Archaeology on television, 1937

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The birth of archaeologically-themed television programmes is intimately linked to the birth of television itself. Yet little is known of the earliest broadcasts owing to both the fragmentary archival record and the longstanding hype surrounding later archaeology TV productions. This article examines two of the first such shows, likely the earliest in the English-speaking world for which records survive, focused on the British Iron Age site of Maiden Castle and on the reconstruction of prehistoric pottery. While noting the role of Mortimer Wheeler in their development, I also highlight several key women who produced the programmes, starred in them, and otherwise held critical posts in the establishment of professional archaeological practice in Britain, including Margot Eates, Ione Gedye and Delia Parker—all based at London’s Institute of Archaeology (IoA). These BBC TV broadcasts were specifically deployed to showcase the sites and methods of the burgeoning discipline of archaeology. More importantly, however, they were subtle players in the building of intellectual and institutional capital for both the IoA and the BBC. Augmented by other graphic media produced by the IoA itself, the earliest televised archaeology shows generated income, exposure, capacity and clout for these two very different but pioneering organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
JournalPublic Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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