Friday, January 29, 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects - BBC

Thanks to a post at Open Culture I was alerted to a new podcast at the BBC: A History of the World in 100 Objects. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, narrates 100 programmes that retell humanity's history through the objects we have made. (feed)

So far, nine episodes of about 15 minutes have been released, starting off with the Mummy of Hornedjitef which served in the series as the object to explain the interest of viewing history through objects. Right after that MacGregor got on the chronological track and took us from the earliest stone tools to the first art and religious figurines. At the site you can also view pictures of the objects.
The consecutive subjects for now:
Making Us Human (2,000,000-8,000BC) Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool
Making Us Human (2,000,000-8,000BC) Olduvai Handaxe
Making Us Human (2,000,000-8,000BC) Swimming Reindeer
Making Us Human (2,000,000-8,000BC) Clovis Spear Point
After the Ice Age: Food and Sex (8,000-3,000BC) Bird-shaped Pestle
After the Ice Age: Food and Sex (8,000-3,000BC) Ain Sakri Lovers Figurine
After the Ice Age: Food and Sex (8,000-3,000BC) Egyptian Clay Model of Cattle
After the Ice Age: Food and Sex (8,000-3,000BC) Maya Maize God Statue

Once again I am struck by the magnitude of the agricultural revolution. In a more general sense the series shows how humans in shaping objects, they shaped their world and have continuously been changing their condition. Add to that the element of narrative which can be shaped in a thousand ways, and by each way, shape our history and hence our condition as well. In the art of shaping a story, this BBC series does a fantastic job.

More BBC programs:
In Our Time,
A short History of Ireland,
Thinking Allowed,
A story of India.


Unknown said...

This is a truly wonderful series but I'm not sure that it really achieves the object of presenting a history of the world. It So far, it's given us some fascinating insights into a few far off moments and places in history but it feels too scattered to give any coherent view of world history.

Unknown said...

My experience is really different. I do feel it has made a successful connection between the episodes and brought across a general tale of development from early hunter gatherers and tool users to more sophisticated, cultured, art developers and eventually farmers with an emerging sense of society.
But it is as with all stories: they present the dots and it depends upon the listener to draw the lines between the dots and discern the overall picture.