Offerings from the BBC

A History of the World in 100 Objects

I am currently reading A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum in London.  The book is based on a series of BBC 4 broadcasts that MacGregor did a while ago.  When you combine his knowledge of history with the priceless objects he shows us from the Museum’s vast collection and the experts he brings in to talk about each object, you have a truly fascinating account of the history of mankind.

Mold Cape

One example is the so-called Mold Cape which was found in a grave near Mold, Wales.  The cape is made from pure gold and is extremely thin and ornate.  According to MacGrregor it was fashioned out of an ingot of gold the size of a ping-pong ball.  The cape was split into pieces by the men who found it, and many parts of the cape have never been found.  But those that were give us a good idea of its size, shape and ornateness.  Each object in the book is exquisitely photographed against a dark background.  The photograph of the cape that I have used for this post is not the one used in the book, and does not do justice to the beauty of the cape, but it is the best I could find.  I am reading the e-book version of the book, so I can zoom in on each object to better see it’s details.

While the cape itself is interesting, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this object is that it was found in Wales.  There is no gold in Wales, and there are no other objects from there that are evenly remotely similar to the cape.  So it raises many questions.  Where did the gold come from?  Who made it?  Is there an ancient culture that was indigenous to Wales that we don’t know about?  Unfortunately, we have lots of questions and no answers.

You can hear MacGregor’s entire series here, and you can listen to his discussion of the cape (which is episode 19) here.

Another superb offering from the BBC is its Great Lives series.  Each program is 30 minutes long and, like everything done on BBC, is excellent.  Some of the most recent subjects of the series are Rembrandt, Lucille Ball, Dorothy L. Sayer, Erasmus Darwin, (Charles Darwin’s grandfather), Mother Teresa, Alexander the Great, Louis Armstrong, and Lord Byron.  Currently there are 264 different episodes of the series that are available.  The programs are listed here.

You may not be able to listen to the above programs on all computers, smartphones, and tablets, but if you can, you will certainly find something interesting and informative to enjoy.

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