The Beginning Of Science And Literature (1500 - 700 Bc) [A History Of The World In 100 Objects]


01Flood Tablet2010020820200629 (R4)Neil MacGregor's world history - an account of a great flood much older than the Bible.

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

A small tablet was found in modern Iraq and brought back to the British Museum. When it was translated, back in 1872, it turned out to be an account of a great flood that significantly pre-dated the famous Biblical tale of Noah. This discovery caused a storm around the world and led to a passionate debate about the truth of the Bible - about story telling and the universality of legend. In a week that looks at the emergence new ways of expression like literature and mathematics, Neil MacGregor introduces us first to the British Museum's provocative "Flood Tablet".

02Rhind Mathematical Papyrus2010020920200630 (R4)Neil MacGregor describes man's early calculations on an Egyptian papyrus fragment

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

In a week that explores man's early experiments with numbers, Neil MacGregor describes the British Museum's most famous mathematical papyrus. This shows how and why the ancient Egyptians were dealing with numbers around 1550 BC. This papyrus contains 84 different calculations to help with various aspects of Egyptian life, from pyramid building to working out how much grain it takes to fatten a goose. Neil MacGregor describes it as "a crammer for a dazzling career in an ancient civil service".

03Minoan Bull Leaper2010021020200701 (R4)Neil MacGregor's retelling of the history of humanity, using objects from the British Museum's own collection, arrives in Crete around 1700BC. The programme tells the story of man's fascination with bulls and the emergence of one of most cosmopolitan and prosperous civilisations in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean - the Minoans. The Minoans of Crete were more powerful than the mainland and enjoyed a complex and still largely unknown culture. They enjoyed a ritual connection with bulls as well as with a rich bronze making tradition. To consider the Minoans and the role of the bull in myth and legend, Neil MacGregor introduces us to a small bronze sculpture of a man leaping over a bull, one of the highlights of the British Museum's Minoan collection. He explores the vast network of trade routes in the Mediterranean of the time, encounters an ancient shipwreck and tracks down a modern day bull leaper to try and figure out the attraction!

Neil MacGregor's history arrives at a Minoan treasure and a dangerous hobby from 1700 BC

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

04Mold Gold Cape2010021120200702 (R4)Neil MacGregor tells the story of a gold cape found in Wales and made over 3500 years ago.

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

Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor retells the history of human development from the first stone axe to the credit card, using 100 selected objects from the Museum.

Neil MacGregor continues to explore the world of around 3,600 years ago through some of the most powerful objects that remain - discovered in modern day Iraq, Crete, Egypt and now Wales.

In 1833 a group of workmen were looking for stones in a field near the village of Mold in North Wales when they unearthed a burial site with a skeleton covered by a crushed sheet of pure gold. Neil tells the story of what has become known at the British Museum as the Mold Gold Cape and tries to envisage the society that made it. Nothing like the contemporary courts of the pharaohs of Egypt and the palaces of the Minoans in Crete seem to have existed in Britain at that time, but he imagines a people with surprisingly sophisticated skills and social structures.

05Statue Of Ramesses2010021220200703 (R4)A History of the World in 100 Objects has arrived in Egypt around 1250BC. At the heart of this programme is the British Museum's giant statue of the king Ramesses II, an inspiration to Shelly and a remarkable ruler who build monuments all over Egypt. He inspired a line of future pharaohs and was worshipped as a god a thousand years later. He lived to be over 90 and fathered some 100 children! Neil MacGregor considers the achievements of Ramesses II in fixing the image of imperial Egypt for the rest of the world. And the sculptor Antony Gormley, the man responsible for a contemporary giant statue, The Angel of the North, considers the towering figure of Ramesses as an enduring work of art.

The world of Egypt as ruled by Ramesses II and told through one of his giant statues

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