"How do we fit in?", a question posed by an archaeologist introducing a TV series revealing the social history of a specific site in England. Both the question and answer are instructive to help understand the success and continuing appeal of TV programs such as 'Time Team', 'Digging For Britain', 'Michael Woods Story of England', etc. The implicit purpose, and sometime stated intention, is to establish continuity of habitation, of use, of custom, of community, and engender or reinforce a sense of identity, through appeals to a shared past, and through both a materialisation and a deepening of the connection with landscape and place. The popularity of such TV shows is echoed by that of the burgeoning literary genre of landscape, embracing the rediscovery of our immediate environments and the natural world on our doorstep.
Moreover, the surge of interest in re-wilding, and of restoring a perceived loss of balance between the urban and the rural, the man-made and the natural, can be argued are symptomatic of a flight from the uncertainty, change and upheaval of the modern world. It is also an expression of unease, of the recognition of our destructive impact on the Earth's ecology and resources, coupled with our own rootlessness, and weightlessness (consider how dematerialised our world has become through internet interactions and social media; the rise of the non-physical, digital constitution of our sense of self and identity). We crave the hard, tangible evidence of our existence in relation both to the present and the past, and thus, perhaps paradoxically, by recovering the past we may also recover the future.
We have perhaps never been more estranged by and alienated from our history, our environment, and the natural world. Cultural trends reflect our desire and anxiety to restore a meaningful relationship and connection with all that we in the post-industrialised West have conspired to remove ourselves from.