A beautifully produced two-part program from the DW Documentary series, Secrets of the Stone Age attempts to unveil the truths behind key moments in the history of humankind.
The first segment - titled From Hunters to Farmers - travels back in time 12,000 years ago when humans transitioned from hunters-gatherers to a more sedentary lifestyle. The development of farming techniques forced a change in diet, a reliance on the consumption of domesticated animals, and robust population growth.
The discovery of ancient ruins - such as those uncovered in the Gobeklitepe site in southeastern Turkey - have inspired a greater clarity in our understanding of this transition. The markings on these structures reveal the fears of those who existed during this Neolithic period, as well as their beliefs in the close ties between the natural and supernatural worlds. Burial sites house decomposed skulls and deteriorated bones. Through the use of carbon dating, isotope analysis and DNA testing, scientists can use these ruins and relics to pinpoint everything from vitamin deficiencies to stress factors to migration patterns.
These large stone ruins inform the basis of the film's second segment titled Witnesses for Eternity. Pre-historic settlements in Jordan, Syria, northern Iraq and southern Anatolia have provided clues into how these stones were made, what they represent, and how they were transported given the technologies of the time. They also offer valuable insights into housing constructions and class divisions.
The film can be viewed as a stunning globe-trotting adventure, especially for enthusiasts of ancient history. The filmmakers rely on a variety of interview subjects to elucidate this rich and complex history, and their narrative is complimented by stunning footage of each archeological site they explore. Animations are used to portray the way of life for those who embraced the earliest iterations of agriculture in the form of grain and livestock farming.
This documentary features a wealth of fascinating information regarding ancient customs, technological developments and primitive living conditions. It's also a potent tribute to the essential work of archeologists and anthropologists who devote their lives to deepening the understanding of our species.