Good Night, Professor Mick. Your jumper will be missed.
June 24, 2013 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Time Team's Mick Aston has passed away. Co-creator of the noted British archaeology series that ran from 1994 through 2012, Professor Michael Antony 'Mick' Aston popularized local archaology in the UK by presenting it in an easy to digest, accessible form.

Mick was a vocal naturist, vegetarian, and wearer of funny looking sweaters. He was also a prominent archaeologist with a particular interest in landscape archaeology.

He had a very wry approach to the show. Once, when asked on-air if he thought the team would "unravel the mystery" of that weeks dig, his response was typical Mick: "Oh, I should think not".

Time Team's format - conduct an archaeological evaluation of a given site (or sites) in three days within the framework of filming a TV show, had its detractors, but Mick did his part to ensure that the evaluations he performed were carefully documented and strictly followed discipline. His role was twofold - promote archaeology to a popular audience, and protect the archaeology of the sites the show visited.

He fervently believed that the study of archaeology was well within the ability of the average citizen, as long as it was done properly and in conjunction with experts in the field. Many Time Team digs were conducted in the back gardens of typical British homes, by the homeowners (with a "pet archaelogist" in tow).

Mick also wrote books on the development of British medieval villages and had undertaken a ten year project to investigate the manor of Shapwick, in Somerset. He was very interested in churches and monastic structures (despite being a strident atheist), and was emeritus professor at Bristol University in his retirement.

In the latter years of Time Team, show producer/co-creator Tim Taylor interviewed Mick "off camera" - here is one of those interviews. There are a great many Time Team episodes available on Youtube, and on the Channel 4 website in the UK.

Mick will be missed.
posted by disclaimer (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
. .

(geophysics probe marks)

He seemed like a good bloke, and back when I lived with archeology students they'd always speak well of him, despite mocking the fast pace of the show.
posted by Artw at 6:58 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

That chat with Tim Taylor was wonderful. I've been a fan of Time Team for ages and have always wanted to see / hear more about how they approach researching a location before an episode and documenting it afterwards. It's sad that he's passed and I pass my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. 67 seems too young. I wish he'd had many more years to mentor eager learners.

As a side note, I've often wondered if there's anywhere in the UK where there isn't archeology just a few feet underneath the ground.
posted by michswiss at 7:38 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Probably not - isn't everywhere like that?
posted by Artw at 7:41 PM on June 24, 2013

posted by andraste at 7:45 PM on June 24, 2013

Artw: "Probably not - isn't everywhere like that?"

Other than Antarctica, everywhere.

. for Mick and all his wonderful efforts towards a more public archaeology.
posted by barnacles at 8:05 PM on June 24, 2013

My husband loves Time Team, and I just called him downstairs to tell him this.

"Who will wear the rainbow sweaters now?" was his reply.

posted by Lucinda at 8:12 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I saw the news just now. I'm glad he's got a mention on the blue.
Thank you Professor Mick for opening up archaeology to everyone.
posted by Webbster at 8:18 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a real shame.

I guess we should take a minute to remember Mick's most important archeological lesson: if we don't know what it is, then it's "ritual".
posted by Jehan at 8:18 PM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also that one stone is a stone, two stones is a structure, and three stones is a wall.

Or maybe that was Phil.
posted by disclaimer at 8:31 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

/finds a bit of flint.
posted by Artw at 9:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

He was always my favorite of the lead archaeologists. I remember having a "eureka!" moment on the episode where he drew a little picture that explained crop marks.

posted by That's Numberwang! at 9:27 PM on June 24, 2013


Yeah, a sad loss. He was such an unpretentious and warm character and his love of archaeology was infectious; I always wanted hear more from him. He seemed like a kind and gentle fellow. Those TT eps without Mick were nowhere near as good.

(in semi-related news, the TT presenter, Tony Robinson (aka Baldrick from Blackadder), is now Sir Tony Robinson, which is ironic because his noble overseer in the show, Edmund (Rowan Atkinson), was also a recipient in the recent Queens Day Honour's List from a week or so ago, but Atkinson only got an OBE, therefore catapulting the dogsbody ahead of his erstwhile Lord and Master in the ranks of prestige)
posted by peacay at 9:44 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Pretty much everyone I know in British archaeology is terribly sad right now. RIP Mick and your stripy jumpers, and know that you inspired at least one generation.
posted by kalimac at 12:16 AM on June 25, 2013


Seemed like an all-round good bloke. Deserved to be on the honours list for helping bring archeology to life for all those years.

A stripy headstone would be fitting. Or a tradition of people putting stripy knitted jumpers on it at night...
posted by dowcrag at 12:43 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was very, very sad when I heard the news last night. Of course Time Time was a bit iffy due to its pace and frequent "this is a MASSIVE find" banter, but solid archaeology was at its core. RIP Mick Aston - too soon and too young - and thank you for making archaeology something for the masses.
posted by kariebookish at 1:04 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


RIP Mick. Thank you for making my hungover Sunday mornings on the couch that much more educational.
posted by fight or flight at 3:29 AM on June 25, 2013

Let me add to the Mick Aston/Time Team love-in. I would watch it religiously after school when I was a teenager.

Also, I can't help but link to Eddie Izzard's bit about Time Team: "We want speed archaeology! We want big fuckers´╗┐ with diggers!"
posted by Kattullus at 5:18 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

They tried doing a Time Team here in the US; not bad, but their choice of on-air personnel seemed to focus on "colorful people with piercings & tats!" more than anything else.... and especially so in comparison with the few times I caught the British original. Thank you, Dr. Aston, for your efforts at educating us masses.
posted by easily confused at 5:20 AM on June 25, 2013


Time Team is a relic from a time when Channel 4 was interesting, different and on the mofo. I can only hope that they can come up with another engaging, informative and friendly programme that lasts for 20+ years. Maximum respect to Mick Aston and the team, as well as whoever commissioned the first series.
posted by asok at 5:22 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Team Team is a wonderful show, this is really sad news.
posted by gkhan at 5:22 AM on June 25, 2013


Thank you, Mick.
posted by X | ANA | X at 5:32 AM on June 25, 2013

posted by kjs4 at 6:52 AM on June 25, 2013

Far too young, should have had at least another ten years in the field entertaining and enlightening. Thanks for sharing your learning with us, Mick.
posted by Abiezer at 9:01 AM on June 25, 2013

I got into archaeology relatively late; I wasn't one of these people you meet in the field later in life who'd been digging up their back gardens when they were eight and joining young archaeologists' societies as artifact-crazed youths. I was about sixteen or seventeen when it became clear to me that this was a professional path that I wanted to take seriously, and it occurs to me now that this happened almost simultaneously with the airing of the first season of Time Team. What's curious, though, is that although there's a link there between the two things, I don't really recall a genuine causal relationship: it wasn't so much that I watched the programme and thought "holy hell, that looks like fun". It was more complex than that. For someone who didn't know any archaeologists, didn't know how to find a dig, didn't really know what archaeologists did or how they looked or the context of their work, suddenly, through your TV screen came this whole realm of possibility. This is what they did, this is how they were, and like Mick they were knowledgeable, skilled, hairy, slightly eccentric, enthusiastic, and wise. And the first couple of seasons were chaotic and strained and weird until they found their feet, but there he was at the wise centre of things, showing an adrift and directionless teenager that this was something possible: archaeology was a real thing, and one could pursue it. Over the years I've met several of the Time Team crew, but sadly never Mick. Everyone I know who did, though, said he was as honest and good-natured as he was on TV.

Time Team was a crazy idea for a TV show: it's literally insane. It should never have worked. But it did, and it couldn't and wouldn't have worked without him. He literally changed the nature of archaeology: its profile, its public context, the nature of its following. He'll be profoundly missed.
posted by hydatius at 9:54 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Very sad. Still love the show.
posted by cx at 10:40 AM on June 25, 2013

Terribly sad. Not to be macabre but I want to watch some TT right now.
posted by fingerbang at 12:14 PM on June 25, 2013

Travel safely, good sir; your knowledge & enthusiasm will be missed.
posted by On the Corner at 12:04 AM on June 26, 2013

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