A History Of The World In 100 Objects

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The 100th Object20101008

Neil MacGregor and the British Museum have chosen the final object for A History of the World in 100 Objects.

Radio 4 will reveal it to the nation on 14th October.

Before that announcement, Evan Davis has been to the museum to see what objects were considered for the short list to be the 100th, and from which the final object was selected.

Can something made in 2010 really speak to future generations of the challenges and ingenuity of our time? Evan Davis finds out.

Evan Davis runs through the contenders for A History of the World's last object.

The 100th Object20101009
The 100th Object20101011
The 100th Object20101012
The 100th Object20101013
01Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Akan Drum20101004

Neil MacGregor with an African drum taken to America during the slave trade.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things that time has left behind.

Throughout this week he is examining the often troubled relationship between Europe and the rest of the world during the 18th century.

Today he tells the extraordinary story of a now fragile African drum.

It was taken to America during the years of the slave trade and where it came into contact with Native Americans.

The drum was brought to England by Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection helped provide the British Museum with its first material.

This drum, the earliest African-American object in the Museum, is a rare surviving example of an instrument whose music was to profoundly influence American culture - bought to America on a slave ship and transported to Britain by a slave owner.

The historian Anthony Appiah and the writer Bonnie Greer consider the impact of this drum.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

01Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Akan Drum20101005

Neil MacGregor with an African drum taken to America during the slave trade.

01Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Ship's Chronometer From Hms Beagle20101011

Neil MacGregor with the chronometer that accompanied Darwin to South America.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things.

Throughout this week he is examining the global economy of the 19th century - of mass production and mass consumption.

Today he is with an instrument that first helped Europeans to navigate with precision around the world - a marine chronometer.

The one Neil has chosen actually accompanied Darwin on his great voyage to South America and the Galapagos Islands - a journey that was to help lead him to his revolutionary theories on evolution.

The geographer Nigel Thrift and the geneticist Steve Jones celebrate the chronometer and the profound changes it prompted.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

01Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Ship's Chronometer From Hms Beagle20101012

Neil MacGregor with the chronometer that accompanied Darwin to South America.

01The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), The Mechanical Galleon20100920

Neil Macgregor with a clockwork galleon designed for a grand dinner table.

Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things.

This week he is exploring the impact of Western European travel, trade and conquest between 1450 and 1600.

He kicks off with an exquisite miniature version of the sort of high tech vessel that was to take Europeans right around the world.

Today's object is a small clockwork version of the type of galleon that the Spanish sent against England in the Armada and that they sent across the high seas.

This one was made for a grand dinner table - it could move, make music, tell the time and fire tiny cannons.

Neil discusses the significance of this new breed of sailing ships and describes the political state that this galleon symbolises - the Holy Roman Empire.

The marine archaeologist Christopher Dobbs compares the tiny galleon to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth and the historian Lisa Jardine considers the European fascination with mechanics and technology throughout the 16th Century.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

01The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), The Mechanical Galleon20100920

Neil Macgregor with a clockwork galleon designed for a grand dinner table.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through things.

This week he is exploring the impact of Western European travel, trade and conquest between 1450 and 1600.

He kicks off with an exquisite miniature version of the sort of high tech vessel that was to take Europeans right around the world.

Today's object is a small clockwork version of the type of galleon that the Spanish sent against England in the Armada and that they sent across the high seas.

This one was made for a grand dinner table - it could move, make music, tell the time and fire tiny cannons.

Neil discusses the significance of this new breed of sailing ships and describes the political state that this galleon symbolises - the Holy Roman Empire.

The marine archaeologist Christopher Dobbs compares the tiny galleon to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth and the historian Lisa Jardine considers the European fascination with mechanics and technology throughout the 16th Century.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

01The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), The Mechanical Galleon20100921

Neil Macgregor with a clockwork galleon designed for a grand dinner table.

01The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), The Mechanical Galleon20100921

Neil Macgregor with a clockwork galleon designed for a grand dinner table.

01The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Tughra Of Suleiman The Magnificent20100913

Neil MacGregor with the personal monogram of Suleyman the Magnificent.

Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things.

This week he is exploring the great empires of the world around 1500 - from the Inca in South America to the Ming in China and the Timurids in the Middle East.

Today he is with the great Islamic Ottoman Empire that, by 1500, had conquered Constantinople as its new capital.

The object Neil has chosen to represent this empire is the personal signature of the great Ottoman ruler Suleyman the magnificent, a contemporary of Henry V111 and Charles V.

This monogram is the ultimate expression of Suleyman's authority at this time - a stamp of state and delicate artwork rolled into one.

The Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and the historian Caroline Finkel help explore the power and meaning of this object.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

01The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Tughra Of Suleiman The Magnificent20100914

Neil Macgregor with the personal monogram of Suleyman the Magnificent.

01The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Russian Revolutionary Plate20101018

Neil MacGregor nears the end of his world history - with a Russian revolutionary plate.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things that time has left behind.

Throughout this closing week he is examining some of the major social and political movements that have helped shape our contemporary landscape.

Today he tells the remarkable story of a Russian plate.

It was made in 1901 in the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg.

Twenty years later it was painted over as a propaganda tool for the new Communist Revolution - decorated in the same factory that had become the State Porcelain Factory and in a city renamed as Petrograd.

The director of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Mikhail Piotrovsky, and the great historian of modern Russia, Eric Hobsbawn, help piece together this momentous history.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

01The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Russian Revolutionary Plate20101019

Neil MacGregor nears the end of his world history - with a Russian revolutionary plate.

01Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), The Shi'a Religious Parade Standard20100927

Neil Macgregor with a powerful symbol from Shia Iran.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through things.

This week he is exploring the development and co-existence of faiths across the globe around 400 years ago, looking at objects from India and Central America, Europe and Indonesia that embody the political consequences of belief.

Today he is with a remarkable object from Shia Iran, that in the 16th Century was open to the co-existence of faiths.

The object he has chosen is a symbol of Shia faith, a standard or Alam that was carried at the front of Shia processions.

They were often so tall and heavy that they would require great physical strength to handle.

Neil visits religious sites in Isfahan to reflect on the spiritual climate of the time.

Hossein Pourtahmasbi, from the Iranian community in London and a former alam carrier, describes the tradition.

And the Iranian historian Haleh Afshar reflects on the shifting position of Shia Islam within Iran over the centuries.

01Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), The Shi'a Religious Parade Standard20100928

Neil Macgregor with a powerful symbol from Shia Iran.

02Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Hawaiian Feather Helmet20101005

Neil MacGregor with a feathered helmet given to Captain Cook by Pacific Islanders.

This week Neil MacGregor's history of the world is telling the story of European encounters across the globe during the 18th century.

Today he finds out what happened to Captain Cook as he was mapping and collecting in the Pacific.

Neil tells the story through a chieftain's helmet made from a myriad of colourful bird feathers that was given to Cook when he landed in Hawaii in 1778.

This is not a story with a happy ending.

The anthropologist Nicholas Thomas and the Hawaiian academics Marques Hanalei Marzan, Kyle Nakanelua and Kaholokula help describe Cook's impact in the Pacific and the meaning of the feathered helmet.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Hawaiian Feather Helmet20101006

Neil MacGregor with a feathered helmet given to Captain Cook by Pacific Islanders.

02Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Hawaiian Feather Helmet20101026
02Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Early Victorian Tea Set20101012

Neil MacGregor tells the story of the global trade in tea - with a Victorian tea set.

This week Neil MacGregor's history of the world is looking at how the global economy became cemented in the 19th century, a time of mass production and mass consumption.

He tells the story of how tea became the defining national drink in Britain - why have we become so closely associated with a brew made from leaves mainly grown in China and India? The object he has chosen to reflect this curious history is an early Victorian tea set, made in Staffordshire and perfectly familiar to all of us.

The historian Celina Fox and Monique Simmonds from Kew gardens find new meaning in the ubiquitous cuppa.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Early Victorian Tea Set20101013

Neil MacGregor tells the story of the global trade in tea - with a Victorian tea set.

02The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Benin Plaque - The Oba With Europeans20100921

Neil MacGregor with some of the best examples of African art, the great plaques of Benin.

This week Neil MacGregor's history of the world is exploring the impact of the great European age of expansion and discovery during the 15th and 16th Centuries.

In the last programme he described the technology that allowed Europeans to sail around the world in great galleons, the "space ships of their age".

Today he looks at what happens when Europeans started trading in West Africa and first came upon the ancient culture of Benin in present day Nigeria.

Neil describes the world of this hugely successful warrior kingdom and the culture that produced such exquisite artwork.

He also describes what happened when the British raided Benin at the end of the 19th Century and the effect that these bronze portraits first had when they arrived in London.

The artist Sokari Douglas Camp reflects on the sculptures as art while the Nigerian poet and playwright Wole Soyinka reacts to the violent history of Benin and the loss of part of their great heritage.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Benin Plaque - The Oba With Europeans20100921

Neil Macgregor with some of the best examples of African art, the great plaques of Benin.

This week Neil Macgregor's history of the world is exploring the impact of the great European age of expansion and discovery during the 15th and 16th Centuries.

In the last programme he described the technology that allowed Europeans to sail around the world in great galleons, the "space ships of their age".

Today he looks at what happens when Europeans started trading in West Africa and first came upon the ancient culture of Benin in present day Nigeria.

Neil describes the world of this hugely successful warrior kingdom and the culture that produced such exquisite artwork.

He also describes what happened when the British raided Benin at the end of the 19th Century and the effect that these bronze portraits first had when they arrived in London.

The artist Sokari Douglas Camp reflects on the sculptures as art while the Nigerian poet and playwright Wole Soyinka reacts to the violent history of Benin and the loss of part of their great heritage.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Benin Plaque - The Oba With Europeans20100922

Neil MacGregor with some of the best examples of African art, the great plaques of Benin.

02The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Benin Plaque - The Oba With Europeans20100922

Neil Macgregor with some of the best examples of African art, the great plaques of Benin.

02The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Ming Banknote20100914

Neil Macgregor with a 14th century bank note - from Ming Dynasty China.

This week Neil Macgregor's history of the world is exploring the great empires of around 1500 - the threshold of the modern era.

Today he is in Ming Dynasty China and with a surviving example of some of the world's first paper bank notes - what the Chinese called "flying cash".

Neil explains how paper money comes about and considers the forces that underpinned its successes and failures.

While the rest of the world was happily trading in coins that had an actual value in silver or gold, why did the Chinese risk the use of paper? This particular surviving note is made on mulberry bark, is much bigger than the notes of today and is dated 1375.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and the historian Timothy Brook look back over the history of paper money and what it takes to make it work.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Ming Banknote20100915

Neil MacGregor with a 14th century bank note - from Ming Dynasty China.

02The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Hockney's In The Dull Village20101019

Neil MacGregor considers the state of human rights - with a David Hockney print.

This week Neil MacGregor's history of the world is examining the forces that helped shape our way of life and ways of thinking today.

He began with the political revolution that exploded In Russia in the 1920s and today he moves on to the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

He explores the emergence of legally enshrined human rights and the status of sexuality around the world.

He tells the story with the aid of a David Hockney print, one of a series that was made in 1966 as the decriminalisation of homosexuality was being planned, at least in Britain.

We hear from David Hockney on the spirit of the decade and from Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human rights group Liberty

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Hockney's In The Dull Village20101020

Neil MacGregor considers the state of human rights - with a David Hockney print.

02Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Miniature Of A Mughal Prince20100928

Neil Macgregor with a miniature painting from Mughal India.

This week Neil Macgregor's history of the world is looking at the co-existence of faiths - peaceful or otherwise - across the globe around 400 years ago.

Today he is in one of the great Islamic empires of the 16th and 17th centuries - in Mughal India.

He tells the story of the Mughal rulers and their relationship with Hindu India through a miniature painting (dated around 1610) that shows an encounter between a noble man and a holy man.

Neil describes an early mood of religious tolerance and the development of this exquisite art form.

Asok Kumar Das discusses the function of miniature painting in India and the historian Aman Nath reflects on encounters between holy men and men of political power throughout Indian history.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

02Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Miniature Of A Mughal Prince20100929

Neil Macgregor with a miniature painting from Mughal India.

03Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), North American Buckskin Map20101006

Neil MacGregor with a buckskin map from North America.

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is once again in North America.

This week Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, is looking at Europe's engagement with the rest of the world in the 18th century.

Today he tells the story of a map, roughly drawn on deer skin, that was used as the British negotiated for land in the area between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.

It was probably drawn up by a Native American around 1774.

Neil looks at how the French and the British were in conflict in the region, and examines the different attitudes to land and living between Europeans and Native Americans.

Martin Lewis, an expert on maps from this region, and the historian David Edmunds describe the map and the clash of cultures that was played out within its boundaries.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

03Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), North American Buckskin Map20101007

Neil MacGregor with a buckskin map from North America.

03Japanese Bronze Mirror20101006
03Lothair Crystal
03Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Hokusai's The Great Wave20101013

Neil MacGregor with a familiar image - Hokusai's The Great Wave.

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is once again in Japan.

This week Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, is looking at the global economy in the 19th century - at mass production and mass consumption.

Today he is with an image that rapidly made its way around the world - Hokusai's print, The Great Wave, the now familiar seascape with a snow topped Mount Fuji in the background that became emblematic of the newly emerging Japan.

Neil explores the conditions that produced this famous image - with help from Japan watchers Donald Keene and Christine Guth.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

03Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Hokusai's The Great Wave20101014

Neil MacGregor with a familiar image - Hokusai's The Great Wave.

03The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Double-headed Serpent20100922

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is back in South America.

This week Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, is with objects from around the world between 1450 and 1600.

This is the time of huge European expansion thanks to the new developments in ship building.

Today he is with an object made by the Aztecs of present day Mexico.

He describes the Aztec world and the Spanish conquest of this culture, through a double-headed serpent made from tiny pieces of turquoise - one of the stars of the British Museum.

The Aztec specialist Adriane Diaz Enciso discusses the role of the snake in Aztec belief while the conservator Rebecca Stacey describes the scientific detective work that the object has prompted.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil MacGregor with one of the stars of the British Museum - an Aztec serpent.

03The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Double-headed Serpent20100922

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is back in South America.

This week Neil Macgregor, the museum's director, is with objects from around the world between 1450 and 1600.

This is the time of huge European expansion thanks to the new developments in ship building.

Today he is with an object made by the Aztecs of present day Mexico.

He describes the Aztec world and the Spanish conquest of this culture, through a double-headed serpent made from tiny pieces of turquoise - one of the stars of the British Museum.

The Aztec specialist Adriane Diaz Enciso discusses the role of the snake in Aztec belief while the conservator Rebecca Stacey describes the scientific detective work that the object has prompted.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor with one of the stars of the British Museum - an Aztec serpent.

03The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Double-headed Serpent20100923

Neil MacGregor with one of the stars of the British Museum - an Aztec serpent.

03The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Double-headed Serpent20100923

Neil Macgregor with one of the stars of the British Museum - an Aztec serpent.

03The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Double-headed Serpent20101027
03The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Inca Gold Llama20100915

Neil MacGregor with a model of a llama - the animal behind the Inca Empire.

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is back in South America.

This week Neil MacGregor, the museum's director, is with the powerful elites - exploring the great empires across the world 600 years ago.

Today he is with a small gold model of a llama, the animal that helped fuel the success of the great Inca Empire that ruled over some 12 million people right down the Pacific West Coast.

For a culture living at high altitude in rough terrain and without horses or pack animals, the llama proved all important - for wool, for meat and for sacrifice.

Neil tells the story of the Inca, the ways in which they organised themselves and things that they believed in.

And he recounts what happened when the Spanish arrived.

The scientist and writer Jared Diamond and the archaeologist Gabriel Ramon help tell the story.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

03The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Inca Gold Llama20100916

Neil MacGregor with a model of a llama - the animal behind the Inca Empire.

03The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Throne Of Weapons20101020

Neil MacGregor with an African throne - made from broken guns.

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is drawing to an end.

Throughout this week Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum in London, has been with things that help explain the modern world.

He has explored political and sexual politics and freedoms and now reflects on the impact of guns and weapons in the modern world - especially in Africa where thousands of children have been participants in brutal conflicts.

He tells the story through a work of art - a sculptured throne made from decommissioned guns like the ubiquitous AK47.

We hear from Kester, the artist from Mozambique who created the Throne of Weapons and test the reaction to the piece of Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

03The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Throne Of Weapons20101021

Neil MacGregor with an African throne - made from broken guns.

03Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Shadow Puppet Of Bima20100929

Neil Macgregor explores religion and politics in South East Asia - through a shadow puppet

The history of humanity - as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London - is in South East Asia.

This week Neil Macgregor, the museum's director, is with the objects from across the world around 400 years ago that explore the relationships between religion and society.

Today he is with a shadow puppet from the Indonesian island of Java, asking how a puppet watched by a predominantly Muslim audience is a character from a Hindi epic.

He describes the history of the theatre of shadows and explores how it reveals the religious traditions that have shaped Indonesian life.

He talks to a puppet master from Java.

And the Malaysian novelist Tash Aw discusses the influence of shadow theatre on the region today.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

03Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Shadow Puppet Of Bima20100930

Neil MacGregor explores religion and politics in South East Asia - through a shadow puppet.

04Borobudur Buddha Head20101007
04Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Australian Bark Shield20101007

Neil MacGregor with an aboriginal bark shield brought from Australia by Captain Cook.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil MacGregor, the Director of the Museum, is looking at Europe's engagement with the rest of the world during the 18th Century.

Today he is with an object "freighted with layers of history, legend, global politics and race relations".

It is an aboriginal shield from Australia, originally owned by one of the men to first set eyes on Europeans as they descended on Botany Bay nearly 250 years ago.

This remarkably well-preserved object was brought to England by the explorer Captain Cook.

What can this object tell us about the early encounter between two such different cultures? Phil Gordon, the aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Australian Museum in Sydney, and the historian Maria Nugent help tell the story.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04Exploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Australian Bark Shield20101008

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil MacGregor, the Director of the Museum, is looking at Europe's engagement with the rest of the world during the 18th Century.

Today he is with an object "freighted with layers of history, legend, global politics and race relations".

It is an aboriginal shield from Australia, originally owned by one of the men to first set eyes on Europeans as they descended on Botany Bay nearly 250 years ago.

This remarkably well-preserved object was brought to England by the explorer Captain Cook.

What can this object tell us about the early encounter between two such different cultures? Phil Gordon, the aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Australian Museum in Sydney, and the historian Maria Nugent help tell the story.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil MacGregor with an aboriginal bark shield brought from Australia by Captain Cook.

04Korean Roof Tile
04Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Sudanese Slit Drum20101014

Neil MacGregor with a wooden drum from Sudan that Kitchener presented to Queen Victoria.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil MacGregor, the Director of the Museum, is looking at Europe's engagement with the rest of the world during the 18th Century.

Today he is with an object "freighted with layers of history, legend, global politics and race relations".

It is an aboriginal shield from Australia, originally owned by one of the men to first set eyes on Europeans as they descended on Botany Bay nearly 250 years ago.

This remarkably well-preserved object was brought to England by the explorer Captain Cook.

What can this object tell us about the early encounter between two such different cultures? Phil Gordon, the aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Australian Museum in Sydney, and the historian Maria Nugent help tell the story.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Sudanese Slit Drum20101015

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil MacGregor, the Director of the Museum, is looking at Europe's engagement with the rest of the world during the 18th Century.

Today he is with an object "freighted with layers of history, legend, global politics and race relations".

It is an aboriginal shield from Australia, originally owned by one of the men to first set eyes on Europeans as they descended on Botany Bay nearly 250 years ago.

This remarkably well-preserved object was brought to England by the explorer Captain Cook.

What can this object tell us about the early encounter between two such different cultures? Phil Gordon, the aboriginal Heritage Officer at the Australian Museum in Sydney, and the historian Maria Nugent help tell the story.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil MacGregor with a wooden drum from Sudan that Kitchener presented to Queen Victoria.

04The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Kakiemon Elephants20100923

Neil MacGregor with porcelain white elephants from Japan.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London is this week exploring the world at the time of European discovery - between 1450 and 1600.

Today Neil MacGregor is with a pair of white elephants, the size of small dogs.

They come from Japan, are made of fine porcelain and take Neil on a journey that connects Japan to Korea and China and to a growing trade network in Western Europe.

How did the great skill of porcelain production spread across the Far East? Why elephants? And how did these objects become so desirable to the European elite? He discovers the specific technique of this porcelain style (and traces it to a Japanese potter called Kakiemon) and follows other examples of this same pottery to an English country house.

Miranda Rock describes the Kakiemon collection at Burghley House, the present day Kakiemon potter discusses his work and the Korean porcelain expert Gina Ha-Gorian explains how the detailed technology for porcelain production spread.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Kakiemon Elephants20100923

Neil Macgregor with porcelain white elephants from Japan.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London is this week exploring the world at the time of European discovery - between 1450 and 1600.

Today Neil Macgregor is with a pair of white elephants, the size of small dogs.

They come from Japan, are made of fine porcelain and take Neil on a journey that connects Japan to Korea and China and to a growing trade network in Western Europe.

How did the great skill of porcelain production spread across the Far East? Why elephants? And how did these objects become so desirable to the European elite? He discovers the specific technique of this porcelain style (and traces it to a Japanese potter called Kakiemon) and follows other examples of this same pottery to an English country house.

Miranda Rock describes the Kakiemon collection at Burghley House, the present day Kakiemon potter discusses his work and the Korean porcelain expert Gina Ha-Gorian explains how the detailed technology for porcelain production spread.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Kakiemon Elephants20100924

Neil MacGregor with porcelain white elephants from Japan.

04The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Kakiemon Elephants20100924

Neil Macgregor with porcelain white elephants from Japan.

04The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Kakiemon Elephants20101028
04The Silk Road And Beyond (400 - 700 Ad)20100610 (BBC7)
20121231 (BBC7)

Korea: source of modern-day electronic components. Neil MacGregor delves into the history of an artefact from the region.

04The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Jade Dragon Cup20100916

Neil MacGregor with a jade cup that belonged a great leader of the Timurid Empire.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London is this week exploring powerful empires around the world in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Today he is with a handsome jade cup that once belonged to one of the great leaders of the Timurid Empire - the great power that stretched across Central Asia, from Iran to parts of India.

The owner of the cup was Ulugh Beg, the man who built the great observatory in his capital Samakand and who - like Galileo and Copernicus - has a crater on the moon named after him.

Neil tells the story of the Timurids and charts the influences that spread along the Silk Road at this time.

The Uzbek writer Hamid Ismailov and the historian Beatrice Forbes Manz describe the Timurid world and the extraordinary character of Ulugh Beg.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Jade Dragon Cup20100917

Neil MacGregor with a jade cup that belonged a great leader of the Timurid Empire.

04The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Credit Card20101021

Neil MacGregor with a credit card - one that is compliant with Sharia law.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things.

Throughout this week he is examining objects that speak of the great shifts in human organisation and thinking in the modern world - objects that raise questions about human lives, the environment and global resources.

So far this week he has chosen things that deal with political and sexual revolution and that confront the disaster of global arms proliferation.

In today's episode he considers the morality of modern global finance and its implication for the future.

He tells the story with a credit card that is compliant with Islamic Sharia law - what does that mean and how does it work? He talks to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and to Razi Fakih of the HSBC bank.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04The World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Credit Card20101022

Neil MacGregor's history of the world as told through things.

Throughout this week he is examining objects that speak of the great shifts in human organisation and thinking in the modern world - objects that raise questions about human lives, the environment and global resources.

So far this week he has chosen things that deal with political and sexual revolution and that confront the disaster of global arms proliferation.

In today's episode he considers the morality of modern global finance and its implication for the future.

He tells the story with a credit card that is compliant with Islamic Sharia law - what does that mean and how does it work? He talks to the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, and to Razi Fakih of the HSBC bank.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil MacGregor with a credit card - one that is compliant with Sharia law.

04Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Mexican Codex Map20100930

Neil MacGregor explores the Spanish religious conquest of Mexico with a map.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil MacGregor is looking at the co-existence of faiths - peaceful or otherwise - across the globe around 400 years ago.

Today he is with a document that shows what happened after Catholic Spain's conquest of Mexico - it's an old map, or codex, that was made at the height of the Spanish church building boom in Mexico.

Neil uses the object to consider the nature of the Spanish conquest and to explore what happened when Catholic beliefs were assimilated alongside older pagan beliefs.

The historian Samuel Edgerton offers an interpretation of the map that shows churches alongside older temples, and the Mexican born historian Fernando Cervantes considers the ongoing legacy of the great Christian conversion.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

04Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Mexican Codex Map20101001

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil MacGregor is looking at the co-existence of faiths - peaceful or otherwise - across the globe around 400 years ago.

Today he is with a document that shows what happened after Catholic Spain's conquest of Mexico - it's an old map, or codex, that was made at the height of the Spanish church building boom in Mexico.

Neil uses the object to consider the nature of the Spanish conquest and to explore what happened when Catholic beliefs were assimilated alongside older pagan beliefs.

The historian Samuel Edgerton offers an interpretation of the map that shows churches alongside older temples, and the Mexican born historian Fernando Cervantes considers the ongoing legacy of the great Christian conversion.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil MacGregor explores the Spanish religious conquest of Mexico with a map.

05Chinese Tang Tomb Figures20101008
05 LASTExploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Jade Bi20101008

Neil MacGregor with an object from the 18th century Chinese Enlightenment - a jade ring.

Neil MacGregor's world history told through the things that time has left behind.

Throughout this week, Neil has been looking at Europe's discoveries around the world and its engagement with different cultures during the 18th century - the European Enlightenment project.

Today he describes what was happening in China during this period, as the country was experiencing its own Enlightenment under the Qianlong Emperor.

He tells the story through a jade ring (called a Bi) that was probably made around 1500 BC and then written over during the Qing dynasty.

What does this prehistoric piece of jade tell us about life in 18th century China? The historian Jonathan Spence and the poet Yang Lian find meaning in this intriguing object.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

05 LASTExploration, Exploitation And Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 Ad), Jade Bi20101009

Neil MacGregor with an object from the 18th century Chinese Enlightenment - a jade ring.

05 LASTMass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Suffragette-defaced Penny20101015

Neil MacGregor with a penny coin defaced by suffragettes with the words "Votes for women".

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects from the British Museum in London.

The objects he has chosen this week have reflected on mass production and mass consumption in the 19th century.

Today' he is with the first object from the 20th century, a coin that leads Neil to consider the rise of mass political engagement in Britain and the dramatic emergence of suffragette power.

It's a penny coin from 1903 on which the image of King Edward V11 has been stamped with the words "Votes for Women".

The programme explores the rise of women's suffrage and the implications of the notorious suffragette protests.

The human rights lawyer and reformer Helena Kennedy and the artist Felicity Powell react to this defaced penny coin.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

05 LASTMass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 Ad), Suffragette-defaced Penny20101016

Neil MacGregor with a penny coin defaced by suffragettes with the words "Votes for women".

05 LASTMeeting The Gods (1200 - 1400 Ad), Hoa Hakananai'a Easter Island Statue20100710

This week Neil Macgregor is exploring the sophisticated ways in which people connected to gods and ancestors in the Middle Ages.

He is looking at religious images from India, France, Mexico and Turkey.

Today - in the last programme of the second series - he is with one of the most instantly recognisable sculptures in the world: one of the giant stone heads that were made on Easter Island in the South Eastern Pacific Ocean.

These deeply mysterious objects lead Neil to consider why they were made and why many were ultimately thrown down.

What was the Easter Islanders understanding of their gods and their ancestors? Steve Hooper, an expert on the arts of the Pacific, and the internationally renowned sculptor Sir Anthony Caro both respond to this monumental work of devotion.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor discusses one of the extraordinary giant figures from Easter Island.

05 LASTThe First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Pieces Of Eight20100924

Neil MacGregor with the first truly global money - silver pieces of eight.

Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things that time has left behind.

This week he is exploring the world between 1450 and 1600 - looking at what was happening in South America, Africa and Japan at the time of the great European age of discovery.

He has looked at the new ocean going galleons that were being built in Europe at this time and today he describes the money that was being used to fuel the great new trade routes of the period.

He is with pieces of eight, little silver coins that by 1600 could have been used in many countries around the world.

Neil describes Spain's dominance in South America and their discovery of a silver mountain in Potosi in present day Bolivia.

He describes the process by which pieces of eight turned into the first truly global money.

The Bolivian former head of a UNESCO project in Potosi describes the conditions for workers there today and the financial historian William Bernstein looks at how these rough silver coins were to shift the entire balance of world commerce.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

05 LASTThe First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Pieces Of Eight20100924

Neil Macgregor with the first truly global money - silver pieces of eight.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through things that time has left behind.

This week he is exploring the world between 1450 and 1600 - looking at what was happening in South America, Africa and Japan at the time of the great European age of discovery.

He has looked at the new ocean going galleons that were being built in Europe at this time and today he describes the money that was being used to fuel the great new trade routes of the period.

He is with pieces of eight, little silver coins that by 1600 could have been used in many countries around the world.

Neil describes Spain's dominance in South America and their discovery of a silver mountain in Potosi in present day Bolivia.

He describes the process by which pieces of eight turned into the first truly global money.

The Bolivian former head of a UNESCO project in Potosi describes the conditions for workers there today and the financial historian William Bernstein looks at how these rough silver coins were to shift the entire balance of world commerce.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

05 LASTThe First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Pieces Of Eight20100925

Neil MacGregor with the first truly global money - silver pieces of eight.

05 LASTThe First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 Ad), Pieces Of Eight20100925

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through things that time has left behind.

This week he is exploring the world between 1450 and 1600 - looking at what was happening in South America, Africa and Japan at the time of the great European age of discovery.

He has looked at the new ocean going galleons that were being built in Europe at this time and today he describes the money that was being used to fuel the great new trade routes of the period.

He is with pieces of eight, little silver coins that by 1600 could have been used in many countries around the world.

Neil describes Spain's dominance in South America and their discovery of a silver mountain in Potosi in present day Bolivia.

He describes the process by which pieces of eight turned into the first truly global money.

The Bolivian former head of a UNESCO project in Potosi describes the conditions for workers there today and the financial historian William Bernstein looks at how these rough silver coins were to shift the entire balance of world commerce.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor with the first truly global money - silver pieces of eight.

05 LASTThe Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Durer's Rhinoceros20100917

Neil MacGregor discusses Durer's Rhinoceros.

Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things that time has left behind.

This week he is exploring vigorous empires that flourished across the world 600 years ago - visiting the Inca in South America, Ming Dynasty China, and the Timurids in their capital at Samarkand and the Ottomans in Constantinople.

Today he examines the fledgling empire of Portugal and describes what the European world was looking like at this time.

His chosen object is one of the most enduring in art history, and one of the most duplicated - Albrecht Durer's famous print of an Indian rhino, an animal he never had never seen.

The rhino was brought to Portugal in 1514 and Neil uses this classic image to examine European ambitions.

Mark Pilgrim of Chester Zoo considers what it must have been like to transport such a beast and the historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto describes the potency of the image for Europeans of the age.

05 LASTThe Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Durer's Rhinoceros20100918

Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things that time has left behind.

This week he is exploring vigorous empires that flourished across the world 600 years ago - visiting the Inca in South America, Ming Dynasty China, and the Timurids in their capital at Samarkand and the Ottomans in Constantinople.

Today he examines the fledgling empire of Portugal and describes what the European world was looking like at this time.

His chosen object is one of the most enduring in art history, and one of the most duplicated - Albrecht Durer's famous print of an Indian rhino, an animal he never had never seen.

The rhino was brought to Portugal in 1514 and Neil uses this classic image to examine European ambitions.

Mark Pilgrim of Chester Zoo considers what it must have been like to transport such a beast and the historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto describes the potency of the image for Europeans of the age.

Neil MacGregor discusses Durer's Rhinoceros.

05 LASTThe World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Solar-powered Lamp And Charger20101022

Neil MacGregor's last object in his world history - a solar-powered lamp and charger.

The very last episode in Neil MacGregor's history of humanity as told through the things that time has left behind.

The director of the British Museum in London has spent the past year choosing objects from the museum's vast collection to represent a two million year story of humanity.

Throughout this week he has been with objects that that speak of the great shifts in human organisation and thinking in the modern world.

Here he describes the object that he has picked as his last; it's a solar-powered lamp and charger that he believes can revolutionise the lives of poor people around the globe.

The portable panel can provide up to 100 hours of light after just 8 hours of direct sunlight.

It can also charge mobile phones and help bring power to millions of people around the world who have no access to an electrical grid.

Simple, cheap and clean - this is revolutionary technology for the future.

Nick Stern, the expert on the economics of climate change, describes the potential impact of new solar technology.

Neil explains why he has chosen a solar-powered lamp and charger as his final object - with examples of how it is already being used in rural Bengal and urban Kenya.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

05 LASTThe World Of Our Making (1914 - 2010 Ad), Solar-powered Lamp And Charger20101023

Neil MacGregor's last object in his world history - a solar-powered lamp and charger.

05 LASTTolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Reformation Centenary Broadsheet20101001

Neil MacGregor with a souvenir of the 100th anniversary of the Protestant reformation.

Neil MacGregor's world history as told through things that time has left behind.

This week Neil is looking at the co-existence of faiths - peaceful or otherwise - across the globe around 400 years ago.

So far he has looked at objects from India and Central America, Iran and Indonesia that embody the political consequences of belief.

Today he is back in Europe, with a document that marks an anniversary and that is designed to raise morale.

It's a woodblock print, a broadsheet, commissioned in Saxony in 1617 to mark a hundred years of the Protestant reformation and anti Catholic sentiment.

Neil describes the broadsheet and the uncertain Protestant world that produced it.

Was this the first time that an anniversary was commemorated in this way, with a kind of souvenir? The broadcaster and journalist Ian Hislop considers the broadsheet as an early equivalent to the tabloid press while the religious historian Karen Armstrong describes the reforming motivation that the broadsheet celebrates.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

05 LASTTolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), Reformation Centenary Broadsheet20101002

Neil MacGregor with a souvenir of the 100th anniversary of the Protestant reformation.

0101Mummy Of Hornedjitef2010011820100119

On Neil's first visit to the British Museum he was intrigued by the Mummy of Hornedjitef.

The 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.

At the age of eight, Neil visited the British Museum for the first time and came face to face with an object that fascinated and intrigued him ever since, an Egyptian mummy.

Hornedjitef was a priest who died around 2,250 years ago, and he designed a coffin that, he believed, would help him navigate his way to the afterlife.

Little did he know that this afterlife would be as a museum exhibit in London.

This ornate coffin holds secrets to the understanding of his religion, society and Egypt's connections to the rest of the world.

Neil tells the story of Hornedjitef's mummy case with contributions from egyptologist John Taylor, Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif and Indian economist and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0102Olduvai Stone Chopping Tool2010011920100120

Two million years ago in Tanzania, a chipped stone marked the emergence of modern humans.

The 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 goes back two million years to the Rift Valley in Tanzania, where a simple chipped stone marks the emergence of modern humans.

One of the characteristics that mark humans out from other animals is their desire for, and dependency on, the things they fashion with their own hands.

Faced with the needs to cut meat from carcasses, early humans in Africa discovered how to shape stones into cutting tools.

From that one innovation, a whole history human development springs.

Neil tells the story of the Olduvai stone chopping tool with contributions from flint napper Phil Harding, Sir David Attenborough and African Nobel Prize winner Dr Wangeri Maathai.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0103Olduvai Handaxe * *2010012020100121

Two million years ago in Tanzania, a chipped stone marked the emergence of modern humans.

The 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 follows early humans as they slowly begin to move beyond their African homeland, taking with them one essential item - a hand axe.

In the presence of the most widely-used tool humans have created, Neil sees just how vital to our evolution this sharp, ingenious implement was and how it allowed the spread of humans across the globe.

Including contributions from designer Sir James Dyson and archaeologist Nick Ashton.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0104Swimming Reindeer * *2010012120100122

The 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.

Found in France and dating back 13,000 years, this is a carving of two swimming reindeer - and it's not just the likeness that is striking.

The creator of this carving was one of the first humans to express their world through art.

But why did they do it?

Neil tells the story of the Swimming Reindeer and its place in the history of art and religion with contributions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and archaelogist Professor Steven Mithen.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil MacGregor on the story of the Swimming Reindeer, a carving dating back 13,000 years.

0105 LASTClovis Spear Point2010012220100123

Neil MacGregor on a hunting weapon dating from the earliest North American settlement.

The 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 describes an object that dates from the earliest settlement of North America, around 13,000 years ago.

It is a deadly hunting weapon, used by the first inhabitants of the Americas.

This sharp spearhead helps us understand how humans spread across the globe.

By 11,000 BC humans had moved from north-east Asia into the uninhabited wilderness of north America; within 2,000 years they had populated the whole continent.

How did these hunters live, and how does their Asian origin sit with the creation stories of modern-day Native Americans?

Including contributions from Michael Palin and American archaeologist Gary Haynes.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0201Bird-shaped Pestle2010012520100126

Neil MacGregor investigates early attempts at cookery.

Neil MacGregor continues his retelling of human history using 100 selected objects from the British Museum.

This week he explores the profound changes that humans experienced at the end of the Ice Age.

By this period, humanity is reconsidering its place in the world and turning its attention to food, power, worship, and human relationships.

But then, as now, one of the most important parts of human existence was finding enough food to survive.

Taking a pestle from Papua New Guinea as an example, Neil asks why our ancestors decided to grow and cook new foods.

The answer provides us with a telling insight into the way early humans settled on the land.

Becoming farmers and eating food that was harder for other animals to digest made us a formidable force in the food chain.

The impact on our environment of this shift to cookery and cultivation is still being felt.

Neil is joined by Indian food writer Madhur Jaffrey, campaigner Sir Bob Geldof and archaeologist Professor Martin Jones.

0201The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Tughra Of Suleiman The Magnificent
0201Tolerance And Intolerance (1550 - 1700 Ad), The Shi'a Religious Parade Standard
0202Ain Sakri Lovers Figurine2010012620100127

Neil MacGregor continues a material history of human society with the story of two lovers.

The 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 investigates a palm-sized stone sculpture that was found near Bethlehem, which clearly shows a couple entwined in the act of love.

The contemporary sculptor Marc Quinn responds to the stone as art and the archaeologist Dr Ian Hodder considers the Natufian society that produced it.

What was human life and society actually like all those years ago? Possibly a lot more sophisticated than we imagine.

0203Egyptian Clay Model Of Cattle2010012720100128

Neil MacGregor considers the state of culture in Egypt before the pharaohs.

The 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 selects four miniature clay cows to show the major changes that early man was undergoing at the end of the Ice Age.

These four frail-looking cows were made from Nile mud in Egypt 5,500 years ago, long before the time of the pyramids or the pharaohs.

Why did the Egyptians start burying objects like this one with their dead? Neil goes in search life and death on the Nile and discovers how the domestication of cattle transformed human existence.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0203The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Inca Gold Llama
0204Maya Maize God Statue2010012820100129

Neil MacGregor tells the story of a Maize God made of stone by the Mayan people.

The 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 focuses on the world of the Mayan civilisation and a stone Maize God, discovered on the site of a major Mayan city in present-day Honduras.

This large statue is wearing a headdress in the shape of a giant corn cob.

Maize was not only worshipped at that time but the Maya also believed that all their ancestors were descended from maize.

Neil reveals why maize, which is notoriously difficult to refine for human consumption, became so important to the emerging agriculture of the region.

Neil is joined by the anthropologist Professor John Staller and the restaurateur Santiago Calva, who explain the complexity of Mayan mythological belief and the ongoing power of maize in Central America today.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0205 LASTJomon Pot *2010012920100130

Neil MacGregor tells the story of a 7,000-year-old Japanese pot and a forgotten people.

The 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 tells the story of a 7,000-year-old Japanese clay pot which has managed to remain almost perfectly intact.

Pots began in Japan around 17,000 years ago and by the time this pot was made had achieved a remarkable sophistication.

Neil explores the history of this cooking pot and the Jomon, the hunter-gatherer society that made it.

Archaeologists Professor Takeshi Doi and Simon Kaner describe the significance of agriculture to the Jomon and the way in which they made their pots and used decorations from the natural world around them.

This particular pot is remarkable in that it was lined with gold leaf in perhaps the 18th century and used in that quintessentially Japanese ritual, the tea ceremony.

This simple clay object makes a fascinating connection between the Japan of today and the emerging world of people in Japan at the end of the Ice Age.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0301King Den's Sandal Label2010020120100202

Neil MacGregor investigates a great Pharoah's sandal label.

The 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 investigates the impact on human society of large numbers of people coming together in the world's first cities between 5,000 and 2,000 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 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 and contributors consider whether this is just the first indication that there would never be civilisation without war.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0302Standard Of Ur2010020220100203

Neil MacGregor describes the discovery of a set of mosaics from the ancient city of Ur.

The 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 examines the first great civilisations and one of the most spectacular discoveries of ancient royal goods.

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 to contemplate the nature of kingship and power in Mesopotamia.

One of the objects buried alongside the dead was The Standard of Ur, a set of mosaic scenes mounted on a single box that show powerful images of battle and regal life and that remain remarkably well preserved given its 4,500-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.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0302The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Ming Banknote
0303Indus Seal2010020320100204

Neil MacGregor examines stone stamps from the Indus Valley in modern-day Pakistan.

The 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.

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, and it developed at a time when another great civilisation was being forged along the banks of the river Nile in Egypt.

Neil investigates this much less well-known civilisation on the banks of the Indus Valley.

He introduces a series of little stone stamps that are 4,500 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, and the historian Nayanjot Lahiri looks at how this lost civilisation is remembered by both modern India and Pakistan.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0303The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Inca Gold Llama
0304Jade Axe *2010020420100205

Neil MacGregor tells the story of a 6,000-year-old axe found in Kent.

The 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 continues his examination of 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 this programme, Neil tells the story of a beautiful piece of jade, shaped into an axe head.

It is about 6,000 years old and was discovered near Canterbury but was made in the high Alps.

Neil 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.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0305 LASTEarly Writing Tablet2010020520100206

This week's programmes 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 this programme, Neil MacGregor describes a small clay tablet that was made in Mesopotamia about 5,000 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 finds the earliest example of writing: a 5,000-year-old tablet about beer.

The 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.

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.

In this programme, Neil describes a small clay tablet that was made in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago and is covered with sums and writing about local beer rationing.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0401Flood Tablet * *2010020820100209

Neil MacGregor gives an account of a great flood much older than the one told in the Bible

The 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.

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 storytelling and the universality of legend.

In a week that looks at the emergence new ways of expression like literature and mathematics, Neil introduces us first to the British Museum's provocative Flood Tablet.

0402Rhind Mathematical Papyrus2010020920100210

Neil MacGregor describes man's early calculations on an Egyptian papyrus fragment.

The 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.

In a week that explores man's early experiments with numbers, Neil describes the British Museum's most famous mathematical papyrus.

This shows how and why the ancient Egyptians were dealing with numbers around 1550 BC.

It 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 describes it as 'a crammer for a dazzling career in an ancient civil service'.

0403Minoan Bull Leaper2010021020100211

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

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.

The series arrives in Crete around 1700 BC to tell 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 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.

0404Mold Gold Cape2010021120100212

Neil MacGregor tells the story of a gold cape, found in Wales over 3,600 years ago.

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.

0404The Threshold Of The Modern World (1375-1550 Ad), Jade Dragon Cup
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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.

The story arrives in Egypt around 1250 BC.

At the heart of this programme is the British Museum's giant statue of the king Ramesses II, an inspiration to Shelley and a remarkable ruler who built 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 considers the achievements of Ramesses II in fixing the image of imperial Egypt for the rest of the world, and 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.

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Neil MacGregor's world history continues with images of war made over 2,500 years ago.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world told through objects from the British Museum arrives at the Palace of Sennacherib in Northern Iran.

Throughout this week, Neil MacGregor explains the key power struggles taking place across the globe around 3,000 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 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 Antony Beevor reflect on these powerful images of war.

0502Sphinx Of Taharqo *2010021620100217

How Egypt was conquered by Sudan and how a black sphinx proves it.

Neil MacGregor continues to describe the power struggles across the globe around 3,000 years ago, as ambitious new forces set about creating the first cities and building sophisticated new societies - from the Middle East to South America.

Neil 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.

0503Chinese Zhou Ritual Bowl2010021720100218

A 3,000-year-old Chinese ritual and a bronze burial object.

The 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.

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.

Neil finds out what was happening in China during 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 both for feasting and also as an object to be buried alongside the dead for use in the afterlife.

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.

0504Paracas Textile * * *2010021820100219

Neil MacGregor considers ancient textiles from Peru.

The 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.

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.

Here, Neil shows off some of the remarkably well-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?

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0505 LASTGold Coin Of Croesus2010021920100220

Neil MacGregor discusses the world's first proper coins that made King Croesus so rich.

Neil MacGregor has been looking at the collapse of old regimes and the emergence of new powers from the Middle East to China.

In this 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 2,000 years later we still have an expression that celebrates his wealth.

Neil 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?

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Neil MacGregor tells the story of a tiny gold chariot from ancient Persia.

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects at the British Museum arrives in Persia 2,500 years ago.

Throughout this week, Neil examines powerful leaders across the ancient world.

In this programme he focuses on Cyrus, the first Persian emperor who created the largest empire the world had ever known.

It stretched from Turkey to Pakistan and required a hugely sophisticated network of communications and control.

At the heart of the programme is a gold chariot pulled by four gold horses.

This hand-sized model helps explain the rule of Cyrus, the 'king of kings', and his ambitions for his vast territory.

How does this glorious pre-Islamic past sit with the people of Iran today?

With contributions from historian Tom Holland and Michael Axworthy, of the University of Exeter.

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0602Parthenon Sculpture: Centaur And Lapith2010022320100224

Neil MacGregor on some of the world's most disputed objects: the Parthenon sculptures.

Neil MacGregor examines the emergence of powerful new forces across the globe around the fifth century BC, from Confucius in China to Cyrus in Persia.

In this programme he looks at the emotionally-charged sculptures that were made for the Parthenon in Athens.

Carved out of marble around 440BC, these beautiful figures continue to generate huge controversy around the world for the fact that they remain in London and have not been returned to Greece.

Neil acknowledges the political controversy of the Elgin Marbles (named after the British Lord who carried them off) but concentrates on their artistic story and on exploring the ancient Greek world that created them.

He describes a culture besotted with the myths and imagery of battle.

Greek archaeologist Olga Palagia and classicist Mary Beard help conjure up the extraordinary city of antiquity.

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Neil MacGregor explores the early world of the Celts through two bronze drinking flagons.

Neil MacGregor's history of the world recounted through objects at the British Museum arrives in Northern Europe 2,500 years ago.

Neil explores the early world of the Celts through two bronze drinking flagons, considered to be the most important and earliest examples of Celtic art.

Writer Jonathan Meades and Barry Cunliffe, one of the world's leading experts on this period, help describe the Celts, dissect the stereotypes and consider their celebrated love of drink.

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Neil MacGregor tells the story of a forgotten people of ancient Mexico.

Neil MacGregor selects a miniature mask to tell the story of the Olmec, the mysterious people of ancient Mexico who lived before the time of the Aztecs or Maya.

As the Parthenon was being created in Greece and the Persians were expanding the world's biggest empire, what was life like for the 'mother culture' of Central America? Neil explores the life of the Olmec and visits the remains of one of their greatest legacies.

He considers their remarkable skills in mask making with the Olmec specialist Karl Taube and the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes.

0605 LASTChinese Bronze Bell2010022620100227

Neil MacGregor tells the story of a Chinese bronze bell from the age of Confucius.

Neil MacGregor continues to explore the emergence of sophisticated new powers across the world 2,500 years ago, from the Parthenon in Greece to the great empire of Cyrus in Persia and the forgotten people of the Olmec in Mexico.

In this programme he arrives in China at the time of Confucius.

He explores the Confucian view of the world with reference to a large bronze bell, and with help from the writer Isabel Hilton and the percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Confucius believed in a society that worked in harmony.

How do his teachings go down in China today?

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0701Head Of Alexander2010051720100518

Neil MacGregor tells the story of Alexander the Great through a small silver coin.

Neil MacGregor opens the second part of his global history as told through objects from the British Museum in London.

This week he is exploring the lives and methods of powerful rulers around the world 2000 years ago, asking what enduring qualities are needed for the perfect projection of power.

He begins with one of history's most famous leaders, one with a divine aura - Alexander the Great, a ruler whose empire was to stretch from Egypt to northern India, and who has left an impressive legacy on the world today.

He tells the story of Alexander the Great through a small silver coin, one that was made years after his death by one of his former generals but that portrays an idealised image of the great leader as a vigorous young man.

Political commentator Andrew Marr considers Alexander as a model for future rulers and the historian Robin Lane-Fox explains the motivation behind Alexander's extraordinary ascent.

0702Pillar Of Ashoka2010051820100519

Neil MacGregor on the life and legacy of the great Indian ruler Ashoka.

The history of the world as told through objects at the British Museum arrives in India over 2000 years ago.

Throughout this week Neil MacGregor is exploring the lives and methods of powerful new leaders.

Today he looks at how the Indian ruler Ashoka turned his back on violence and plunder to promote the ethical codes inspired by Buddhism.

He communicated to his vast new nation through a series of edicts written on rocks and pillars.

Neil tells the life story of Ashoka through a remaining fragment of one of his great pillar edicts and considers his legacy in the Indian sub-continent today.

Amartya Sen and the Bhutanese envoy to Britain, Michael Rutland, describe what happened when Buddhism and the power of the state come together.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0703Rosetta Stone2010051920100520

Today's programme finds Neil MacGregor in the company of one of the best known inhabitants of the British Museum - the Rosetta Stone.

Throughout this week he is exploring shifting empires and the rise of legendary rulers around the world over 2000 years ago and here he takes us to the Egypt of Ptolemy V.

He tells the story of the Greek kings who ruled in Alexandria.

He also explains the struggle between the British and the French over the Middle East and their squabble over the stone.

And, of course, he describes the astonishing contest that led to the most famous decipherment in history - the cracking of the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone.

Historian Dorothy Thompson and the writer Ahdaf Soueif help untangle the tale.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0704Chinese Han Lacquer Cup2010052020100521

Neil MacGregor on a beautiful lacquer cup and the imperial ambitions of Han Dynasty China.

In a week of programmes exploring the nature of power and the emergence of new rulers around the world 2000 years ago, Neil MacGregor takes us to Han Dynasty China.

He tells the story of how the Chinese maintained loyalty and control by dispensing luxury gifts.

He describes the world of the imperial Han through an exquisite lacquer wine cup that was probably given by the emperor to one of his military commanders in North Korea.

The historian Roel Sterckx underlines the importance of lacquer for the period while writer Isabel Hilton looks at how the production of goods under state control has remained a consistent interest of the Chinese.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0705 LASTHead Of Augustus2010052120100522

The 2,000-year-old bronze head of one of the world's most famous rulers: Caesar Augustus.

Neil MacGregor concludes the first week of the second part of his global history as told through objects from the British Museum.

This week he has been exploring the lives and methods of powerful rulers around the world about 2000 years ago, from Alexander the Great in Egypt to Asoka in India.

Today he introduces us to the great Roman emperor Augustus, whose powerful, God-like status is brilliantly enshrined in a larger than life bronze head with striking eyes.

Neil MacGregor describes how Augustus dramatically enlarged the Roman Empire, establishing his image as one of its most familiar objects.

The historian Susan Walker and the politician Boris Johnson help explain the power and methodology of Augustus.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0801Warren Cup2010052420100525

Neil MacGregor tells the story of a Roman silver cup with the power to shock.

Throughout this week Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum in London, is exploring the ways in which people were seeking pleasure around the world 2000 years ago, from pipe smoking in North America to court etiquette in China.

He starts with the Roman Empire and a silver cup that offers a rare glimpse into the world of sex in ancient Rome.

The cup features such explicit images of homosexual acts that it was once banned from America and museums refused to buy it.

The Warren Cup is now one of the British Museum's better known objects.

In today's programme Neil examines the sexual climate of Rome.

Just how was sexuality viewed at this time, and why were the Romans so keen to copy the Greeks? The historians Bettany Hughes and James Davidson help provide the answers.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil MacGregor on a 2,000-year-old stone pipe from North America.

The history of the world as explained through objects arrives in North America 2000 years ago and a stone pipe used in ritual.

It is one of hundreds of pipes shaped as animals that were found in huge mounds in present day Ohio.

Neil MacGregor pieces together the evidence for how these pipes were used.

Tony Benn and the artist Maggie Hambling consider the allure of smoking from a modern perspective while Native American historian Gabrielle Tayac describes how the pipe formed a central role in traditional ritual and religious life.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0803Ceremonial Ballgame Belt2010052620100527

Neil MacGregor discovers the oldest ball game on earth.

Neil MacGregor's history of humanity as told through one hundred objects that time has left behind.

This week he is looking at objects of leisure and pleasure around the world about 2000 years ago.

How were we amusing ourselves back then? Today's object is a large stone belt, a heavyweight ceremonial version of the leather and fibre padding that was used in an ancient ball game in central America.

This was a game with a rubber ball that dates back as far as three and a half thousand years ago - the world's oldest known organised sport.

Neil offers up the rules of the game and describes how it connected players to the realm of their gods.

The historian Michael Whittington considers the ritual aspects of the game while the writer Nick Hornby describes how sport straddles the emotional territory between the sacred and the profane.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0804Admonitions Scroll2010052720100528

Neil MacGregor examines an ancient Chinese scroll that rules on how women should behave.

Throughout this week, Neil MacGregor has been exploring pleasure and recreation across the world of 200 years ago.

Today he arrives in China to explore a painting based on a poem that attempts to define the proper behaviour for women during the tumultuous time that followed the collapse of the Han Empire.

This eleven foot long scroll offers a guide to manners along well established Confucian principles.

Neil MacGregor tells the story of the scroll and finds out what it is was about women's behaviour that was so worrying men of the period.

The historian Shane McCausland, the politician Charles Powell, and the Chinese art expert Jan Stuart help paint the picture.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0805 LASTHoxne Pepper Pot2010052820100529

Neil MacGregor uses a silver pepper pot to tell of the Roman spice trade with India.

Neil MacGregor's world history told through objects at the British Museum arrives in Britain at the time of the Roman collapse.

Throughout this week he has been looking at how different cultures around the globe were pursuing pleasure, roughly 2000 years ago, from smoking in North America to team sports in Central America.

Today, Neil looks at how the elite of Roman Britain sustained their appetite for luxury goods and good living in the years before their demise.

He tells the story through a silver pepper pot that was discovered as part of a buried hoard - hidden possibly by Romans on the run.

He describes the ambitions of the elite in Roman Britain and how they satisfied their particular taste for pepper, with contributions from the food writer Christine McFadden and historian Roberta Tomber.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

0901Seated Buddha From Gandhara2010053120100601

This week the history of the world as told through one hundred objects is looking at how the world's great religions began trying to find the perfect way to visually express the divine, less than 2000 years ago.

Today, Neil Macgregor looks at how a stone sculpture from modern day Pakistan can tell us about how Buddhism set about creating the classic image to represent the real life Buddha who lived and roamed around North India in the 5th Century BC.

It was not until over five hundred years later when the classic seated image of the Buddha was first formulated.

Before then the Buddha was represented only by symbols.

How did the Buddha image come about and why do we need such images? The Dalai Lama's official translator, Thupten Jinpa, and the historian Claudine Bautze-Picron help explain.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor tells the story of one of the world's best known figures, the Buddha.

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This week Neil Macgregor is exploring how several of the great religions around the world, less than 2000 years ago, began creating sophisticated new images to represent their beliefs and their deities.

Many of the images created then are still with us today and remain essential forms of veneration.

These include the images of the gods and goddesses of Hinduism, whose recognisable modern form can be seen on coins from the Gupta empire which flourished in India from around 320 to 550 AD.

The Gupta period is regarded by many Indians as a golden age, a time when Indian cultural life and religion came together to create temples and texts that are central to Hinduism today.

The growing sophistication of the time is explored with the help of the historian Romila Thapar and the Hindu cleric Shaunaka Rishi Das

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor examines the rise of religious imagery in India under the Guptas.

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Throughout this week Neil Macgregor is describing how people across the globe around 1700 years ago found new images to express their religious beliefs.

Today's object is a dramatic visualisation of power and faith in 4th Century Iran.

It is a silver plate that shows King Shapur II out hunting deer.

Neil describes how this apparently secular image reveals the beliefs of the day, when the king was seen as the agent of god and the upholder of the state religion - Zoroastrianism.

How might we read this hunting scene as a religious image? And why did the belief system of such a powerful dynasty fail to become a dominant world religion? With contributions from the historian Tom Holland and the Iranian art historian Guitty Azarpay.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor examines a dramatic image of power and faith from ancient Iran.

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This week Neil Macgregor is exploring how many of the great religions, less than 2000 years ago, began creating sophisticated new images to aid prayer and focus devotion.

Many of the artistic conventions created then are still with us.

In today's programme Neil Macgregor introduces us to one of the earliest known images of the face of Christ.

This life sized face is part of a much bigger mosaic.

It was made somewhere around the year 350 and was found not in a church but on the floor of a Roman villa in Dorset.

What does this astonishing survival say about the state of Christianity at this time and what sort of Christ was imagined in Roman Britain? The historians Dame Averil Cameron and Eamon Duffy help paint the picture.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor encounters one of the earliest images of Christ.

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Throughout this week Neil Macgregor is looking at how the great faiths were creating new visual aids to promote devotion around the world of 1700 years ago.

Having looked at emerging images from Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Buddhism he turns his attention to the religious climate of pre-Islamic Arabia.

The story is told through a life sized bronze hand cut at the wrist and with writing on the back.

It turns out to be not a part of a god but a gift to a god in a Yemeni hill village.

Neil uses this mysterious object to explore the centrality of Arabia at this period, with its wealth of local gods and imported beliefs.

The hand surgeon Jeremy Field considers whether this was the modelled from a real human hand while the religious historian Philip Jenkins reflects on what happens to the old pagan gods when a brand new religion sweeps into town.

Proudcer: Anthony Denselow.

A mysterious bronze hand helps tell the story of religious belief in Arabia before Islam.

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Two gold coins from Syria which sum up one of history's greatest political upheavals.

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.

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

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.".

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Neil Macgregor examines a pottery warrior figure from a forgotten people in Peru.

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 in what is present day Peru.

He explores the story of the Moche people through a pot in the shape of a warrior, which introduces us to a remarkable lost civilisation, with help from expert Steve Bourget and the potter Grayson Perry.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor looks at what was happening in 7th-century Korea.

The history of the world as told through one hundred objects at the British Museum in London.

This week the museum's director, Neil Macgregor has been telling the story of the Silk Road (and beyond) towards the end of the 7th Century - with objects from South America, Syria, Britain and China.

Today he looks at what was happening in Korea at this moment in history, as it became a newly unified kingdom under the Silla state.

The object that represents this moment is a roof tile with an intimidating face from a grand building in the new capital.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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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 examines a painting from the Silk Road.".

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A disturbing, bloody image from the ancient Mayan civilisation.

The history of the world as told through objects.

This week Neil Macgregor, the Director of the British Museum, is exploring power and intrigue in the great royal courts of the world around 800 AD.

Today's object offers a story of authority, pain and belief from the world of the ancient Maya.

It is a limestone carving showing a king and his wife engaged in an agonising scene of ritual bloodletting.

Neil describes a great city in the jungle of modern day Mexico and the culture that produced it.

Virginia Fields, the expert on Maya iconography, and the psychotherapist Susie Orbach help explain an object that has the power to unsettle the modern viewer.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor on mysterious faces from a harem in an ancient city north of Baghdad.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through objects at the British Museum.

This week, he is exploring life and intrigue in the great courts of the world at the same time as the European medieval period.

Today he is with the women of Samarra in Iraq.

This ancient city, north of Baghdad, was once home to the Abbasid court and was one of the great Muslim capitals of the world.

Portraits from a mural in the palace harem offer a vivid insight into the lives of the rulers and the slave women whose job was to entertain them.

What was life really like in this great court?

The historian Robert Irwin, an expert on the tales of the Arabian Nights, looks at how the reality of life in the harem matches the sensual fantasy that has become associated with the period.

And Amira Bennison, of Cambridge University, explains what conditions were like for the women of the harem and the qualifications they needed just to get there.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines an engraved crystal and royal intrigue at the heart of Europe.

This week, Neil Macgregor is exploring life in the great royal courts around the world during Europe's medieval period.

It's easy to forget that the civilisations of Tang China, the Islamic Empire and the Maya in Mesoamerica were all at their peak during this time.

He is describing the life of these courts through individual objects in the British Museum's collection.

In the last programme he was with the Abbasid court North of Baghdad and an exotic wall painting; today's object is an engraved rock crystal connecting a biblical tale to a real life story of royal intrigue at the heart of Europe.

The Lothair Crystal was made in the mid-ninth century and offers scenes in miniature from the biblical story of Susanna, the wife of a rich merchant who is falsely accused of adultery.

The crystal was intended to exemplify the proper functioning of justice but, intriguingly, the king for whom the piece was made was himself trying to have his marriage annulled so he could marry his mistress! The historian Rosamond McKitterick explains what we know of the court of King Lothair and former senior law lord, Lord Bingham, describes the role of justice as portrayed in this exquisite work of art.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor looks at a beguiling statue of the Buddhist deity Tara.

The history of the world as told through one hundred of the objects.

The objects are selected from the collection of the British Museum by its director, Neil Macgregor.

This week, Neil is exploring life in the great royal courts across the world during Europe's medieval period.

It's easy to forget that the civilisations of Tang China, the Islamic Empire and the Maya in Mesoamerica were all at their peak during this time and today we discover what was happening in South Asia during this period.

He tells the story through a beautiful statue of the female Buddhist deity, Tara, crafted for a powerful ruler in Sri Lanka 12,000 years ago.

Richard Gombrich explains what Tara means to Buddhism and the historian Nira Wickramasinghe describes the powerful interaction between Hinduism and Buddhism, India and Sri Lanka at this time.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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This week Neil Macgregor is exploring life in the great royal courts across the world during Europe's medieval period, from the heart of Europe to Mexico and Sri Lanka.

Today he is in China of the Tang Dynasty around 700 AD.

He tells how the elite of the time chose to leave their mark on the world by writing or commissioning their own obituaries.

He is with a curious troupe of ceramic figures that were found in the tomb of a Tang general along with a stone tablet proclaiming his achievements.

The China scholar Oliver Moore explains the growing ambitions of the dynasty and journalist Anthony Howard describes the enduring power of the obituary.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor examines a collection of tomb figures from Tang dynasty China.

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Neil Macgregor explores a great Viking silver hoard discovered in North Yorkshire.

The history of the world as told through objects that history has left behind.

This week Neil Macgregor, the director of the British Museum, has chosen objects that bring life to the traders, pilgrims and raiders who swept across the vast expanse of Europe and Asia between the 9th and 13th centuries.

Today he is with a great Viking treasure hoard that was discovered by metal detectors in a field in North Yorkshire.

This dramatic, recent discovery, consisting of over 600 coins buried in a silver cup, dates back to the 10th century and reveals the astonishing range of Viking activity.

There are coins here minted as far away as Afghanistan and Iraq! Neil describes what the England of the early 900's was really like.

He unravels the cliches that abound about the Vikings.

The historian Michael Wood helps set the scene and the father and son team who found the hoard, David and Andrew Whelan, recall the excitement of the discovery.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

1202Hedwig Glass Beaker2010062220100623

Neil Macgregor examines a glass vessel linked with a saintly miracle worker.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through objects at the British Museum.

This week he is looking at how objects moved around the medieval world in the context of war, trade and faith and the quite incredible degree of contact between Asia, Europe and Africa that existed around a thousand years ago.

Today's object is a large glass beaker made at a time when Christians were warring with Muslims in the great crusades - a time, curiously enough, connected with a great flourishing of trade.

This object was most likely made by Islamic glass workers but became associated with the miracles of a Christian saint, Hedwig.

This glass container, or one of the few just like it, was what Hedwig famously used to turn water into wine! Neil describes the story of the Hedwig beaker with help from the economic historian David Abulafia and the historian of the Crusades Jonathan Riley-Smith.

He also sees what happens when he pours water into this beautifully decorated vessel.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor tells the story of a bronze mirror found in a sacred pond in Japan.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London.

This week Neil Macgregor is looking at objects from Tanzania, Britain, Java and central Europe, exploring the great arcs of trade that connected Africa, Europe and Asia around a thousand years ago.

Today he arrives in Japan with an object that offers a dramatic twist on the week's theme.

This small mirror from the bottom of a sacred pond comes from a time when the Japanese suddenly cut themselves off from the outside world and stopped all official contact with China, a country it had frequently borrowed ideas from.

Neil tells the story of the Heian period of Japanese history, a moment of great cultural awakening in Japan, especially in literature.

The object is a small mirror that was found at the bottom of a sacred pond.

The writer Ian Buruma and the archaeologist Harada Masayuki help describe the Japan of this time.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines a stone head of the Buddha from Borobudur on the island of Java.

A history of the World in one hundred objects arrives on the Indonesian island of Java.

This is the series that offers a new history of humanity through the individual objects that time has left behind.

These items are all in the British Museum and the series is presented by the museum's director, Neil Macgregor.

Throughout this week Neil is tracing the great arcs of trade linking Asia, Europe and Africa around a thousand years ago.

Today he has chosen a stone head of the Buddha that comes from one of the world's greatest monuments, the giant Buddhist stupa of Borobudur.

Borobudur rises from a volcanic plain in the middle of Java, built from one and a half million blocks of stone and devised as an architectural aid to spiritual practice.

Neil Macgregor reports from the various levels of Borobudur and describes the trade routes that brought Buddhism to South East Asia.

He also explores the impact the discovery of Borobodur had on the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles and his ideas about the importance of Javanese civilization.

The anthropologist Nigel Barley celebrates the life and work of Stamford Raffles while the writer and Buddhist teacher Stephen Batchelor sums up the spiritual significance of Borobudur

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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This week Neil Macgregor has been looking at objects from Japan, Britain, Java and central Europe, exploring the great arcs of trade that connected Africa, Europe and Asia a thousand years ago.

Today he sifts through a selection of broken pots, found on a beach in East Africa, to see what they might tell us.

Smashed pottery, it seems, can be astonishingly durable and can offer powerful historical insights.

These ceramic bits - in a variety of glazes and decorations - were found on the island of Kilwa Kisiwani off Tanzania.

Neil uses the fragments to tell the story of a string of thriving communities along the East African coast with links across the Indian Ocean and beyond.

The historian Bertram Mapunda and the writer Abdulrazak Gurnah describe the significance of these broken pieces and help piece together the great cross-cultural mix that produced the Swahili culture and language.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor sifts through broken pot fragments from an African beach.

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Neil Macgregor examines a board game found in the Outer Hebrides.

This week Neil Macgregor, the director of the British Museum, has chosen some of the great status symbols of the world around 700 years ago - objects with quite surprising links across the globe.

Today he is with one of the most familiar objects at the museum; a board game, found in the Outer Hebrides but probably made in Norway - the Lewis Chessmen.

They are carved out of ivory and many of the figures are hugely detailed and wonderfully expressive.

They take us to the world of Northern Europe at a time when Norway ruled parts of Scotland and Neil describes the medieval world of the chessmen and explains how the game evolved.

The historian Miri Rubin considers the genesis of the pieces and the novelist Martin Amis celebrates the metaphorical power of the game of chess.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines an extraordinary astronomical instrument.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through objects at the British Museum.

This week he is exploring high status objects from across the world around 700 years ago.

Today he has chosen an astronomical instrument that could perform multiple tasks in the medieval age, from working out the time to preparing horoscopes.

It is called an astrolabe and originates from Spain at a time when Christianity, Islam and Judaism coexisted and collaborated with relative ease - indeed this instrument carries symbols recognisable to all three religions.

Neil considers who it was made for and how it was used.

The astrolabe's curator, Silke Ackermann, describes the device and its markings, while the historian Sir John Elliott discusses the political and religious climate of 14th century Spain.

Was it as tolerant as it seems?

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines a magnificent brass head from the African city of Ife.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum is back in Africa.

This week Neil Macgregor is exploring high status objects from across the world around 700 years ago.

Today he has chosen a sculpture widely considered as one of the highest achievements of world art.

It comes from Ife, a city now in South-Western Nigeria.

It's a slightly less than life sized representation of a human head, made in brass at a time when metal casting had become a hugely sophisticated art.

The head, with its deeply naturalistic features, was probably that of a great king or leader although its exact function remains uncertain.

The head leads Neil to consider the political, economic and spiritual life of the Yoruba city state that produced it.

The writer Ben Okri responds to the mood of the sculpture while the art historian Babatunde Lawal considers what role it might have played in traditional tribal life.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines a pair of porcelain vases from Yuan dynasty China.

The history of the world as told through objects that time has left behind.

This week Neil Macgregor, the director of the British Museum, has chosen some of the great status symbols of the world around 700 years ago - objects with quite surprising links across the globe.

Today he is with a pair of porcelain vases from Yuan dynasty China.

This instantly recognisable blue-and-white designed porcelain - that we usually associate with the Ming Dynasty - rapidly became influential and desirable around the world.

Neil describes the history of porcelain and the use of these vases in a temple setting.

The historian Craig Clunas talks about the volatile world of Yuan China while the writer Jenny Uglow tries to put her finger on just why we find Chinese porcelain so appealing.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum.

This week the Museum's director, Neil Macgregor, is exploring high status objects from across the world around 700 years ago.

Today he tells the story of a beautifully carved ritual seat - an object which has survived the destruction of the Caribbean culture that produced.

This four legged wooden stool, or duho, with its long shape and wide-eyed face probably belonged to a chief, or "cacique" of the Taino people of the Caribbean.

Taino was a term used to describe a spectrum of peoples who originated in South America and who populated the whole region, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

Neil tells the story of the Taino speaking people and their demise following the arrival of Europeans.

The archaeologist Jose Oliver looks at how the Taino spread around the Caribbean while the Puerto Rican scholar Gabriel Haslip-Vieira explains their impact on the region today.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

Neil Macgregor tells the story of a ritual seat from a lost Caribbean culture.

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Neil Macgregor examines a reliquary made for a thorn from Christ's crown of thorns.

Neil Macgregor's world history as told through things.

This week he is exploring the sophisticated ways that people expressed religious yearning in the 14th and 15th centuries.

He is looking at the statues of gods and ancestors - in India, Mexico and on Easter Island - and he describes the importance of icon painting in the Orthodox Church.

Today he is with an object designed to connect with Christ himself - a stunning Christian reliquary from medieval Europe made to house a thorn from the crown of thorns.

Neil tells the story of this highly ornate reliquary while Sister Benedicta Ward and the Archbishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, help explain the background and meaning to the powerful tradition of relic worship.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor tells the story of a 14th-century icon from the Byzantine Empire.

This week Neil Macgregor's world history as told through objects is describing how people expressed devotion and connection with the divine in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Today he is with an icon from Constantinople that looks back in history to celebrate the overthrow of iconoclasm and the restoration of holy images in AD 843 - a moment of triumph for the Orthodox branch of the Christian Church.

This icon shows the annual festival of orthodoxy celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent, with historical figures of that time and a famous depiction of the Virgin Mary.

The American artist Bill Viola responds to the icon and describes the special characteristics of religious painting.

And the historian Diarmaid MacCulloch describes the often troubled relationship between the Church and the images it has produced.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines a stone sculpture of the Hindu deity Shiva and his consort Parvati

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London is back in India.

This week Neil Macgregor is with the gods - exploring the sophistication of religious art in the 14th and 15th centuries, as people around the world sought ways of finding physical expression for devotion and for representing the divine.

Today Neil is with a magnificent stone sculpture showing the powerful deity Shiva with his consort Parvati seated on his knee - two of the most beloved and familiar figures of Hinduism.

The vehicles of the deities, a bull and a lion, and their children sit at their feet, while a host of supporting musicians and attendants swirl around their heads.

Neil considers how images like this help cement the relationship between deity and devotee.

The writer Karen Armstrong considers the special relationship between male and female aspects in spiritual practice while the Hindu cleric Shaunaka Rishi Das explores the particular characteristics of Shiva and Parvati and considers the religious significance of their union.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor examines a sculpture of a goddess made by the Huastec people of Mexico.

The history of humanity as told through one hundred objects from the British Museum in London is in Mexico.

This week Neil Macgregor is meeting the Gods - exploring the sophistication of religious art in the 14th and 15th centuries as people around the world created physical expressions for devotion and for representing the divine.

Today he is with a striking sandstone sculpture of a goddess made by the Huastec people of present day Mexico.

This remarkable figure stands bare breasted with hands folded over her stomach and wearing a remarkable fan-shaped headdress.

She has been associated with the later Aztec goddess of sexuality and fertility.

The writer Marina Warner describes the power of the goddess figure in matters of fertility and sexuality while the art historian Kim Richter describes the particular nature of Huastec society and sculpture.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.

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Neil Macgregor discusses one of the extraordinary giant figures from Easter Island.

This week Neil Macgregor is exploring the sophisticated ways in which people connected to gods and ancestors in the Middle Ages.

He is looking at religious images from India, France, Mexico and Turkey.

Today - in the last programme of the second series - he is with one of the most instantly recognisable sculptures in the world: one of the giant stone heads that were made on Easter Island in the South Eastern Pacific Ocean.

These deeply mysterious objects lead Neil to consider why they were made and why many were ultimately thrown down.

What was the Easter Islanders understanding of their gods and their ancestors? Steve Hooper, an expert on the arts of the Pacific, and the internationally renowned sculptor Sir Anthony Caro both respond to this monumental work of devotion.

Producer: Anthony Denselow.