The BBC and the British Museum are starting an ambitious project this week —telling the history of the world through 100 objects in the museum’s vast collection, in fifteen minute chunks on Radio 4.
It’s a fascinating idea, aiming to look across the whole world, rather than being Euro-centric. And it’s early days, so we don’t know what most of the objects are.
One of the first, however, is a hand-axe from the Olduvai Gorge in Africa, painstakingly chipped from volcanic glass and shaped to fit perfectly into a human hand. It’s the earliest piece of technology that we know of: evidence of the use of reasoning to find a way to amplify the human ability to accomplish a task. In other words, it’s a piece of engineering.
We’ll be listening in carefully to the series over the coming weeks. Engineering has been a hallmark of humanity for the species’ entire existence, it seems. It’ll be fascinating to discover just how many of the objects embody human ingenuity and the development of technology.
Special Projects Editor