Neil MacGregor finds the earliest example of writing: a 5,000-year-old tablet about beer. Read more
The First Cities and States (4000 - 2000 BC)
Early Writing Tablet
Neil MacGregor finds the earliest example of writing: a 5,000-year-old tablet about beer.
The Beginning of Science and Literature (1500 - 700 BC)
Neil MacGregor gives an account of a great flood much older than the one told in the Bible
Rhind Mathematical Papyrus
Neil MacGregor describes man's early calculations on an Egyptian papyrus fragment.
Minoan Bull Leaper
Neil MacGregor's history arrives at a Minoan treasure and a dangerous hobby from 1700 BC.
Mold Gold Cape
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a gold cape found in Wales and made over 3500 years ago.
Statue of Ramesses II
The world of Egypt as ruled by Ramesses II and told through one of his giant statues.
Old World, New Powers (1100 - 300 BC)
Neil MacGregor's world history continues with images of war made over 2,500 years ago.
Sphinx of Taharqo
How Egypt was conquered by Sudan and how a black sphinx proves it.
Chinese Zhou Ritual Vessel
A 3,000-year-old Chinese ritual and a bronze burial object.
Neil MacGregor considers ancient textiles from Peru.
Gold Coin of Croesus
Neil MacGregor discusses the world's first proper coins that made King Croesus so rich.
The World in the Age of Confucius (500 - 300 BC)
Oxus Chariot Model
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a tiny gold chariot from ancient Persia.
Parthenon Sculpture: Centaur and Lapith
Neil MacGregor on some of the world's most disputed objects: the Parthenon sculptures.
Basse Yutz Flagons
Neil MacGregor explores the early world of the Celts through two bronze drinking flagons.
Olmec Stone Mask
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a forgotten people of ancient Mexico.
Chinese Bronze Bell
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a Chinese bronze bell from the age of Confucius.
Empire Builders (300 BC - 1 AD)
Head of Alexander
Neil MacGregor tells the story of Alexander the Great through a small silver coin.
Pillar of Ashoka
Neil MacGregor on the life and legacy of the great Indian ruler Ashoka.
Neil MacGregor with one of the past's most recognisable objects; the Rosetta Stone.
Chinese Han lacquer cup
Neil MacGregor on a beautiful lacquer cup and the imperial ambitions of Han Dynasty China.
Head of Augustus
The 2,000-year-old bronze head of one of the world's most famous rulers: Caesar Augustus.
Ancient Pleasures, Modern Spice (1 - 600 AD)
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a Roman silver cup with the power to shock.
North American Otter Pipe
Neil MacGregor on a 2,000-year-old stone pipe from North America.
Ceremonial Ballgame Belt
Neil MacGregor discovers the oldest ball game on earth.
Neil MacGregor examines an ancient Chinese scroll that rules on how women should behave.
Hoxne Pepper Pot
Neil MacGregor uses a silver pepper pot to tell of the Roman spice trade with India.
The Rise of World Faiths (200 - 600 AD)
Seated Buddha from Gandhara
Neil MacGregor tells the story of one of the world's best known figures, the Buddha.
Gold Coin of Kumaragupta I
Neil MacGregor examines the rise of religious imagery in India under the Guptas.
Silver Plate Showing Shapur II
Neil MacGregor examines a dramatic image of power and faith from ancient Iran.
Hinton St Mary Mosaic
Neil MacGregor encounters one of the earliest images of Christ.
Arabian Bronze Hand
A mysterious bronze hand helps tell the story of religious belief in Arabia before Islam.
The Silk Road And Beyond (400 - 700 AD)
Gold Coins of Abd al-Malik
Two gold coins from Syria which sum up one of history's greatest political upheavals.
Sutton Hoo Helmet
Neil MacGregor with one of the most sensational finds from Anglo-Saxon Britain.
Moche Warrior Pot
Neil MacGregor examines a pottery warrior figure from a forgotten people in Peru.
Korean Roof Tile
Neil MacGregor delves into the history of an artefact from Korea.
Silk Princess Painting
Neil MacGregor examines a painting from the Silk Road.
Inside The Palace: Secrets At Court (700 - 950 AD)
Maya Relief of Royal Blood-Letting
A disturbing, bloody image from the ancient Mayan civilisation.
Harem wall painting fragments
Neil MacGregor on mysterious faces from a harem in an ancient city north of Baghdad.
Neil MacGregor examines an engraved crystal and royal intrigue at the heart of Europe.
Statue of Tara
Neil MacGregor looks at a beguiling statue of the Buddhist deity Tara.
Chinese Tang tomb figures
Neil MacGregor examines a collection of tomb figures from Tang dynasty China.
Pilgrims, Raiders and Traders (900 - 1300 AD)
Vale of York Hoard
Neil MacGregor explores a great Viking silver hoard discovered in North Yorkshire.
Hedwig glass beaker
Neil MacGregor with a glass vessel linked with a saintly miracle worker.
Japanese bronze mirror
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a bronze mirror found in a sacred pond in Japan.
Borobudur Buddha head
Neil MacGregor examines a stone head of the Buddha from Borobudur on the island of Java.
Kilwa pot sherds
Neil MacGregor sifts through broken pot fragments from an African beach.
Status Symbols (1200 - 1400 AD)
Neil MacGregor examines a board game found in the Outer Hebrides.
Neil MacGregor examines an extraordinary astronomical instrument.
Neil MacGregor examines a magnificent brass head from the African city of Ife.
The David Vases
Neil MacGregor examines a pair of porcelain vases from Yuan dynasty China.
Taino Ritual Seat
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a ritual seat from a lost Caribbean culture.
Meeting The Gods (1200 - 1400 AD)
Holy Thorn Reliquary
Neil MacGregor examines a reliquary made for a thorn from Christ's crown of thorns.
Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
Neil MacGregor tells the story of a 14th-century icon from the Byzantine Empire.
Shiva and Parvati Sculpture
Neil MacGregor examines a stone sculpture of the Hindu deity Shiva and his consort Parvati
Statue of Huastec Goddess
Neil MacGregor examines a sculpture of a goddess made by the Huastec people of Mexico.
Hoa Hakananai'a Easter Island Statue
Neil MacGregor discusses one of the extraordinary giant figures from Easter Island.
The Threshold of the Modern World (1375-1550 AD)
Tughra of Suleiman the Magnificent
Neil MacGregor with the personal monogram of Suleyman the Magnificent.
Neil MacGregor with a 14th century bank note - from Ming Dynasty China.
Inca Gold Llama
Neil MacGregor with a model of a llama - the animal behind the Inca Empire.
Jade Dragon Cup
Neil MacGregor with a jade cup that belonged a great leader of the Timurid Empire.
Neil MacGregor discusses Durer's Rhinoceros.
The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 AD)
The mechanical galleon
Neil Macgregor with a clockwork galleon designed for a grand dinner table.
Benin plaque - the Oba with Europeans
Neil MacGregor with some of the best examples of African art, the great plaques of Benin.
Neil MacGregor with one of the stars of the British Museum - an Aztec serpent.
Neil MacGregor with porcelain white elephants from Japan.
Pieces of eight
Neil MacGregor with the first truly global money - silver pieces of eight.
Tolerance and Intolerance (1550 - 1700 AD)
The Shi'a religious parade standard
Neil Macgregor with a powerful symbol from Shia Iran.
Miniature of a Mughal prince
Neil MacGregor with a miniature painting from Mughal India.
Shadow Puppet of Bima
Neil MacGregor explores religion and politics in South East Asia - through a shadow puppet
Mexican codex map
Neil MacGregor explores the Spanish religious conquest of Mexico with a map.
Reformation centenary broadsheet
Neil MacGregor with a souvenir of the 100th anniversary of the Protestant reformation.
The 100th Object
Evan Davis runs through the contenders for A History of the World's last object.
Exploration, Exploitation and Enlightenment (1680 - 1820 AD)
Neil MacGregor with an African drum taken to America during the slave trade.
Hawaiian feather helmet
Neil MacGregor with a feathered helmet given to Captain Cook by Pacific Islanders.
North American buckskin map
Neil MacGregor with a buckskin map from North America.
Australian bark shield
Neil MacGregor with an aboriginal bark shield brought from Australia by Captain Cook.
Neil MacGregor with an object from the 18th century Chinese Enlightenment - a jade ring.
Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 AD)
Ship's chronometer from HMS Beagle
Neil MacGregor with the chronometer that accompanied Darwin to South America.
Early Victorian tea set
Neil MacGregor tells the story of the global trade in tea - with a Victorian tea set.
Hokusai's The Great Wave
Neil MacGregor with a familiar image - Hokusai's The Great Wave.
Sudanese slit drum
Neil MacGregor with a wooden drum from Sudan that Kitchener presented to Queen Victoria.
Neil MacGregor with a penny coin defaced by suffragettes with the words "Votes for women".
The World of Our Making (1914 - 2010 AD)
Russian revolutionary plate
Neil MacGregor nears the end of his world history - with a Russian revolutionary plate.
Hockney's In the Dull Village
Neil MacGregor considers the state of human rights - with a David Hockney print.
Throne of Weapons
Neil MacGregor with an African throne - made from decommissioned guns.
Neil MacGregor with a credit card - one that is compliant with Sharia law.
Solar-powered lamp and charger
Neil MacGregor's last object in his world history - a solar-powered lamp and charger.
The Time Machine
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the science and ideas in HG Wells' story of time travel.
Carolyn Hitt explores the surge in spiritualism in the years after the First World War.
Christian Carlisle takes an in depth look at the rich musical heritage of the region.
He’s “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. He is Lord Byron.
Wangari Maathai Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist
Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai fought to save forests and protect human rights