Time Team's Mick Aston dies
Archaeologist Mick Aston, who played a key role in developing the Time Team series for British television, has died.
The death of the 66-year-old professor, recognisable by his brightly striped jumpers, was announced on Time Team's official Facebook page today (NZ time).
"It is with a very heavy heart that we have been informed this evening that our dear friend and colleague Mick Aston has passed away," the entry said.
First aired in 1994, the series uncovered some remarkable finds, including skeletons of monks beneath Westminster Abbey and gold jewellery from Anglo-Saxon times.
Its last regular programme screened this year, with Channel 4 axing the show after ratings fell.
Aston quit last year, describing an attempt to revamp the show as "dumbing down".
Time Team was praised for boosting the popularity of archaeology in Britain, but some academics and professionals had misgivings, suggesting the series presented an inaccurate picture of field archaeology.
In an interview with Current Archaeology last year, Aston said he had seen the development of Time Team as an extension of his work as an extramural tutor, with a much bigger audience.
"Archaeology is not essential. It isn't something that we need ... We need to make people realise how interesting it is, and we succeeded," he said.
Despite the size of Time Team's audience, the archaeological world never really ran with it, Aston said.
He feared he had not left a legacy. "There'll be no legacy because the profession never picked up on it - cashed in, if you like - and developed what we did with Time Team."
At its peak, the series had an audience of 2.5 million in Britain, but in later years it dropped to about 1 million.