Surviving the Iron Age

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Cormac
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Surviving the Iron Age

Post by Cormac » Fri May 22, 2009 10:08 pm

Hey all,

For those that are interested, I'm 80% done compiling and editing the BBC series "Surviving the Iron Age" into a single DVD. For those that are unfamiliar with SIA, it's a quasi-reality program about modern people who have been relocated to the Castel Henylls site in Wales where they must live as early Iron Age Celts. While the program is not a documentary per se, it does offer very nice scenes of IA artifacts and reconstructions.

This series is unfortunately not available for purchase via any outlet so I took it upon myself to DVR it, remove all the commercials, and add a menus. Since I have it on good authority that this program is highly unlikely to ever be available (the participants hold an annual reunion and they've stated that the BBC has no plans to do so), I decided to create one.

If you would like a copy, let me know so I have an idea of how many copies to make.

Cheers!

Dan
Cormac McInnean

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Comyn
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Welsh hill-fort coolness

Post by Comyn » Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:12 pm

Thanks so much for making these for us, Cormac! My family enjoyed the show immensely and are now looking forward to our next outing all the more because of it. If Clannsmen haven't seen it yet, please let me know so I can arrange a private viewing - it's definitely worth it.

Maybe we can get Celtic Chris to come over the pond and give us a class in Celtic round house construction? :)

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Surviving the Iron Age feedback

Post by Comyn » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:48 pm

I wanted to pass on the following comment I received from an interested party in Australia via email. I agree with most of the points made, except perhaps that the film-makers seemed to want to get the initial reactions of modern day folks to the daily tasks of Iron Age peoples on film and if they had been trained before hand in any of the tasks there wouldn't have been much drama - it would have been more of a "re-enactment" than a "survival" experience. That said, I would have been much more interested in the former - for instance a documentary with the folks who run Buster Ancient Farm would have been more to my taste than the reality show angle. Has there been anything of the sort recorded? I'd love to add that to my collection.
Initially I was a bit disapointed in the show, I think the idea was great, it had a lot of potential which was not actualised that I felt was by no means the participant's fault but rather the organisers of the show. Many ongoing problems which could have been solved early on rather than bogging down the whole experiece for everyone could have been prevented it, rather than just tossing everyone in together like rats in a sack, they actually did some preparation before-hand, rather like the group training exercises, spending more than a couple of hours the night before together to get a better feel for who would make the best leader of the group.

People in that environment would most likely have grown up together, they would have had a history that would allow group dynamics to grow and evolve over time and though some changes may have been made dramatically, it makes sense to me that we have this sort of group dynamic established to some degree before-hand. I know the whole reality tv aspect wants to see some drama, but it was a show about whether modern day people could survive iron age life, not about whether complete strangers could co-exist without killing each other in primitive conditions.

They did do some obvious screening to get people with the basic skills that would be needed, but unnecessary stresses affected them all on a fundamental level. Simple needs that should have been dealt with and solved early on were issues all through the show. It did show me how important the right person to be leader would be, that the groups very survival depended on it. Its all very well and good to think that I knew this on a purely intellectual level, but to see it in action was a bit of a shock. My ideals that a group could function and survive nay even flourish with a more....democratic? lifestyle, who knows, maybe they did in some cases. But the fact was rather forced home that one poor leader and a whole tribe could die out. Not a bad person per se, just the wrong person for the job. It also showed me that the leadership style needed was perhaps something a modern day westerner would have a lot of trouble coping in a group where you did what you were told no debate, no questions asked. I like to think that I could adapt and survive the "primitive" lifestyle, learn the skills needed to survive, but would I be able to cope with the leadership style and group mentaility? The lack of modern conveniences that are taken for granted? There a parts that I would love, parts the I obviously idealised unrealistically and parts that as a modern woman, I would struggle with.

The fight for survival became a bit more understandable, "why all the warring and fighting, can't people just get along?" Well, our crops failed or sickeness decimated our tribe and nothing is ready for the cold season...The neighouring tribes barely have enough to survive and certainly can't share....

The show is something that I will definitely watch again, perhaps in a few more months. As for a favourite person, well I liked the young fella who had some neo-druidic backgound, can't think of his name off hand. And the jeweller? who left early.

Well, those are some intial thoughts and ramblings, I am interested in what you think, if and how the show affected you as a person re-enacting the iron age life. Who do you think out of that group would have made the best leader?

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Cormac
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Feedback comments

Post by Cormac » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:26 pm

@Comyn - Yes, I would have loved to have seen more of a documentary approach. I think it could have been better (even with "civilians") if they simply didn't focus on the "reality tv" aspects. BTW, I have captured the original 1970's SIA which is significantly more "documentary" in nature. The video quality on it isn't great, but it may still be of interest.

@Australia - Yes, you're correct, they really did toss the people in together and just sat back and filmed the fireworks. That, of course, is a typical component of "reality TV".

Your comments about leadership and survival is very astute and not something that I had thought about in quite that context.

You also mentioned democratic ideals; the 1970's SIA show actually touched on this topic directly. At first, the group in that show made group decisions, rotated chores, and such. But eventually they moved away from democracy simply because it was time consuming process (lots of talk, disagreements, etc and not enough action on [literally] survival decisions), and also because it wasn't always practical (eg goat milking - goats get used to their milker and will give more milk to them than a new person who just rotated in).

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Comyn
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video request

Post by Comyn » Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:04 pm

Is there a way I can get a copy of that older video from you as well? I'm not sure I've seen that either.

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Cormac
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Re: Surviving the Iron Age

Post by Cormac » Fri May 07, 2010 5:04 pm

Nuts. I've got to check my account settings. I'm not longer subscribed to these threads.

Anyway, yes, I can get you a copy. It's currently divided into 6 - ~25MB mp4 files. If you want them that way I'll set up an ftp area. Otherwise, I'll proceed with my long term goal of stitching them into a coherent DVD.

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Comyn
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mp4 is great

Post by Comyn » Sun May 09, 2010 7:25 pm

I'd much prefer the mp4 versions and I wouldn't wish the DVD authoring hassle on anyone anyway. Thanks!

PS: when the site got upgraded there were changes to the subscription thingy - I haven't spent much time on it, but I know it works differently now too.

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Cormac
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Re: Surviving the Iron Age

Post by Cormac » Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:56 pm

Have you had time to watch the mp4's? What did you think of them?

I found it very interesting that they decided to build the roundhouses while camping on site, and just how much of an improvement even they were over "modern" (1979) camping equipment.

The other thing I found interesting was the friction that developed with the vegetarians in the group. How important food is to culture (what is eaten, how, and which food are delicacies) is very interesting to me. And the source of this strife came from another angle.

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Comyn
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Living in the past

Post by Comyn » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:25 pm

I really enjoyed the Living in the Past documentary, much more than the Surviving the Iron Age reality show. There seemed to be a much more serious attempt at reconstructing the village, and the participants were enlisted to do the job themselves which 'vested' them in the project in a way that the "Surviving" folks weren't. The time on site (a full year) was a serious commitment as well. Interesting that some folks left site for the same reason - concern for the health of their children. This is a reminder that during our chosen period there was very high infant mortality. I'd like to see the original show (Living in the Past was a 'what happened to them' retrospective). Thanks again for making it possible, Gobae!

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Cormac
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Iron Age Life

Post by Cormac » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:13 pm

You're very welcome. Yes, I would *love* to locate the original 1970's show and see it in its entirety.

I was also pleased that they included Barry Cunliffe's "ah-ha!" moments when he was able to rectify what he had always seen in the archaeological evidence with what was going on with the "re-enactors". It really seemed to point to the fact that the people in the project, just by way of being in that environment and "people being people", could really revert back to an authentic Iron Age way of life almost automatically. For me, this gives me hope that ACC's "Immersion Events" might actually be able to give a reasonably decent sense of Iron Age life despite such an event's brevity. At least we're on the right track since we can't give up our day jobs to live IA full time.

It was also very cool to see that some of the people took IA skills back with them to the 20th century and continued to use them even 20-30 years later (like the wattle and daubing).

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