Chronicle (UK TV series)

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File:Chronicle BBC2 title.jpg
Chronicle title sequence 1989
Written byVarious
Directed byvarious
Presented byVarious
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series25 (1966–1991)
Executive producer(s)
  • Paul Johnstone (1966–76)
  • Bruce Norman (1977–89)
Editor(s)Bruce Norman
Running time50–60 min. (regular episode)
Original networkBBC Two (1966–1991)
Original release18 June 1966 (1966-06-18) –
29 May 1991 (1991-05-29)
External links
Chronicle: Archaeology on Television Logo.png Search Chronicle (UK TV series) on Amazon.

Chronicle is a BBC Television programme that was shown monthly and then fortnightly on BBC Two from 18 June 1966 to its last broadcast on 29 May 1991.[1] Chronicle focused on popular archaeology and related subjects, and is considered an influential programme and a landmark in early television presentation of archaeology.[2][3] The series was commissioned by David Attenborough in 1966,[1] and was produced by the Archaeological and Historical Unit headed by Paul Johnstone and later edited by Bruce Norman.[4] Among the presenters of the programme are Magnus Magnusson, Colin Renfrew, David Drew, and John Julius Norwich.


BBC first broadcast a regular archaeology programme on radio introduced by Glyn Daniel in 1946 titled The Archaeologist. This was followed by a popular quiz show Animal, Vegetable and Mineral on the television in 1952, and Burled Treasure broadcast from 1954 to 1959.[5] In 1966, the first controller of BBC Two, David Attenborough, thought that there was sufficient interest in archaeology and established a special unit on the subject to produce Chronicle. Attenborough intended Chronicle to report on archaeological digs and findings around the word where archaeology would be shown as it was practised, and new discoveries could be presented on the show. The programme was produced by the Archaeological and Historical Unit at the BBC headed by Paul Johnstone, later the show was edited by Bruce Norman.[3] Norman however would describe Chronicle as a "show" because they are "in the entertainment business – not the archaeology business".[5] The show was presented by many different presenters over the years, one of the earliest was Magnus Magnusson who wrote and presented the programme for a number of years from 1966 onwards.[6][7] Other presenters include the archaeologists Colin Renfrew, Mortimer Wheeler, and David Drew, and the historian John Julius Norwich.[8] The programme ended in 1991 after the death of its editor Bruce Norman.[3]

The programme is a mix of full-length documentaries and some live broadcasts. It financed projects that they would film and televise, the first of which was an excavation on a prehistoric mound Silbury Hill undertaken by Richard Atkinson in 1968 which was broadcast live.[4] However, this excavation as well as those at South Cadbury conducted by Leslie Alcock yielded few results.[9] Later investigations funded include the post-mortem examination of Tutankhamun.[2] Other notable episodes aired include the excavations at Sutton Hoo and it was part of the 16-hour live coverage of the raising of Mary Rose from the Solent.[9] The programme would become the primary outlet for archaeology documentaries for many years, although other occasional series such as In Search of the Dark Ages by Michael Wood in 1981, and Romer's Egypt by John Romer in 1982 had been produced, in particular when the history-based Timewatch was launched in 1982.[1][10] A selection of excerpts and full programmes are made available at the BBC archive website.[11]



After a shaky start, the show went on to produce a series high quality of documentaries and it would be considered a high point of British documentary.[12] It had however attracted some criticisms for sensationalising some of the subjects, for example in the three episodes by Henry Lincoln on the Rennes-le-Château "mystery" and Knights Templar conspiracy theory broadcast in 1972, 1974 and 1979 (the conspiracy theory wourld be further expounded in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and later became the inspiration for Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code).[13][14][15] It had been criticised for its "soft-centered approach" on such subjects as the Mary Rose.[10] It was also claimed that the dig funded by the programme at Silbury had damaged the site because it was not filled in properly after the dig.[16]


The show had good viewing figures for documentaries, rising from one million in 1973 to 2.5 million in 1983.[9] Its most successful broadcast was the three day live coverage of the raising of the Tudor warship Mary Rose in October 1982, which gained a cumulative audience of 20 million in the UK as well as other viewers in Europe.[5]


This is an incomplete list. It celebrated its 100th episode in 1974,[17] and over 200 episodes had been broadcast.


TitleDirected byPresented byOriginal air dateNotes
"Vikings in North America"Julia CaveGlyn Daniel, Magnus Magnusson18 June 1966 (1966-06-18)[18]
"Nimrud: The Story of a Dig"Kenneth Shepheard16 July 1966 (1966-07-16)
"Stonehenge: Prehistoric Computer? / The First European"Julia Cave, Kenneth Shepheard13 August 1966 (1966-08-13)[19]
"Royal Ship, Royal Palace, Royal Grave"Julia Cave, John Irving, Paul Johnstone10 September 1966 (1966-09-10)[20]
"The Invasion That Never Was .../... And the Last Invasion"Julia Cave8 October 1966 (1966-10-08)[21]
"London's Burning"Kenneth Shepheard5 November 1966 (1966-11-05)[22]
"The Treasure of Priam"Julia CaveMagnus Magnusson3 December 1966 (1966-12-03)[23]
"The Roman Goose March / The Holy Sailors"Kenneth ShepheardGlyn Daniel31 December 1966 (1966-12-31)[24]
"The Finds of the Year"Julia Cave8 February 1966 (1966-02-08)[25]
"The Other Conquest / The City That Vanished"Kenneth Shepheard11 March 1967 (1967-03-11)[26]
"The Lost Leonardos / The Gate of Hell"Kenneth Shepheard13 May 1967 (1967-05-13)[27]
"The Claws of the Griffin / Dragons' Bones"David Collison8 July 1967 (1967-07-08)[28]
"Collision Course / Shall the Waters Prevail?"Julia Cave5 August 1967 (1967-08-05)[29]
"The Fall of Constantinople / Lepenski Vir / South Cadbury"David Collison, Kenneth ShepheardJohn Julius Norwich25 November 1967 (1967-11-25)[30]
"The Last Days of Minos"Julia CaveMagnus Magnusson23 December 1967 (1967-12-23)[31]
"Finders and Keepers"Julia Cave17 February 1968 (1968-02-17)[32]
"The Death of the High King (1968)"David Collison23 March 1968 (1968-03-23)[33]
"The Silbury Dig / The Man Who Was Given a Gasworks"David Collison, Ray SutcliffeMagnus Magnusson20 April 1968 (1968-04-20)[34]
"The Shrine of the Bulls"Julia Cave29 June 1968 (1968-06-29)[35]
"Silbury Dig: The Heart of the Mound"David CollisonMagnus Magnusson27 July 1968 (1968-07-27)[36]
"Abu Simbel Reborn"Julia Cave21 September 1968 (1968-09-21)[37]
"Carved for the Gods"David Collison11 January 1969 (1969-01-11)[38]
"The Realms of Gold"Kenneth ShepheardJohn Julius Norwich8 February 1969 (1969-02-08)[39]
"No Ordinary Monk"David CollisonArthur Calder-Marshall29 May 1969 (1969-05-29)[40]
"Silbury 1969"David CollisonMagnus Magnussson19 July 1969 (1969-07-19)[41]
"The Fate of the Armada"Ray Sutcliffe13 September 1969 (1969-09-13)[42]
"The 100 Days"Kenneth ShepheardJohn Julius Norwich15 October 1969 (1969-10-15)[43]
"The Treasures from the Sacred Well"David Collison20 December 1969 (1969-12-20)[44]


TitleDirected byPresented byOriginal air dateNotes
"The Lost Treasure of Jerusalam"Andrew Maxwell-HyslopHenry Lincoln31 March 1972 (1972-03-31)First of the three on Rennes-le-Château "mystery"
"The Priest, the Painter and The Devil"TBAHenry Lincoln30 October 1974 (1974-10-30)Second episode on the Rennes-le-Château "mystery"
"The Shadow of the Templars"TBAHenry Lincoln27 October 1979 (1979-10-27)Final episode on the Rennes-le-Château "mystery"


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Henson, Don. "Chronicle: A Glimpse of TV Heaven · British Universities Film & Video Council". Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 MacDonald, Rice, Sally, Michael. "Consuming Ancient Egypt". Google Books. Google. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Corbishley, Mike (17 April 2014). Pinning Down the Past: Archaeology, Heritage, and Education Today (Reprint ed.). Boydell Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-1843839040. Search this book on Logo.png
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Sir David Attenborough: Personal Histories, 12th of October 2009" (PDF). University of Cambridge.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Norman, Bruce (1983). "Archaeology and Television" (PDF). Archaeological Review from Cambridge. 2: 1: 27–31.
  6. "Magnus battles cancer." Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland). MGN Ltd. 2006. HighBeam Research. 16 Sep. 2018
  7. William Tinning. "Magnus Magnusson has cancer Journalist and author 'in good fettle' but cancels appearances." The Herald. Herald & Times Group. 2006. HighBeam Research. 16 Sep. 2018
  8. "Chronicle: Archaeology on Television". BBC.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Kulik, Karol. Timothy Clack, Marcus Brittain, eds. Archaeology and the Media. Routledge. p. 120. ISBN 9781315434155.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) Search this book on Logo.png
  10. 10.0 10.1 Tusa, John (22 February 2018). Making a Noise: Getting It Right, Getting It Wrong in Life, Arts and Broadcasting. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 9781474607100. Search this book on Logo.png
  11. "Chronicle Collection - Archaeology on Television". Learning on Screen. The British Universities Film & Video Council.
  12. MacDonald, Rice, Sally, Michael. "Consuming Ancient Egypt". Google Books. Google. p. 200. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  13. Nicholas, Sian; O'Malley, Tom; Williams, Kevin (2013). Reconstructing the Past: History in the Mass Media 1890–2005. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 9781317996842. Retrieved 16 September 2018. Search this book on Logo.png
  14. Harty, Kevin J. (30 May 2015). The Holy Grail on Film: Essays on the Cinematic Quest. McFarland & Co. pp. 115–119. ISBN 978-0786477852. Search this book on Logo.png
  15. "Priest, Painter and Devil". Rennes-le-Château. 21 June 2008.
  16. Smith, Lewis (22 December 2004). "BBC dig wrecks site". The Times.
  17. "The 'Celebration' of the 100th Chronicle". BBC.
  18. "The Vikings in North America (1966)". British Film Institute.
  19. "Stonehenge - Prehistoric Computer? (1966))". British Film Institute.
  20. "Royal Ship, Royal Palace, Royal Grave (1966)". British Film Institute.
  21. "The Invasion That Never Was ... (1966)". British Film Institute.
  22. "London's Burning (1966)". British Film Institute.
  23. "The Treasure of Priam (1966)". British Film Institute.
  24. "The Roman Goose March (1966)". British Film Institute.
  25. "The Finds of the Year (1967)". British Film Institute.
  26. "The Other Conquest (1967)". British Film Institute.
  27. "The Lost Leonardos (1967)". British Film Institute.
  28. "Dragons' Bones (1967)". British Film Institute.
  29. "Collision Course (1967)". British Film Institute.
  30. "Chronicle: The Fall of Constantinople". BBC.
  31. "The Last Days of Minos". BBC.
  32. "Finders and Keepers (1968)". British Film Institute.
  33. "The Death of the High King (1968)". British Film Institute.
  34. "The Man Who Was Given a Gasworks (1968)". British Film Institute.
  35. "The Shrine of the Bulls (1968)". British Film Institute.
  36. "Silbury Dig: The Heart of the Mound". BBC.
  37. "Abu Simbel Reborn (1968))". British Film Institute.
  38. "Carved for the Gods (1969)". British Film Institute.
  39. "The Realms of Gold". British Film Institute.
  40. "No Ordinary Monk (1969)". British Film Institute.
  41. "Silbury 1969 (1969)". British Film Institute.
  42. "The Fate of the Armada (1969)". British Film Institute.
  43. "The 100 Days (1969)". British Film Institute.
  44. "The Treasures from the Sacred Well (1969)". British Film Institute.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ray Sutcliffe (Editor), Chronicle: Essays From Ten Years of Television Archaeology (BBC Publishing, 1978).

External links[edit]

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