At the beginning of September Andrew Bednarski came to the Essex Egyptology Group to talk to us about an American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE) project to document the now-demolished village of Qurna. He was involved in the project from 2011-2014, so this is the time period he told us about but the project is still ongoing. This is a bit of a departure from our usual sort of talk - whilst still Egyptian archaeology, most of the subject was considerably more modern.
In Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale of Three Cities James Fox picked three different cities each in a single year of the 20th Century, and looked at how each was the focal point of cultural developments at the time. The first episode covered Vienna in 1908, the year Sigmund Freud revealed his Oedipus Complex theories. Many of the most notable artists or musicians of the day were in the city - Klimt, Schiele, Schoenberg.
Mud Sweat and Tractors is a four part series about the changes in farming in Britain over the last century or so. It split it up into four areas - milk, horticulture, wheat and beef - and treated each as a separate story, so each episode seemed quite self-contained. Each time there were two or three farming families chosen who had photographs and video footage stretching back to the 1930s. So they made good case studies and could talk about why they or their Dad or Grandad had made particular decisions at particular points.
Continuing with our recent WWI theme we watched a one-off programme about the tunnels under the Somme battlefield presented by Peter Barton. The title (The Somme: Secret Tunnel Wars) and a bit of the introductory segment have an air of Discovery Channel-esque "we will Solve The Mystery!", but the programme as a whole steered away from that and was very interesting.
The Necessary War and The Pity of War were a pair of programmes from the BBC about the First World War that aired a couple of months ago. In The Necessary War Max Hastings put the case for WW1 being, ultimately, necessary despite the loss of life etc. And in The Pity of War Niall Ferguson argued that it was all a terrible and costly (in terms of lives) mistake - this programme finished with a debate.
Inside the Animal Mind is a three part series presented by Chris Packham that looks at what we know about how animals think and what that tells us about our own thinking. The first episode covered animal senses, the second looked at how intelligent animals are and the third investigated the effects of being social on animal intelligence. In each episode Packham showed us the sorts of experiments currently being done to extend our knowledge of animal minds.
For some odd reason the BBC had a new documentary series about The Stuarts and then only aired it in Scotland. I can see that it was intended to tie in with the upcoming vote on independence but it was straightforwardly a documentary rather than a piece of propaganda. So I'm not really sure why it was kept north of the border. We only spotted it because I'd recorded something else off BBC2 Scotland to avoid a clash, and there was a trailer for The Stuarts.
The second episode of Alastair Sooke's series about the art of Ancient Egypt covered the Middle Kingdom (briefly) and most of the New Kingdom. He only picked a couple of objects from the Middle Kingdom - both from Senusret III's reign. He gave the impression that this is because the New Kingdom was the Golden Age, which is true in some ways, but the Egyptians themselves looked back at the Middle Kingdom as their "classical age" where art and culture first achieved great heights.