Featured programming

Out of the Past

This series offers a humanistic approach to archaeology and anthropology to make connections between past civilizations and modern societies, examining how societies function and change.

ruinsVisit the spectacular Mayan center of Copán, Honduras, where archaeologists reconstruct this ancient society. Past and present cultures in Central and North America, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East are also explored.

Eight one-hour shows.

Program descriptions:

1. New Worlds:

The Age of Discovery 500 years ago revealed a broad range of cultures, from the vast empires of the Aztecs and the Incas to roving bands of hunter-gatherers. This provided irrefutable evidence that cultures, like biological species, have evolved independently and on a global scale.

2. The Hearth:

Examines how enculturation and economic cooperation have shaped the homes and families of people, past and present. Remains of houses at archaeological sites and footage of family life in traditional cultures provide a glimpse into what family life must have been like.

3. Artisans and Traders:

Explores the link between economic and cultural evolution. Hunter-gatherers and early agriculturalists had simple divisions of labor, but today people make a living in many ways. The proliferation of occupations and the extreme economic interdependence of today are the result of increasing job specialization, causing society to continually undergo restructuring.

4. Signs and Symbols:

Unearthing and interpreting the signs and symbols that define us as a species can be challenging yet revealing. From deciphering ancient scripts to understanding status symbols, archaeologists use ancient and modern examples to reconstruct the meaning of the symbols they find.

5. Power, Prestige, and Wealth:

Postulates how and why powerful groups or individuals have managed to control vast holdings from ancient times to the present day. The different methods archaeologists use to study how rulers gain and keep power are examined.

6. Realms:

Reconstructing actual borders of ancient kingdoms is often impossible, but archaeologists can reveal much of the internal workings of societies and their external relations by looking at marriage alliances, trade, and warfare.

7. The Spirit World:

Archaeologists look at ritual behavior and sacred spaces and objects in archaeological and ethnographic settings to attribute religious meanings. Examples from present-day, traditional societies show the complexity of spiritual life and the limits and possibilities of archaeological reconstruction.

8. Collapse:

The decline and fall of civilizations captures our interest. Could we be next, going the way of the Sumerians, the Romans, the Maya? The collapse of Copán, brought on by overpopulation and overexploitation of resources, is explored along with other ancient cultures that have faced the problems we confront today.