Ghosts and Daemons

This week I have been lucky enough to encounter two great TV show from the 1970s featuring archaeological references

The first is from The Stone Tape, a TV drama from 1972, in which a group of scientists and computer specialists encounter a powerful haunting in an old house (being renovated to form their new headquarters).

The team, who are working on a new recording device, discover that the building itself has recorded the death of a servant in the nineteenth century. But has this “stone tape” also retained traces of something far more ancient?

Strange noises (perfectly orchestrated by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop) and glowing lights evoke menacing prehistoric spirits.

Coincidentally, The Stone Tape was referenced in this week’s Doctor Who (Hide), which mentioned keeping supplies of spam to keep the ghost at bay – in The Stone Tape, US soilders based in the house during WWII feed spam to the ghost in order to placate it.

This leads me on to my second 70s experience – Doctor Who and the Daemons (Jon Pertwee period – 1971).

Drawing on the Chronicle broadcast of the excavation of Silbury Hill, this Doctor Who story starts with TV coverage of the excavation of a prehistoric mound near the village of Devil’s End (in reality the village of Aldbourne, Wiltshire).

When the mound is opened, it all goes wrong. The pompous archaeologist is frozen to death, and a demon-like alien escapes – only to be harnessed by the Master, who is masquerading as a local vicar. It’s well worth watching. One of my favourite scenes is this, in which the UNIT team approaching the site get a view strange hoof prints leaving the excavation site.

If you see any of these in your aerial photos be afraid, be very afraid…

Dr H


Lines in a Landscape: Philip Hughes


Philip Hughes exhibition is just drawing to an end at Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

I first came across his work several years ago, and was especially taken with his observation of field systems and archaeological features in the Wiltshire landscape. The exhibition looked at major sites – Avebury, Stonehenge and Uffington. Hughes is notable for the clean lines and colours in his artwork, but what I enjoyed in this exhibition is the feeling of movement. Hughes shows the world we see as we walk through the landscape – a wall seen from above, as you would when crossing a stile, a stone circle seen from odd angles, stones crowding one another.

Standing in front of one of his paintings you can feel the dip and rise of the landscape beneath your feet.

If you can’t make it to one of his exhibitions, then get your hands on his new book which includes more archaeological sites in Wessex and Orkney.

Dr H