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Monday, 3 October 2011

Alice bamboozled

Been listening / watching that "Digging for Britain" prog again -- in which Dr Alice Roberts visits the Preseli Hills in the rain and encounters Profs Darvill and Dainwright beavering away in a hole in the ground.    Her words, accurately recorded:  "We are at the spot where the healing springs are found and where the famous bluestones were quarried."

and then:

The excavated Neolithic tomb is ".....right in the shadow of the bluestone quarry."

She is supposed to be a professional archaeologist.  That being the case, how come she is so gullible as to believe this stuff, and to repeat it in front of the TV cameras?   Is she blissfully unaware of any of the recent geology, and indeed of the geology done by the OU team more than 20 years ago?

Before the programme was broadcast, and having been forewarned by the BBC trailer which was stuck onto YouTube, I wrote to her and to the maker of the programme to point out that a little less hype and a little more science might be appropriate.  No acknowledgement, let alone a considered response. 


Chris Johnson said...

To be honest, I fell asleep during the programme. Too much a combination of hype and rethreading old ground - or perhaps I am getting old. I think Alice is in a tricky spot between re-reading quasi research and being a real scientist. Is she a media person. lending her credibility to a pr stunt, or is she exercising some genuine editorial control - I suspect the former. Still, I was asleep for most of it, so what do I know?

Tony H said...

Alice has no qualifications in 'straight' Archaeology. She is a specialist in osteoarchaeology which has developed out of her medical career. Just like Frances, the lady who worked on the bones for the Stonehenge Riverside Project, she is a specialist. Lots of specialists work within the broader discipline of Archaeology and Anthropology (just as happens, for instance, in a University Geography Department). Take a look at her Wikipaedia entry!In her recent Series, the matters she was speaking about most assuredly concerned the bones and the body. And she IS a very good presenter. A presenter's job has to include being something of a generalist, unless you are specifically making a specialist programme for example, for the Open University.

Tony H said...

But, having said what I said earlier in defence of Alice and her specialisms, I do agree that, for whatever reason, she was wrong to be prepared to say those things you quote about springs and quarries.

At least, in her earlier introduction, she said the D & W healing springs notion was controversial. So, in that part of her account, she was far more objective!

It strikes me that any "magic" around Carn Meini etc has more to do with the aura of respect Geoffrey Wainwright appears to exude when in the presence of documentary makers. We noticed a similar effect, did we not, Brian, when GW was interviewed by a fawning, simpering Toby Driver sonme years ago for a BBC Wales programme? (this is still on the Internet somewhere). Perhaps it's because GW is Welsh, lives in Pembrokeshire, and is viewed as the Grand Old Man. Obviously, he has achieved a great deal in his career, in the present context particularly in respect of
excavating the Wessex Henges in the '60s and '70s.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well GW is not viewed as a Grand Old Man down this way! One of the nice things about Pembrokeshire is that it is an anarchistic sort of place in which there is very little tugging of forelocks -- and in which people have to EARN respect. Pontificating doesn't get you very far in these parts. Perhaps our friend has been talking in rather patronising terms for far too long, to students and TV presenters who would not dream of questioning anything.....

Fawning and simpering interviewers? You said it, but I do tend to agree!

Alex Gee said...

Unfortunately for Alice, such tricky spots are the true measure of a person's/scientist's character and integrity.
I hope for the sake of her scientific career, that this isn't true. But from the opinions she expressed in the programme, it would appear that she has failed dismally on both criteria.