Unearthing history in Digging for Treasure

Friday: Digging for Treasure: Tonight - (Channel 5, 9pm)

Some viewers were surprised when Dan Walker announced he was leaving BBC Breakfast to move to Channel 5 News, but it seems it was an opportunity he just couldn’t turn down.

Speaking to the Radio Times, the presenter said: “I could have happily stayed [at BBC Breakfast] a lot longer but Channel 5 came along.

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They sort of said, ‘We think you’re really good and we want you and these are the things we’d like you to do,’ and I don’t think you often get in television the opportunity to not only do a news programme that you know you’re going to love, but also to go away and make other telly every year of your contract.Like a guaranteed series or quiz or whatever it might be.”

It turns out that one of the projects the channel had lined up for him was Digging for Treasure: Tonight, which sees him joining forces with Michaela Strachan and Raksha Dave, along with a host of metal detectorists, mudlarkers and marine archaeologists, to unearth the history that’s not just under our feet but also under water.

Each episode comes from a different historically significant site in Britain, including locations in north Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Norfolk and on the banks of the Thames, and will feature experts from the British Museum, who will shed light on any finds, explaining what they are and what they tell us about their locations.

All the evidence gathered will be added to the central database at the British Museum, where they record every discovery made nationally.

The series also looks at some of the most challenging excavations from across the years, including a shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall, which sank in 1684, laden with diamonds, to the largest Celtic coin hoard ever found, worth millions of pounds.

In future episodes, the latest technology will be used to uncover a Lancaster bomber that was lost during the Second World War and offer an insight into its final hours, and marine archaeologists will also search the bottom of a Scottish lock for finds related to Mary Queen of Scots.

However, in the first episode, Dan, Michaela and Rashka have been given permission to set up camp in Northallerton, north Yorkshire, at a site that is not only in the shadow of a ruined castle but also between Roman and Viking settlements.

It’s hoped that should yield an abundance of rare coins and personal treasures from the medieval and Viking eras, and maybe even weaponry that was once used by the soldiers who were garrisoned at the castle.

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Local dectorists from a club known as North Detecting Events have been recruited to dig for treasure, and a local finds liaison officer, a member of the Portable Antiquities Scheme from the British Museum, will be on record and analyse any findings.

As fans of the late, lamented Time Team will know, not every archaeological dig goes to plan, but this show could still unearth some incredible objects.