First Cities And States (4000 - 2000 Bc), The [A History Of The World In 100 Objects]

Episodes

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01King Den's Sandal Label2010020120200508 (R4)
20200504 (R4)
This week, Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor investigates the impact on human society of large numbers of people coming together in the world's first cities between 5000 and 2000 BC. As they did so, they developed new trade links, the first handwriting, and new forms of leadership and beliefs.

All of these innovations are present in today's object; a small label made of hippo ivory that was attached to the sandal that one of the earliest known kings of Egypt, King Den, took his grave. The label not only depicts the king in battle against unknown foes but also boasts the first writing in this history of the world - hieroglyphs that describe the king and his military conquests.

Neil MacGregor and contributors consider whether this is just the first indication that there would never be civilisation without war

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects. Today, a great Pharaoh's sandal label

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

This week, Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor investigates the impact on human society of large numbers of people coming together in the world's first cities between 5000 and 2000 BC. As they did so, they developed new trade links, the first handwriting, and new forms of leadership and beliefs.

All of these innovations are present in today's object; a small label made of hippo ivory that was attached to the sandal that one of the earliest known kings of Egypt, King Den, took his grave. The label not only depicts the king in battle against unknown foes but also boasts the first writing in this history of the world - hieroglyphs that describe the king and his military conquests.

Neil MacGregor and contributors consider whether this is just the first indication that there would never be civilisation without war

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects. Today, a great Pharaoh's sandal label

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

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects. Today, a great Pharaoh's sandal label

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

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects. Today, a great Pharaoh's sandal label

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

02Standard of Ur2010020220200505 (R4)Neil MacGregor with this week's examination of the first great civilisations with one of the most spectacular discoveries of ancient royal goods. The magnificent gold and silver jewellery was found nearly 100 years ago at a royal burial site in the City of Ur in Southern Iraq, at the heart of one of the first great civilisations in the world. It leads Neil MacGregor to contemplate the nature of kingship and power in Mesopotamia. The Standard of Ur is a set of mosaic scenes that show powerful images of battle and regal life and that remain remarkably well preserved given its fourand a half thousand year old history.

Contributors include sociologist Anthony Giddens, on the growing sophistication of societies at this time, and the archaeologist Lamia Al-Gailani who considers what Ancient Mesopotamia means to the people of modern day Iraq.

Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects. Today, battle scenes from Iraq.

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

02Standard of Ur2010020220200508 (R4)Neil MacGregor with this week's examination of the first great civilisations with one of the most spectacular discoveries of ancient royal goods. The magnificent gold and silver jewellery was found nearly 100 years ago at a royal burial site in the City of Ur in Southern Iraq, at the heart of one of the first great civilisations in the world. It leads Neil MacGregor to contemplate the nature of kingship and power in Mesopotamia. The Standard of Ur is a set of mosaic scenes that show powerful images of battle and regal life and that remain remarkably well preserved given its fourand a half thousand year old history.

Contributors include sociologist Anthony Giddens, on the growing sophistication of societies at this time, and the archaeologist Lamia Al-Gailani who considers what Ancient Mesopotamia means to the people of modern day Iraq.

Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects. Today, battle scenes from Iraq.

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

02Standard Of Ur2010020220200505 (R4)Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects. Today, battle scenes from Iraq.

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

02Standard Of Ur2010020220200508 (R4)Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects. Today, battle scenes from Iraq.

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

03Indus Seal2010020320200506 (R4)Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects - stone seals from the Indus Valley.

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

03Indus Seal2010020320200506 (R4)The ancient city of Harappa lies around 150 miles north of Lahore in Pakistan. It was once one of the great centres of a civilisation that has largely disappeared, one with vast trade connections and boasting several of the world's first cities. At a time when another great civilisation was being forged along the banks of the river Nile in Egypt, Neil MacGregor investigates this much less well-known civilisation on the banks of the Indus Valley.

He introduces us to a series of little stone seals that are four-and-a-half thousand years old, covered in carved images of animals and probably used in trade. The civilisation built over 100 cities, some with sophisticated sanitation systems, big scale architecture and even designed around a modern grid layout. The great modern architect Sir Richard Rogers considers the urban planning of the Indus Valley, while the historian Nayanjot Lahiri looks at how this lost civilisation is remembered - by both modern India and Pakistan.

Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects - stone seals from the Indus Valley.

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

04Jade Axe2010020420200507 (R4)Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects - a 6,000-year-old axe found in Kent.

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

04Jade Axe2010020420200507 (R4)This week's programmes in the history of the world look at the growing sophistication of modern humans around the globe between 5000 and 2000 BC. Mesopotamia had built the royal city of Ur, the Indus valley boasted the city of Harappa, and the great early civilisation of Egypt was beginning to spread along the Nile.

In Britain life was much simpler, although trade links with Europe were well established. In today's programme, Neil Macgregor tells the story of a beautiful piece of jade, shaped into an axe head. It is about 6000 years old and was discovered near Canterbury in Kent but was made in the high Alps. Neil MacGregor tells the story of how this object may have been used and traded and how its source was cunningly traced to the heart of Europe

Neil MacGregor's global history told through objects - a 6,000-year-old axe found in Kent.

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

05Early Writing Tablet2010020520200508 (R4)Neil MacGregor explores early writing through a 5,000-year-old tablet about beer!

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

05Early Writing Tablet2010020520200508 (R4)This week's programmes in the history of the world looks at the growing sophistication of humans around the globe, between 5000 and 2000 BC. Mesopotamia had created the royal city of Ur, the Indus valley boasted the city of Harappa and the great early civilisation of Egypt was beginning to spread along the Nile. New trade links were being forged and new forms of leadership and power were created. And, to cope with the increasing sophistication of trade and commerce, humans had invented writing.

In today's programme, Neil MacGregor describes a small clay tablet that was made in Mesopotamia about 5000 years ago and is covered with sums and writing about local beer rationing. The philosopher John Searle describes what the invention of writing does for the human mind and Britain's top civil servant, Gus O'Donnell, considers the tablet as an example of possibly the earliest bureaucracy

Neil MacGregor explores early writing through a 5,000-year-old tablet about beer!

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