was at school. Before starting university at Southampton he had been supervising excavations in Cirencester and elsewhere around his Cotswold homeland. After working for the Council for British Archaeology, Western Archaeological Trust, and English Heritage he established his own consultancy and amongst many other projects worked on Britain’s first Environmental Assessment for the Channel Tunnel land-fall sites in Kent.
In 1991 he was appointed the first Professor of Archaeology at Bournemouth University where he has since worked tirelessly to build what has become one of the best respected departments of archaeology in the UK with a focus on practical archaeology and heritage conservation. A full list of his publications and achievements can be found on his university profile page.
Tim was also a founding director, now Chairman, of what has become one of largest archaeological contracting companies in the UK – Cotswold Archaeology in Britain.
Current research interests focus on the origins of monumental architecture and the meaning of stone to Neolithic peoples, a topic that means he currently has fieldwork projects in Germany, Malta, and of course in the Stonehenge landscape and westwards in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire.
In 2006 he won the National Award for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Russia presented by the Russian Archaeological Heritage Foundation (Археологическое Наследие), and he was appointed OBE in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Tim regularly appears on television and radio, and there are lectures by him on iUniversity and You-Tube.
Tim’s Profile Page at Bournemouth University:
Featured Author (Oxford University Press)
One of a panel at TAG in Southampton reflecting on the history of TAG
Tim lecturing about Stonehenge on iUniversity
….and on YouTube
An interview with Harald Mellar:
And a short clip of the Standing stones playing at the Current Archaeology Live party in the British Museum in March 2011 (find it on YouTube at CALive 2011a.mov or: