What happens when the archaeologists go home?

archaeologist dig

© Anne Burgess via

    • Show Me was lucky enough to spend the day with Time Team. You can watch past programmes online here.

      Time Team have turned up, dug some huge holes in the ground, discovered lots of exciting things (most of the time) and made a great television programme. So far so good. But what happens next?

      Shows a large open trench, with a digger next to it and several people around.
      When trenches like this one are finished with, archaeologists don't just leave them open...

      We had a chat with Carenza to find out what happens. Carenza is an archaeologist who has been working on Time Team since the programme's early days. She explained how it works:

      "We have a programme of work which is carefully planned to be carried out over three days, so by the end of the third day all the archaeology will be done.

      "On the fourth day the trenches will be back-filled, because that would be pretty boring television filling in trenches!"

      Here's Carenza - is that her garden do you think?

      A photograph showing a blonde woman holding a spade.© Channel 4
      "With this site it will just be covered up again as far as I'm aware... but it will be there for future research work.

      "Other sites we're on sometimes it's part of an ongoing programme of research. We did Flag Fen, which is not far from here. The work we did there just dovetailed in with what was going on there already."

      When a site is 'backfilled' that means the earth that has been taken out is put back again. There are several reasons why this is important.

      A photograph showing a muddy digger against a blue sky© Culture24

      The diggers swing back into action once the trench is finished with.

      Firstly, if a trench were left open and uncovered, it would be very damaging for any remains left there. The weather, wildlife, passers-by and even the oxygen in the air could all be harmful.

      Covering a site up again keeps anything under the ground safe for future archaeologists to investigate another time. One of the most important things Time Team do is to keep careful records of any digging they do at a site, where any finds were discovered and so on. That information is then very useful for any future digs.

      Another reason why it's important not to just leave the trenches open is because the land is usually used for something else. At Northborough the site was on a farmer's field - that farmer wouldn't be too happy to be left with a giant hole in the ground!

      Sometimes the site may have been found because building work was going on. In those cases the builders will want to get on with their jobs.

      So, backfilling and tidying up done, off they all go to another day and another trench.
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