Confirmed for BBC Two on 1 March at 9pm to 10pm
Thursday 1 March
The film opens with Simon’s passionate endorsement of the creative spirit in humanity and the way in which art can help to forge the civilised life. Civilisation may be impossible to define, but its opposite - evidenced throughout history in the human urge to destroy - is all too evident whenever and wherever it erupts. Schama investigates the remote origins of human creativity with the first known marks made some 80,000 years ago in South African caves; marks which were not dictated merely by humanity’s physical needs. He marvels at later cave works too: paintings of bison and bulls, and Stone Age carvings.
As time passes the elements of civilisation are assembled: written language, codes of law, and expressions of warrior power forged in metals. And humanity begins to produce art not just for ritual, as Simon discovers in Minoan civilisation.
But how do such cultures arise and how do they fall? Simon travels to the civilisations of Petra in the Middle East and the Maya in Central America to answer those questions. He finds that ultimately civilisations depend on humanity’s relationship with the environment for their survival, and while all believe in their own continuity, all are doomed to fall.
Civilisations is produced by the BBC and Nutopia in association with PBS and the Open University. The Executive Producers are Jonty Claypole and Mark Bell for the BBC, and Michael Jackson and Denys Blakeway for Nutopia. Bill Gardner, VP of Programming and Development, will oversee the project for PBS. The Series Producers are Melanie Fall and Ian MacMillan. Simon Schama is Project Consultant.
Search the site
Can't find what you need? Search here