Friday, January 22, 2010

A History Of The World In 100 Objects



That is a Clovis spear point, as yet, I don't know why this particular object has any special importance in human history, but in episode 5 of the wonderful new Radio 4 series 'A History Of The World In 100 Objects' John Taylor, curator of the British Museum, and his team of experts will explain to me just why human society would not have arisen as it did without this item.

In Episode 2 (Olduvai stone chopping tool), Sir David Attenborough taught me why a piece of rock that I would previously have disregarded as, well, a lump of rock to be honest, was actually humanity's first cutting tool, how it fitted ergonomically into the palm of a human hand with a sharp edge exposed. I could probably listen to Attenborough all day, about anything as he has the most calming and lovely voice, full of gentle authority.

"Picking it up, your first reaction is it's very heavy, and if it's heavy of course it gives power behind your blow. The second is that it fits without any compromise into the palm of the hand, and in a position where there is a sharp edge running from my forefinger to my wrist. So I have in my hand now a sharp knife. And what is more, it's got a bulge on it so I can get a firm grip on the edge which has been chipped specially, which is sharp ... I could perfectly effectively cut meat with this. That's the sensation I have that links me with the man who actually laboriously chipped it once, twice, three times, four times, five times on one side. One, two, three ... three times at the other ... so eight specific actions by him, knocking it with another stone, to take off a flake, and to leave this almost straight line, which is a sharp edge." - Sir David Atttenborough.

In Episode 3 Phil Harding (whom you may know from Time Team) was on hand to create a hand axe and explain its uses. Harding is another great choice of scientific presenter, his sometimes comic West Country accent and phraseology belies a mind as sharp as the tools he talks about. Later in the programme Sir James Dyson (yes, inventor of that vacuum cleaner) speculates in an informed manner about the true nature of the hand axe, it is intelligent and fascinating stuff.

I am a big fan of the BBC and love its broad output, and this series suits me perfectly, intelligent and knowledgeable, presented in an interesting manner, accessible to all without being dumbed down, well done Auntie Beeb, this series is a winner.

100 Objects BBC website, Episode 1 : The Mummy of Hornedjitef, each episode has a full transcript on the site in case you miss anything during the broadcast.

You can subscribe to the series podcast for free with i-tunes etc.

1 comment:

  1. I know - the BBC are one of this nation's most valuable assets. This programme - and the current history-of-christianity series remind us why. Not to mention R3 & R4's consistently brilliant and esoteric output. What other broadcaster could support such fascinating, un-dumbed down content? I'm more than happy to pay the license fee for access to such stuff!

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