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Digging for the Truth

An Interview with Josh Bernstein

By

Josh Bernstein, Digging for the Truth

Josh Bernstein, Digging for the Truth

JWM Productions
The television program Digging for the Truth is a massively popular series broadcast by the History Channel, in which an intrepid fellow, Josh Bernstein, travels the world exploring archaeological sites and mysteries. In some archaeology circles, Digging for the Truth has raised some eyebrows, because of its glossy image, the emphasis on exciting frames of reference such as 'extreme archaeology', and the fact that the program attempts to solve complex archaeological problems in one or two hours. But the program I saw--the two hour premiere of Season 3, called "Atlantis: New Revelations"--was balanced and interesting, and put four of the current theories about the reality of Plato's legendary city under scientific scrutiny.

Josh Bernstein is a New Yorker, with a BA in Anthropology from Cornell University. In addition, he has used much of his career as part of the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, where he has been CEO and President since 1997. His gig as host for Digging for the Truth began in 2004. In addition to being the host, Bernstein actively participates in the writing and producing of DFT, one of several for the History Channel's production team, JWM Productions.

Recently, About.com reached Bernstein on location, where he took time out for an email interview.

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Digging for the Truth: Driven by Archaeology Mystery

About.com: I know you're not an archaeologist by trade, so... What is that intrigues you about archaeology? What is it that makes you want to explore these topics?

Josh Bernstein: I suppose I’ve always been fascinated by ancient cultures and people. After all, my degree was in anthropology, so it’s not like my original interest was that far off: Archaeology just focuses more on the stones and bones, while Anthro focuses more on the culture and people. But there’s a lot of cross-over between the two so it didn’t take much convincing for me to sign on for DFT. Add a good mystery, an exotic location, a few adventurous activities, and the help of world-class experts, and what’s not to like?

About.com: How is a project selected for your program? Can you tell us something about the process and the criteria you use to select a good topic?

Josh Bernstein: Episode topics are selected by a team of people, chiefly the executive producer at The History Channel and the executive producers, producers, and researchers at JWM Productions. Of course, I weigh in at times, but I’m usually too focused on filming the current episode to worry about what might be coming down the line.

For any topic to be green-lit, it must meet three key criteria: first, it should be a mystery related to the field of archaeology through a person, place, event, or cultural question of some sort. Secondly, it should be in a beautiful location or have some aspect of aesthetic appeal to it, since we’re shooting in High Definition. And finally, there’s the "activity factor." Or, as the producers ask it, the "What’s Josh got in his hands?" factor. We want the show to be driven by an archaeological mystery, yet supported by my doing things like scuba-diving, rappelling, paragliding, etc. to keep it interesting and active. If all three factors come together satisfactorily, the show is green-lit for pre-production and additional research.

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