Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prime Time: Making history a top pastime.

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For someone who hated history at school, Miranda Krestovnikoff is making a great career out of the past.

The presenter, who made her terrestrial TV-presenting debut by scuba diving on Channel 4's Wreck Detectives earlier this year, is back with a new series on dry land.

Hidden Treasure, on BBC Two from Tuesday, September 2, follows members of the public whose hobby of metal detecting has led them to unearth some amazing finds, often thousands of years old.

And Krestovnikoff says the series really brought the past alive for her.

''I know that sounds really corny, but for me history was my worst subject at school.

''I think my history teachers will watch this and laugh because suddenly now I'm getting really, really excited about history, because there's a connection to people who actually lived,'' she says enthusiastically.

''We had 3,000 Iron Age coins come out of the ground near Leicester, and I was allowed to play with them. It was like opening a treasure chest and allowing the silver coins to drop through your fingers, and that really felt like treasure to me.

''We also had a couple of Iron Age golden torques from near Winchester, and they looked like they could have been made yesterday.

''You just think that everything that we find has actually belonged to somebody, the necklace has been put around somebody's neck or given to somebody as a gift, it's that personal connection to the past really bringing history alive.''

The series travels around the country, talking to experts, and meeting people who have often been detecting for decades.

In fact, says Krestovnikoff, there's definitely a skill to finding buried treasure.

''There's so much more than just going out with your headphones and waving the metal detector around, there's a whole wealth of information you have to gather to do it successfully.''

Enthusiasts look for springs or former sources of water, which might indicate ancient settlements, as well as fields which have been ploughed, as artefacts can be brought closer to the surface.

She says many detectors do a lot of research into local history as well, and can identify something like an Anglo Saxon burial site from an inconspicuous bump in the landscape.

''We did meet one guy who'd literally been detecting for two weeks, and he found an incredible hoard of Bronze Age axe heads in Wales, but he is really the luckiest guy I have ever met.''

The blonde 30-year-old even picked up a metal detector herself to find out what the fuss what about.

''The second time I found an Iron Age coin, we're talking a couple of thousand years old. Somebody held that coin, somebody made it, somebody might have swapped it for something really worthwhile, and I've just found that lying in the soil. Once you find something like that you just get absolutely captivated.''

She hasn't splashed out on her very own metal detector just yet though. But far from its somewhat geeky reputation, she says her own experiences prove how exciting it can be.

''A number of times in the series I challenged our participants and said, 'Look it's a bit of an anorak sport isn't it, why do you do it?'. And I talked to a couple of women who did it as well, and said, 'Don't you think it's such a male dominated thing, like fishing?'.

''Men do it to get away from their wives - and they admit to it, they say they want a bit of peace and quiet on a Sunday.''

But she adds: ''All the characters in the series were so charismatic and lovely - great personalities.''

Next, the self-confessed ''water baby'' is taking to the seas again for a new series of Wreck Detectives, scheduled for next year - filming in the sea in the middle of a heatwave definitely beats standing in a cold, wet field in February, she laughs.

But despite her new-found passion for the past, she's not quite ready to pronounce herself an archaeology expert just yet.

''Oh no, definitely not. A couple of years ago I'd never even have believed I'd be presenting archaeology on television.''

l Hidden Treasure starts on BBC Two on Tuesday, September 2. Hidden Treasure by Dr Neil Faulkner with a foreword by Miranda Krestovnikoff is published by BBC Books, priced pounds 14.99, on September 18.

Source Citation
"Prime Time: Making history a top pastime." Europe Intelligence Wire 30 Aug. 2003. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2009. .

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