Tuesday, June 22, 2010


HOW THE EARTH CHANGED HISTORY – EPISODE 1, National Geographic Channel, Host: Professor Ian Stewart, 2010.

The introductory episode of this new series focused upon water and how its presence or absence has affected human cultures. As it opened the host was seen driving across the sand of the Sahara and he stated that he was six hours from the nearest human habitation. He arrived at a cliff upon which he pointed out a collection of marvelous petroglyphs of African wildlife. Images on the cliff included giraffes, crocodiles, antelope, a warthog, and many others, and his point was that this locale had once been well watered and lush. This sequence also included some of the most amazing and marvelous film effects I have ever seen. It began with a petroglyph of a lizard which was engraved into the cliff, while the camera was focused directly on it, as we watched all of a sudden the lizard scurried up the cliff face and away. Not turned into a real lizard which ran off mind you, the petroglyph, the image grooved into the cliff face began to move. Then other images also began to move including an elephant petroglyph which shook its head and moved its trunk. The surprise was considerable because I had never seen, or even imagined, anything like this.

While I have not fully figured out my reactions and thoughts about it the first thing that came to mind was that I have just seen something totally new and unique. The whole concept of rock art has always been solid permanence, and the idea of petroglyphs as ephemeral moving images seems a total reversal of our expectations. In the long run this sort of modification to our habitual expectations will open up new areas of consideration and understanding of the meaning and effect of these images. In a small way, in my chosen field of study it was a historic moment, and I did not even know the name of the art director who came up with the idea. I have sent an inquiry to the National Geographic Channel asking for the name of the person who should get credit. I will pass that information on if I receive an answer.

Watch for a rerun of this amazing program on the National Geographic Channel and let me know what you think when you see it.

No comments:

Post a Comment