The Silk Road And Beyond (400 - 700 Ad) [A History Of The World In 100 Objects]

Episodes

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01Gold Coins Of Abd Al-malik2010060720210315 (R4)The history of the world as told through one hundred of the objects that time has left behind. The objects are from the British Museum and tell the story of humanity over the past 2 million years. They are chosen by the museum's director, Neil MacGregor.

This week he is exploring the world along and beyond the Silk Road in the 7th century AD at a time when the teachings of the prophet Muhammad were transforming the Middle East forever. Today he looks at how the Syrian capital Damascus was rapidly becoming the centre of a new Islamic empire. He tells the story through two gold coins that perfectly capture the moment - with contributions from the historian Hugh Kennedy and the anthropologist Madawi Al-Rasheed.

Producer: Rebecca Stratford

Neil MacGregor with gold coins from Syria and the transformation of the Middle East.

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

02Sutton Hoo Helmet2010060820210316 (R4)The history of the world as told through one hundred objects. This week Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, is exploring the world in the 7th Century, at a time when the teachings of Islam were transforming the Middle East and goods and ideas were flowing both ways along the tangle of connections that have become known as the Silk Road.

But what was happening in Britain at this time? In today's programme, Neil travels to East Anglia to describe the sensational burial discovery that has been hailed as a "British Tutankhamen". He tells the story of the Sutton Hoo helmet, the world it inhabited and the imagination it has inspired. The poet Seamus Heaney reflects on the helmet in the context of the great Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, and the archaeologist Angus Wainwright describes the discovery of the great grave ship where the helmet was found.

Producer: Rebecca Stratford

Neil MacGregor with one of the most sensational finds from Anglo-Saxon Britain.

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

03Moche Warrior Pot2010060920210317 (R4)The history of the world as told through one hundred objects arrives in 7th Century Peru. Throughout this week Neil MacGregor is exploring along the Silk Road and beyond, ranging from Korea to East Anglia. But what was life and culture like in South America during the same period that Islam was transforming the Middle East?

In today's programme, Neil introduces us to a remarkable lost civilisation from present day Peru. He explores the story of the Moche people through a pot in the shape of a warrior, with help from expert Steve Bourget and the potter Grayson Perry.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

Neil MacGregor with a warrior figure from a lost people of Peru.

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

04Korean roof tile20100610
04Korean Roof Tile2010061020210318 (R4)Neil MacGregor delves into the history of an artefact from Korea.

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

05Silk Princess Painting2010061120210319 (R4)Throughout this week, Neil MacGregor has been exploring the world of the late 7th century, with objects from South America, Britain, Syria and Korea.

Today's object is from the 4000 mile tangle of routes that has become known as the Silk Road - that great conduit of ideas, technologies, goods and beliefs that effectively linked the Pacific with the Mediterranean. His chosen object which lets him travel the ancient Silk Route is a fragile painting telling a story of "industrial espionage". It comes from the Buddhist kingdom of Khotan, now in Western China, and tells a powerful story about how the secrets of silk manufacture were passed along the fabled route. The cellist and composer Yo Yo Ma, who has long been fascinated by the Silk Road and who thinks of it as "the internet of antiquity", and the writer Colin Thubron consider the impact of the Silk Road - in reality and on the imagination.

Producer: Anthony Denselow

Neil MacGregor continues his history of the world with a painting from the Silk Road.

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