After The Ice Age - Food And Sex (9000 - 3500 Bc) [A History Of The World In 100 Objects]


01Bird-shaped Pestle2010012520200420 (R4)Neil MacGregor reveals how man-made objects reflect the story of human development

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

Neil MacGregor continues his retelling of human history using 100 selected objects from the British Museum. This week he explores the profound changes that humans experienced at the end of the Ice Age. By this period, humanity is reconsidering its place in the world and turning its attention to food, power, worship, and human relationships.

But then, as now, one of the most important parts of human existence was finding enough food to survive. Taking a pestle from Papua New Guinea as an example, Neil asks why our ancestors decided to grow and cook new foods. The answer provides us with a telling insight into the way early humans settled on the land. Becoming farmers and eating food that was harder for other animals to digest made us a formidable force in the food chain. The impact on our environment of this shift to cookery and cultivation is still being felt.

Neil is joined by Indian food writer Madhur Jaffrey, campaigner Sir Bob Geldof and archaeologist Professor Martin Jones

02Ain Sakri Lovers Figuerine2010012620200421 (R4)Neil MacGregor's material history of human society - the story of two lovers

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

The British Museum's Director, Neil MacGregor, investigates a palm-sized stone sculpture that was found near Bethlehem. It clearly shows a couple entwined in the act of love. The contemporary sculptor Marc Quinn responds to the stone as art and the archaeologist Dr Ian Hodder considers the Natufian society that produced it. What was human life and society actually like all those years ago? Possibly a lot more sophisticated than we imagine!

03Egyptian Clay Model Of Cattle2010012720200422 (R4)Neil MacGregor tells the colourful tale of four Egyptian clay cows older than the pyramids

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

Neil MacGregor, in his history of mankind as told through objects at the British Museum, selects four miniature clay cows to show the major changes that early man was undergoing at the end of the Ice Age. These four frail looking cows were made from Nile mud in Egypt 5,500 years ago, way before the time of the pyramids or the pharaohs. Why did the Egyptians start burying objects like this one with their dead? Neil goes in search life and death on the Nile and discovers how the domestication of cattle made the humble cow transformed human existence.

04Maya Maize God Statue2010012820200423 (R4)Neil MacGregor discovers how the early Mayans of Central America created a god out of food

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

This week Neil MacGregor is exploring the growing importance of agriculture around the world at the end of the Ice Age, with objects that show and celebrate the key elements of the time; power, sex, worship and food. Today the series focuses on the world of the Mayan civilisation and a stone Maize God, discovered on the site of a major Mayan city in present-day Honduras. This large statue is wearing a headdress in the shape of a giant corn cob.

Maize was not only worshipped at that time but the Maya also believed that all their ancestors were descended from maize. Neil MacGregor reveals why maize, which is notoriously difficult to refine for human consumption, becomes so important to the emerging agriculture of the region.

Neil is joined by the anthropologist Professor John Staller and the restaurateur Santiago Calva who explain the complexity of Mayan mythological belief and the ongoing power of maize in Central America today

05Jomon Pot2010012920200424 (R4)Neil MacGregor tells the story of a 7,000-year-old Japanese pot and a forgotten people

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, retells humanity's history through objects

A History of the World told through 100 objects from the British Museum moves to Japan and the story of a 7,000-year-old clay pot which has managed to remain almost perfectly intact. Pots began in Japan around 17000 years ago and, by the time this pot was made, had achieved a remarkable sophistication.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, explores the history of this cooking pot and the Jomon; the hunter-gatherer society that made it. The archaeologists Professor Takashi Doi and Simon Kaner describe the significance of agriculture to the Jomon and the way in which they made their pots and used decorations from the natural world around them. This particular pot is remarkable in that it was lined with gold leaf in perhaps the 18th century and used in that quintessentially Japanese ritual, the tea ceremony. This simple clay object makes a fascinating connection between the Japan of today and the emerging world of people in Japan at the end of the Ice Age