1 9 7 8 (UK)
8 x 50 minute episodes
Eight 50-minute films from BBC2 recorded how a group of volunteers (12 adults and three children) made out living with no mod cons for 12 months in an experiment which isolated them in an authentic Iron Age village in a secret encampment near Shaftesbury, Dorset.
The young participants were drawn from relatively diverse (if overwhelmingly middle-class) backgrounds – a doctor and his nurse wife, a builder, a farmer, a schoolteacher and a part-time hairdresser. But with their handmade clothes, shaggy hair, beards and leather jewellery, they were almost impossible to distinguish from the hippies of the recent past.
Some dropped out, unable to bear the hardships of living as Iron Age settlers, but ten stuck it out, going without toothpaste and tea bags, wellingtons and watches, while developing new recipes like pig’s head loaf (method: remove eyes and take wax out of ears . . . ), nettle and garlic soup, and Iron Age coffee made from whole wheat and barley.
Although the programme-makers went to great lengths to create an authentic Iron Age farm, drawing on expert archaeological advice, it’s hard to overlook the fundamentally artificial nature of the exercise. Some viewers may also have been more attracted by its participants’ casual nudity than by any archaeological interest.
The BBC repeated the experiment in 2001 with Surviving the Iron Age, which included three children of Living in the Past‘s volunteers.