Old World, New Powers (1100 - 300 Bc) [A History Of The World In 100 Objects]

Episodes

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01Lachish Reliefs20100215
01Lachish Reliefs2010021520200817 (R4)Neil MacGregor's history of the world told through objects from the British Museum in London arrives at the Palace of Sennacherib in Northern Iraq.

Throughout this week, Neil MacGregor explains the key power struggles taking place across the globe around 3000 years ago, as ambitious new forces were building sophisticated new societies. It seems that war has been one of the constant themes of our shared human history and, in this programme, Neil MacGregor tells the story of the Assyrian king Sennacherib and his bloody siege of Lachish in Judah in 701 BC. The siege is described unsparingly in giant stone carvings that were placed around the king's palace and that show, perhaps for the first time, the terrible consequences of war on civilian populations. The Assyrian war machine was to create the largest empire that the world had ever seen and used the terror tactic of mass deportations. Statesman Paddy Ashdown and the historian Anthony Beevor both reflect on these powerful images of war.

Neil MacGregor's world history continues with images of war made over 2500 years ago

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

02Sphinx of Taharqo20100216
02Sphinx Of Taharqo2010021620200818 (R4)Throughout this week, Neil MacGregor is describing power struggles across the globe around 3000 years ago, as ambitious new forces set about building sophisticated new societies - from the Middle East to South America.

Today he describes what was happening along the River Nile and how a powerful new king conquered Egypt from Sudan. His name was Taharqo and he ruled from a vibrant new civilisation (in modern day Sudan) called Kush. These days few people even know that the mighty land of the Pharaohs was once ruled over by its southern neighbour. The evidence is summed up by a sculpture at the British Museum that shows the ruler from Kush as an Egyptian sphinx.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world told through objects; a sphinx with a pharaoh's head

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

03Chinese Zhou Ritual Vessel20100217
03Chinese Zhou Ritual Vessel2010021720200819 (R4)Neil MacGregor's history of humanity told through one hundred objects from the British Museum. Three thousand years ago, the world was in huge flux, with new powers creating sophisticated new societies - from the Middle East to South America - as older ones collapsed. In today's programme, Neil MacGregor finds out what was happening in China of that period and describes how a group of outsiders, the Zhou, overthrew the long established Shang dynasty. The story is told through a bronze bowl that was used for feasting. What does this beautiful bronze bowl tell us about the Zhou and life in China at this time? Dame Jessica Rawson and the Chinese scholar Wang Tao help paint the picture

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects arrives in China 3000 years ago

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

04Paracas Textile Fragment20100218
04Paracas Textile Fragment2010021820200820 (R4)A history of the world described through individual objects at the British Museum. This week Neil MacGregor, the Museum's Director, is looking at what was happening around the world between 2000-3000 years ago.

The theme so far has been one of empires collapsing, new regimes and warfare. In South America there were no new empires and we still don't entirely understand the cultures that were thriving there. In this programme, Neil MacGregor shows off some of the remarkably preserved textiles discovered in the Paracas peninsula on the southern coast of Peru and tries to piece together what life might have been like for these people living in around 500 BC. The early Peruvians went to astonishing lengths to make and decorate their textiles whose colours remain striking to this day. What were they for and what do they tell us about beliefs of this time?

Neil MacGregor's world history through objects. Today: ancient textiles from Peru

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

05Gold Coin of Croesus20100219
05Gold Coin of Croesus2010021920200821 (R4)The history of the world as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum. This week Neil MacGregor, the Museum's Director, has been looking at the collapse of old regimes and the emergence of new powers from the Middle East to China. In today's programme, he describes how a powerful new state finds a dramatic way to help run its increasingly complex economy and trading networks - using coins.
Croesus was a king in what is now Western Turkey and his kingdom was called Lydia. It's remarkable that over two thousand years later we still have an expression that celebrates his wealth. Neil MacGregor considers how money, in the form of coins, first came about and describes the (hugely complex) methods of creating them. And whatever happened to Croesus?

Neil MacGregor's retelling of history through objects - gold coins of Croesus

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