A WELL-KNOWN archaeologist joined Salisbury Journal's On Point podcast this week digging deep into the humble origins of his career all the way to the TV programme which led to his celebrity status. 

Phil Harding from Wessex Archaeology took his first steps in digging into the past before it was even considered an established profession.  

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He said: "We just moved from dig to dig. We did not exist. The Inland Revenue didn’t know we existed, and the NHS didn’t know we existed, we were young, carefree, and mobile and we just went from dig to dig.

"If you were prepared to put up with pretty ropy conditions and even ropier pay, no, it wasn’t paid, it was subsistence. I don’t know how long I could have withstood that.”

“I am proud to bits of what I am. I am proud that I battled away and made a life from it. Archaeology is why I am on the planet."

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In 1974, the government created the first archaeological positions and Phil landed one of the jobs of assistant to the county archaeologist in Wiltshire.

Phil said: “It was a God-given opportunity to be an archaeologist but to be an archaeologist in my beloved Wiltshire, I thought I had died already and gone to heaven and of course, I am still here."

Now there are commercial organisations and a number of disciplines within archaeology available to those entering the profession.

Moving into the 1980s, Phil became a celebrity on Time Team.

He said: “I think I was surprised as to what it was and how (Time Team) captivated the nation and still does. I wasn’t surprised at the interest the public has for archaeology, they love old things and love to see people digging holes.

“What you need every now and again, is something to shake up the pot and need a new way of looking at things and of course, Time Team was a new way of looking at it and it stopped being a format where you had academics talking to the public.

“You had some pretty roughish-looking articles going along and doing what archaeologists always do…dig holes but then going and doing what other people always do, and going to the pub. The pub scene became so much a part of what each episode was about. If you didn’t have a pub scene, it wasn’t only the presenters that went bananas, the public went bananas.”

Phil added: “If you have done a day’s graft, I'll tell you what, if you have been shifting muck, you want a beer at the end of the day.”

Nowadays, there are a great many tools available to help archaeologists dig holes and trenches. 

Phil said: "We had equipment,...... we called it a shovel!"

Listen to the whole interview with Wessex Archaeologist Phil Harding