- 13 episodes
- 30 minutes each
Episode 01 – Fall of the MAYA
Twenty-five years ago, the ancient Mayans were thought to be a mysterious and peaceful people governed by astronomer-priests. But in 1965, Russian linguist Yuri Knorosov cracked the phonetic code of Mayan hieroglyphic writing in the confinements of his bustling Leningrad study.
Today, researchers reveal stories of Mayan blood sacrifices as they uncover a world so foreign as to defy our understanding of it.
From excavations deep in the jungles of Honduras to the most recent interpretations of hieroglyphic messages, researchers are unraveling the fascinating story of the rise and fall of the Mayans.
Episode 02 – The Death March of de Soto
Romantic visions of the Explorer Hernando de Soto continue to celebrate the conquistador’s arrival in North America 450 years ago as one of the most important events in the history of mankind. But archaeology tells a darker story…
As they chart the conquistador’s trail of death and human destruction from Florida’s Gulf Coast to the mouth of the Mississippi, archeologists are not only discovering lost Native American cultures, but their excavations are also confirming the frightening truth of just how these people perished.
Episode 03 – The Search for Neanderthal
In 1856, workmen in a cave in the Neander valley near Dussseldorf, Germany, unearthed a human skeleton. Its skull had a low, protruding brow, large teeth, and a massive bone structure. And from this discovery began a lengthy dispute: did the Neanderthal man represent an abnormal modern human? Or an extinct ancestor?
Unintentionally, the workmen began the longest ongoing controversy in the search for the origins of modern humans. Today, archeologists search for clues about Neanderthals in hopes of determining if these remarkable people deserve a place in our direct ancestry. By examining Neanderthal bones and reconstructing fossilized skeletal remains, scientists are beginning to find answers to these important questions.
Episode 04 – The Lost City of Zimbabwe
Rising out of the highlands of Sub-Saharan Africa are the ruins of the long-secluded, spectacular Great Zimbabwe. Dismissed by racist explorers as the work of some ancient black civilization and stripped by ignorance and prejudice of many of it’s priceless artifacts, white colonizers were certain that Black Africans could not have built the towering stone walls. Only now, after a century of abuse, is the Great Zimbabwe reclaiming it’s uniquely African heritage. But can archeologists undo the years of preceding damage?
Perhaps the real mystery connected with this site is why society and archeologists took so long to recognize the Great Zimbabwe for what it is: South Africa’s first city.
Episode 05 – Unraveling Hitler’s Conspiracy
The Nazi’s doctrine was clear: They, the Aryans, were a superior race, as they had demonstrated in their heroic past. Every effort must therefore be made to guarantee the genetic purity of the nation.
In July of 1935, Heinrich Himmler, Head of the Gestapo and the SS, founded the Ahnenerbe (The Research and Teaching Society for Ancestral Heritage) to validate these ideas and to ensure their propagation. Himmler’s goal was to research, excavate, and restore (real and imagined) Germanic cultural relics and to obtain scientific (or pseudoscientific) support for these racial theories.
Here, for the first time, is the story of how archeology was used not only to manipulate information about the past, but also to legitimize the genocidal regime of the Nazis.
Episode 06 – Secrets of the Little Bighorn
One of America’s most famous historical landmarks is The Little Bighorn, a site where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and more than 250 troopers of the 7th US Calvary rode to their deaths on June 25, 1876. Though detailed facts of the event were unknown, the battle became shrouded in tales of myth and mystery that have endured for over a century.
Now, by retracing the pattern of bullets and cartridge cases across the Custer battlefield, archaeologists have been able to generate a unique computer simulation of the final, fatal moments of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This cutting-edge reconstruction, which stresses Native American triumph rather than Custer’s defeat, represents a dramatic reversal in the way the battle has been traditionally portrayed.
Episode 07 – Who were the Israelites?
The tale of the Israelites’ conquest of the Promised Land has long been an article of faith wherever the Bible is widely read and respected. But recent discoveries suggest that the military defeat of the Promised Land, as detailed in the Book of Joshua, simply never occurred.
This archeological verdict will no doubt come as a surprise to many: no sudden invasion, no bloody defeat of ancient Canaan; instead, a simple ‘peasants’ revolt’ of farmers within the country. Spun throughout the decades, this triumphant chronicle was gradually embroidered beyond recognition with heroic and largely imaginary military details.
For today’s State of Israel, where questions of history and archaeology often have enormous modern significance, this new archaeological evidence is certain to arouse religious — and even political — controversy for years to come.
Episode 08 – The Voyage of the Vikings
During the Middle Ages, in a period spanning 800 AD to 1100 AD, a powerful, seafaring people known as the Vikings came swarming out of the northlands in their predatory long ships to burn and pillage their way across civilized Europe.
But there was another sphere in which the Vikings were to win equally lasting fame. It was the Vikings who completed the Atlantic crossing westward to colonize Greenland. They disembarked upon the eastern coast of North America at a site they called Vinland. Of all of the achievements of the Vikings, it is this venture that has most strongly impressed itself upon the modern imagination.
In 1965, a controversial map of Vinland and North America emerged. In the past two months, however, it has confidently been dated to 1440, 52 years before Columbus sailed to the New World. It is believed that Columbus traveled to Iceland in the 1470’s. Did he have a copy of the map? Did the map originate with the Vikings as a record of their travels? Or was it created by someone else entirely?
The story of how the Vikings discovered North America is one of the most fascinating accounts in the history of exploration. With on-location filming at the ruins of the Viking settlement at L’Anse-aux-Meadows in Northern Newfoundland, the remains of ships unearthed in Norway, and with several fully reconstructed Viking ships, we will see how these voyagers traveled the globe. And we’ll present the growing, but still inconclusive, evidence that an explorer dispatched by King Ferdinand of Spain may have used the Vikings’ navigational information to reach North America.
Episode 09 – Caesar’s Nightmare: An Ambush in the Forest
Sweeping aside nearly 2,000 years of doubt and mystery, on-going excavations in Germany’s Teutoberg Forest have revealed the location of one of the bloodiest battles of antiquity.
In 9 AD, an arrogant Roman general, Publius Varus, anticipated that he would easily suppress several rebellious Germanic tribes, after which he could leisurely march his troops to their winter campsite. Unfortunately for Varus and three of Rome’s crack legions, he walked into an elaborate and well-organized ambush.
With innovative computer graphics we will reconstruct how the battle may have been fought. Through evidence unearthed at the excavations, interviews with specialists, etchings, original illustrated graphics, and text narrated from the Roman historians, this episode will reveal the test of wills and tactics that led to one of Rome’s major military disasters.
Episode 10 – The Ancients of North America
Southeastern Utah is one of the richest and least disturbed archaeological areas in the Southwest. In 1990, archaeologists in this region discovered a dry cave/rock shelter with human remains. Only a small piece of sandal was removed in order to obtain a date on the site. Amazingly, the date was revealed as 5,490 BC.
Utah’s desert climate and the cave’s dry soil conditions are near-perfect for preservation. This site offers scientists a unique opportunity to examine the culture and remains of a people more than 7,000 years old.
What purposes did the cave serve in the lives of Utah’s earliest inhabitants? And just who were these inhabitants? How many burials will be discovered? What tools will we find at the site…and what will they tell us about their owners? As the excavation proceeds, we will answer these and many other questions about the lives of the earliest Americans.
Episode 11 – A Quest for Gold
On June 7, 1576, Captain Martin Frobisher took command of an expedition to the New World. It was the first voyage attempted by an Englishman in search of the elusive Northwest Passage to the Orient. After a perilous Atlantic journey, Captain Frobisher arrived at a large bay in the remote Northeastern Arctic of the New World and decreed that he had discovered the entrance to the ‘Passage’. Frobisher also found layers of curious ore deposited along the coastline. The Englishman, unacquainted with this exotic but worthless mineral, somehow believed that he had discovered a hoard of gold. His fantastic error led to an equally fantastic sequence of events that ended with the massive English colonization of the New World.
Through the use of first-person accounts from the Captain’s logs, Elizabethan etchings, on-location filming at archaeological sites in Canada, England, and the reconstructed village of Jamestown, Virginia, we will tell the tale of how and why it became absolutely necessary that the English establish a colony in the New World.
Episode 12 – Athens, daughter of Egypt?
Was Cleopatra black? Was Socrates? Did Egyptian armies conquer ancient Greece, thus setting the cradle of Western civilization in motion? Is this wishful thinking on the part of historical revisionists…or is it a long-suppressed historical fact?
Today, a number of researchers claim that scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries were racists who could not stand the idea that their beloved Greece had been made “impure” by African influence. Modern researchers think that these early scholars dismissed as mere myth the Greeks’ own accounts of the way Egyptian technology, philosophy, and political theory shaped Aegean civilization. If so, the result of two centuries of such teachings has erased this ancient truth.
The debate over what role Egypt played in shaping the glory that was Greece has led to an incendiary question: was Egypt “black”? Does it really matter? To thousands of Black Americans, and to those who value historical accuracy, the answers to these questions are vital.
Through on-location interviews at excavations in Egypt, the Middle East, and Greece, we will construct possible scenarios to answer the larger question: What influence did Egypt, and it’s Black inhabitants, have on the development of Greece?
Episode 13 – The Myth of Masada
Although almost twenty-five years have passed since the end of Israel’s most ambitious archaeological undertaking, the name of this site, Masada, still exerts romantic appeal. For many Israelites and visitors to Israel, the isolated, flat-topped rock in the Judean Desert remains the most visible symbol of the power and significance of modern archaeology.
Excavations at Masada from 1963 to 1965 revealed the magnificent fortress-palace of King Herod the Great of Judeas (37 to 4 BC). These excavations also exposed tragic evidence of the unsuccessful attempt by Jewish rebels to prevent Masada’s capture by the Romans in 74 AD.
Yet, in focusing almost entirely on the defenders, the modern archaeological explorers of Masada may have overlooked its true historical significance: Masada was the site of a brutally efficient, though cruelly successful, exercise in the techniques of Roman siege warfare.
And even today, we are still uncertain of the central event in the Great Revolt: the mass suicide of the Jewish Zealots. Did 960 defenders submit willingly to executioners chosen from their own number by lot, preferring death to surrender? According to recent archaeological research, the story of the mass suicide on Masada was the product of the creative imagination of a Jewish historian who sought to impress his educated audience with a chronicle written in an acceptable literary style.
Yet it may be that historical facts are only a small part of the great rock’s mystique. The tale of Masada remains such a meaningful parable for the modern, besieged state of Israel that it seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. And perhaps the discovery, preservation, and presentation of the mountain’s archaeological remains can reveal as much about modern Israel as they can about the country’s ancient history.