Mick Aston, the archaeologist and former presenter of Time Team, has died. He was 66 years old.
Aston, who served on the advisory panel of BBC History Magazine, was born in 1946 and studied geography and archaeology at Birmingham University. He started work at the University of Bristol in 1979, organising and promoting further education in archaeology, and went on to become professor and, later, emeritus professor of landscape archaeology.
Outside of his academic career, Aston brought archaeology to a wider audience with Channel 4’s popular Time Team series. He worked as senior archaeologist from the show’s inception in 1994, appearing in 19 series before leaving in 2011 following changes to its format.
Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, said: “Notices of his passing in showbiz columns would have mystified Mick – the media world didn’t know what to make of him. But thousands of TV viewers around the world did. He was the archaeologist people dreamed of being: an ordinary bloke doing what he loved and making it seem easy. He talked to children, students, fellow archaeologists and Time Team fans in exactly the same way. In the era of TV, I can think of only one person matching Mick’s achievements in archaeology both on screen and in academia, and that’s Sir Mortimer Wheeler. They were very different men, but Wheeler would have been proud of him.”
Archaeologist and TV presenter Neil Oliver said: “This is sad news indeed. It would be hard to overstate Mick Aston’s contribution to the study of archaeology in this country. Together with his Time Team colleagues, he familiarised the viewing public with the objectives of a pursuit that was once appreciated by only a few. Now even the formerly black art of ‘geophyz’ is familiar to millions. Making people care about the often ephemeral traces revealed at the bottom of muddy holes in fields, gardens and even city car parks is a big ask, but he pulled it off.
“More than anything else, though, it was the colour that he brought to the screen — via his choice of jumpers as well as by sheer force of personality — that made the subject fresh and fascinating. For someone like me, also seeking to inspire viewers and readers about archaeology, Professor Mick’s work led the way.”
Image: Mick Aston (left) with Time Team presenter Tony Robinson in 2006 © Rex Features