Raiders of the Lost Past

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Arts Documentary hosted by Janina Ramirez, published by BBC in 2019 - English narration

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Image: Raiders-of-the-Lost-Past-Cover.jpg

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The summer of 1939 saw a golden age of exploration and archaeology coming to an end. It had been an era of adventurers setting out to explore the remotest corners of the globe, hoping to unlock clues to our forgotten past. During that last summer of peace, when the world stood on the precipice of a war that threatened to end civilisation itself, three extraordinary treasures were discovered that would radically change our understanding of the origins and diversity of human culture, bringing us closer to the worlds of our ancestors. Dr Janina Ramirez goes on the trail of these remarkable pre-war explorer archaeologists, from the English lady who discovered the Sutton Hoo Hoard in her back garden and the German archaeologist who hoped to use his discovery of the Lion Man to further the goals of the Third Reich to the glamorous husband-and-wife team of explorers who headed deep into the Mexican jungle in search of the Olmec Heads. Each of these discoveries is far more than treasure – they tell us how the societies we live in today were born.

[edit] The Sutton Hoo Hoard

Janina Ramirez explores the surprise discovery in a Suffolk garden of the Sutton Hoo Hoard – an incredible Anglo-Saxon ship-burial dating from the early 7th century AD and the final resting place of a supremely wealthy warrior-king. The ship's ruined burial chamber was packed with treasures: Byzantine silverware, sumptuous gold jewellery, a lavish feasting set and, most famously, an ornate iron helmet. Now known as Britain's Tutankhamun, the hoard transformed our understanding of the Dark Ages, revealing that 7th-century Britain was not the primitive place we had imagined, but a world of exquisite craftsmanship, extensive international connections, great halls, glittering treasures and formidable warriors. The find captured the imagination of a nation on the brink of war, not just as incredible treasure, but as a symbol of pride and identity, and a representation of the Anglo-Saxon culture Britain was about to fight for. Yet, as Janina discovers, the story of the hoard's survival and discovery is something of a miracle.

[edit] The Lion Man

The Lion Man takes Nina deep into the dark heart of Nazi Germany, where in a remote cave in late August 1939, archaeologist Robert Wetzel came across the 40,000-year-old artwork now known as the Lion Man. Just a week later, WWII broke out, the excavation came to halt and, in one of the great mysteries of archaeology, Wetzel never mentioned his incredible find again. As Janina discovers, the Lion Man represents a revolution in the human story. Half-man and half-animal, it is the first artwork created from the human imagination, revealing the very origins of human art, religion and culture. But, in fact, Janina learns that it is almost a miracle the Lion Man came to light at all, because it was not pulled out of the cave as a single artwork but as hundreds of tiny ivory shards, found in numerous chance discoveries across eight decades. This incredible tale of exploration takes Janina from caves in southern Germany to Arctic Norway, as she finds out how the Lion Man gave us our first understanding of the birth of civilisation. She also explores how the artwork gives us a disturbing insight into one of the most troubled periods in our recent history, asking how a pioneering archaeologist like Robert Wetzel could also believe that an ice-age artwork like the Lion Man could support the ideology of Nazi Germany.

[edit] The Olmec Heads

Janina Ramirez travels to Mexico, where, just before the outbreak of WWII, American husband-and-wife explorer team Matthew and Marion Stirling were lured into the jungle by the legend of a colossal stone head. They found the head – and a lot more than they bargained for – because it turned out to be the first clue in a trail that led to the discovery of a lost civilisation, now known as the Olmecs. As Janina follows their footsteps through the jungle, she discovers that the go-getting Stirlings embodied the adventurous determination of pre-war archaeological explorers. Breaking new ground, the Stirlings realised that it was the Olmecs – not the much-later Mayans or the Aztecs – who built the very first pyramids, palaces and planned cities for which Central America is now so famous. Janina's journey takes her to some of the most stunning ancient sites in Mexico, as she pieces together the evidence that led the Stirlings to the controversial conclusion that the Olmecs flourished there 3,500 thousand years ago, the same period as ancient Egypt. It is extraordinary to think, before their finds, that we not only had no idea the Olmecs even existed, but no idea any civilisation this ancient existed in Central America. The Stirlings' work was so important that, very unusually, their expeditions and excavations continued during the war, shot in glorious technicolor by National Geographic. This fantastic archive features throughout the film, intercut with Janina's modern journey.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x264 CABAC High@L4.1
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 21 (~3807Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: Q=0.45 VBR 48KHz (~128Kbps)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 59 mins
  • Number of Parts: 3
  • Part Size: 1.62 GB (average)
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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