Join Monty Python’s Terry Jones on a tour of the ingenuity of our ancestors. Take a humorous yet factual look at inventions we think of as unique to modern times when really they have been around for centuries and many even longer. Some of the amazing discoveries include: automatic doors, first designed over 2000 years ago, accurate pregnancy tests, a regular feature of ancient Babylon, and tanks, actually devised by the Assyrians in 8 B.C. Clearly the ancient world was every bit as inventive as our own. Episode City Life – It took Christopher Columbus over eight weeks to cross the Atlantic. Nowadays, we can do it in less than eight hours in a jumbo jet. What would Columbus or Archimedes have made of it? Well, it doesn’t mean they were less intelligent than you or me. They were probably more intelligent. And maybe all this progress that modern man seems to be making is partly an illusion. Perhaps there are even things we can learn from the science and technology of ancient times. Take the city, for example. Cities seem so much the product of modern technology and yet, in fact, they are one of the most ancient of all inventions.
Leaving the dusty history books behind, Engineering an Empire takes to the streets – as well as the sewers, mountaintops, jungles and beyond – to trace the magnificent physical achievements and technologies of past societies. Engineering an Empire circles the globe to re-examine history’s most magnificent civilizations by surveying the architectural and engineering triumphs they left behind. CGI graphics and location footage reanimate the ancient streets, while expert interviews trace the rise of each empire and the technological achievements that paved the way for their gravity defying masterpieces. Host Peter Weller, RoboCop actor and lecturer at syracuse University, travels around the world and, assisted by cutting edge computer renderings and note perfect dramatizations, far back in time to chronicle the innovation and architectural brilliance that gave birth to modern civilization. Episode Egypt – Twenty five hundred years before the reign of Julius Caesar, the ancient Egyptians were deftly harnessing the power of engineering on an unprecedented scale. Egyptian temples, fortresses, pyramids and palaces forever redefined the limits of architectural possibility. They also served as a warning to all of Egypt’s enemies – that the world’s most advanced civilization could accomplish anything. Djoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Senusret’s Nubian Superfortresses, Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple at Dier el-Bahari, Akhenaten’s city at Amarna, and the temples of Ramesses the Great at Abu Simbel.
The great cathedrals were the wonders of the medieval world. Many were the tallest structures on earth, the highest buildings created since the pyramids and until the Eiffel Tower, yet they were built without any of the technological aids of the modern world and with little more than set-squares and dividers, ropes and pulleys, hammers and chisels. The vision was to create a sense of heaven on earth and the medieval cathedral aspired to be nothing less than “the new Jerusalem”. Spectacular effects were achieved as this ambition was realised, leading to a revolution in design and a golden age for cathedral architecture in England. Who were the people who built them? What drove them? And just how were they able to build with such stupendous skill, vision and ambition? Architectural historian Jon Cannon, author of the recent, acclaimed Cathedral, goes in search of the clues that shed light on how our medieval forebears were able to realise such bold ambition. From the fan vaulting at Gloucester to the stained glass at York, from the solid mass of Norwich to the soaring elegance of the Octagon at Ely, Jon climbs up above the stone vaulted ceilings, along the parapets, through the roof voids and down into the crypts of the greatest cathedrals to find out how, and why, it was done.
Across the U.K., fewer and fewer youngsters want to study chemistry and physics, so with the help of physics teacher Andy Smith, Rocket Science sets out to convert a small sample by teaching them everything safe there is to know about fireworks. Kids? Fireworks? It’s a health and safety nightmare. But once Andy has grabbed their attention with a few flashes and bangs, he shows the class how much serious science is involved in the creation of the average rocket. Episode 3 – Charlie and friends are off to China, to the the birthplace of the banger. Every evening in Liuyang, there is a huge display as firework manufacturers show off their latest designs, and the kids learn how the precision and power of physics is used to create the fantastic sky writing fireworks. Back home, Mr Smith takes the class to witness the extraordinary power of expanding gases with the Royal Artillery. Finally, the whole class are invited behind the scenes at one of the biggest firework displays the U.K. has ever seen. Has the Rocket Science project made any difference to the kids’ interest and appreciation of the science that fills the world around them?
The life story of a remarkable language. Melvyn Bragg and a host of experts explore the vibrant 1,500 year history of the English language. How did it grow from a relatively insignificant Germanic dialect to become the premier language of culture, commerce, and diplomacy around the globe? The answer involves bloody conquest, political intrigue, and plenty of creativity. Episode 1 Birth of a Language – The modern Frisian language is the closest sounding language to the English used approximately 2000 years ago, when the people from what is now the north of the Netherlands travelled to what would become England, and pushed the Celtic language, ancestor of modern Welsh, to the western side of the island. Words like “blue” can be recognised in the Frisian language. Bragg then discusses how English dialects in certain areas of the United Kingdom were heavily influenced by historical events such as the invasion of the Vikings in the east, contributing words such as “sky” to the English language.
WWII was not just a military conflict. It was also a series of psychological battles waged by the four great leaders Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. In these mental duels, the “warlords” lied, schemed, charmed, flattered and cheated to win. Inter-weaving the leaders’ own words with personal recollections and private diaries, it reveals the four warlords as fascinating, flawed, and fully human. Episode 3 Churchill vs Stalin, June 1941 – June 1943 Churchill v Stalin examines the duel between the British and Russian leaders over what kind of Europe would emerge at the end of the war, a duel during which Roosevelt secretly intervened behind Churchill’s back to decide the outcome.
This documentary looks at the fact that perhaps one in every hundred people experiences a blending of the senses. Imagine if every time you saw someone called Derek you got a strong taste of earwax in your mouth. It happens to James Wannerton, who runs a pub. Derek is one of his regulars. Another regular’s name gives him the taste of wet nappies. For some puzzling reason, James’s sense of sound and taste are intermingled. He has a mysterious condition called synaesthesia, in which this senses have become linked. For decades synaesthesia baffled the scientific community and noone could quite believe it was real. Some put it down to an overactive imagination others thought it was caused by associations from childhood that had survived into later life. In the end noone could find out what was causing it, so synaesthesia was placed in the same scientific category as seances and spoon bending. But Professor Ramachandran thought it should be taken more seriously.
For 25 centuries the Parthenon has been shot at, set on fire, rocked by earthquakes, looted for its sculptures, almost destroyed by explosion, and disfigured by well meaning renovations. It has gone from temple, to church, to mosque, to munitions dump. What could be next? How about a scientific search for the secrets of its incomparable beauty and astonishingly rapid construction? With unprecedented access, NOVA unravels the architectural and engineering mysteries of this celebrated ancient temple.
How did an Indian Buddhist shrine influence a Japanese pagoda? How are Italian pigs and cowry shells related to porcelain? These intriguing questions are investigated in Artifacts, a series that explores the origins and hidden connections among the art and artifacts of the great cultures and belief systems across Asia to understand the impact of calligraphy, porcelain, architecture, metallurgy, wood block printing and silk on Asian history and on the history of the world in general. Episode 6 Silk The Thread Connecting East and West – This amazing fabric has captivated human imagination for over 2000 years. Throughout history, it has clothed the rich and powerful. But more than this, it has been a form of currency, a tool of diplomacy, a badge of rank, and a fabric of the divine.
Never has a generation been so completely taken over by a totalitarian state as it was the case in Hitler’s Third Reich at the age of 10 children joined the “Jungvolk” movement, at 14 they joined the Hitler Youth, and at 18 they joined the party, the Wehrmacht, the SA, or the SS. This 5 part documentary by Guido Knopp and the ZDF Contemporary History Department is the first comprehensive film portrayal of the young people in the Third Reich.
Modern Marvels celebrates the ingenuity, invention and imagination found in the world around us. This series tells fascinating stories of the doers, the dreamers and sometime schemers that create everyday items, technological breakthroughs and man made wonders. Episode Tower Bridge – Bruce Nash and Christoph Ritter take the helm in this documentary glimpse at London’s Tower Bridge, the iconic connected towers that have dominated the Thames since 1887. Archival footage of the building process and the bridge’s evolution over the years lends fascinating historical detail to a fixture of the London skyline.
Presented by Rod Liddle, explores the life and times of the visionaries who fought a powerful and violent church establishment to publish the Bible in English. Their vocation, tenacity and sacrifice left a lasting impression on the language and literature in the centuries that followed. The inflections, cadences and familiar phrases of the first English Bible set the foundations for the way English has been spoken and written in the five centuries that followed its first publication. Perhaps its most important legacy, though, is the Protestant notion put by Jefferson God hath created the mind free. This underpinned the separation of church and state, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and the right to fight for freedom of choice, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.
In this series Take a forensic look at the world’s most popular and enduring mysteries from the “lost city” of Atlantis to UFOs to the Loch Ness monster. Episode Decoding The Dead Sea Scrolls – Experts unravel the mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and explore theories about their creation, including the Church’s 50 year embargo on their publication.
World War II In HD Colour is a 13 episode television documentary series recounting the major events of World War II narrated by Robert Powell. The series combines both original and colourised footage. With the very latest satellite delivered terrain mapping and state of the art graphics this story can now be told with access to information which was not previously available to other older series. Conventional wisdom has recently changed as more and more secrets have been revealed particularly in the last five to ten years as documents, files and photographs have been released. Code breaking revelations, and newly released government papers on both sides of the Atlantic have added a very insightful new dimension to the understanding of this the worlds’ greatest ever conflict.
Embark on an astounding journey across 100,000 light years to witness key moments in the history of the Milky Way. Using cutting edge science, National Geographic constructs a 3-D state-of-the-art CGI model of our galaxy. Gaze into the heart of the Milky Way on the hunt for super-massive black holes. Witness as stars are born and die. Fly out and above the plane of our galaxy to understand its true shape and scour its dusty spiral arms for the possibility of life.
The magnificent ancient city of pyramids at Caral in Peru hit the headlines in 2001. The site is a thousand years older than the earliest known civilization in the Americas and, at 2,627 B.C., is as old as the pyramids of Egypt. Many now believe it is the fabled missing link of archaeology – a “mother city”. If so, then these extraordinary findings could finally answer one of the great questions of archaeology why did humans become civilised?
In September 2004, on the last remaining site on the Mall in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institution opened the National Museum of the American Indian, inaugurating a new era in the education of all people about Native America. In conjunction with this event, and in response to popular demand 500 nations was broadcast on the Discovery Channel. Episode 8 Attack On Culture – The final episode of this mini series explores the legislative attack on native ways, including the disbanding of communal land. Today, the renewal of native cultures reminds us of the glory of America’s original people and the hardships they endured.
Documentary series about the hopes and dreams of a group of children at three schools in rural China, it takes as its subject one small town in rural Anhui, and focuses on their lives during the course of a single academic year. The schools are schools like many thousands of others across this vast nation, but through the individual stories of hardship, joy and success, an extraordinary portrait emerges, not just of a group of children and a town, but of a side of the Chinese nation seldom seen. Episode 4 Olympic Fever – It’s Autumn, it’s time for the students to hit the sports field. For the deputy head teacher of Haiyang Middle school sports day is a mammoth undertaking, while School Radio DJ Zha Yujie sees it as the highlight of the year. At Ping Min primary school they’re holding their first ever sports day as always, there are lessons to be learned all round.
Michael Wood goes in search of four of the world’s most famous myths. These gripping adventures take the viewer to some of the most extraordinary places on earth, exploring stories that have captivated the world for thousands of years. The Queen of Sheba Michael Wood begins his quest with an exotic and mysterious woman of power.
For hundreds of years, the world has watched in amazement as the building defies gravity, teetering on a razor’s edge. It really is quite miraculous that it has not fallen over. And thank goodness it hasn’t. If the Tower were to fall no one would feel it more than the people of Pisa. For 800 years architects and engineers have been trying to fix the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Nearly every attempt has been disastrous. It’s lean is so extreme that the Italian government has closed it to avoid a potential disaster. It’s been more than ten years since anyone has walked up its marble stairway. Take a behind the scenes look inside the Tower that’s been locked off to the public for so long and climb to the top for a rare view of its breathtaking vistas. Examine the bizarre history of the 800 year effort to save the Tower and the current plan that some believe just may make the Tower safe forever, that is if it doesn’t destroy it first.
This five part series reveals how the Second World War provided a backdrop to a time of intense social change in Britain. As the country fought a long and bloody war, a sexual revolution was in its throes. Through heart rending revelations and intimate personal testimonies, Sex, Love And War reveals the full story of the sexual adventures of the nation during World War II. The danger of death inspired a “live for today” attitude. As a result taboos came crashing down.
Time Life’s Lost Civilizations combines cutting edge digital effects technology (for 1995) with powerful dramatization. Dazzling spectacles re-create rituals and events, original location cinematography in 25 countries. Computer graphics make lost worlds live again! Episode 3 Aegean Legacy of Atlantis – Follow the trail of clues that lead from the ancient myths of the Aegean world to their real life counterparts. Experience the lives of the legendary heroes as they are rediscovered in the ruins of this ancient Mediterranean world.
Horizon puts Graham Hancock’s controversial theories about the past to the test, dissecting his evidence for a lost civilization. Although scientists believe they have categorically disproved the myth of Atlantis, the idea is more popular now than ever before. Graham Hancock offers various pieces of evidence to support his theory. He claims that the mysterious lost civilization left its mark in ancient monuments, which he calculates were built to mirror certain constellations of stars. Horizon journeys across the world to examine Hancock’s evidence for a lost civilization and puts his theory to the test. In a film full of contentious debate and powerful arguments, Graham Hancock’s claims are pitted against cutting edge scientific analysis to discover whether his popular theory could be true.
A hundred years ago, three quarters of the Herero people of the German colony of Namibia were killed, many in concentration camps. Today, the descendants of the survivors are seeking reparations from the German government. This film tells for the first time this forgotten story and its links to German racial theories. Described by the BBC as the story of Germany’s forgotten genocide. This powerful documentary by David Adetayo Olusoga took a sensitive and uncompromising look at the tragic circumstances leading to the massacre of three quarters of the Namibia population in German concentration camps built in Africa.
1979 British television documentary written and presented by the Australian journalist John Pilger. The film recounts the bombing of Cambodia by the United States in 1970 during the Vietnam War, the subsequent brutality and genocide that occurred when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge militia took over, the poverty and suffering of the people, and the limited aid since given by the West. Viewers were so moved by the plight of the people that they donated 45 million to the station in aid. President Nixon and Mr. Kissinger unleashed 100,000 tons of bombs, the equivalent of 5 Hiroshimas. John Pilger vividly reveals the brutality and murderous political ambitions of the Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge totalitarian regime which bought genocide and despair to the people of Cambodia .