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Best Anthropology Videos

DVD Format Documentaries on Archaeology and Anthropology

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Looking for that perfect gift for the archaeology nerd in your family? Here you'll find a collection of reviews of recent anthropology and archaeology videos, published by trustworthy publishers and currently available on DVD.

Nostalgia for the Light

Nostalgia for the Light - Cover Art
Courtesy Icarus Films

Nostalgia for the Light is a film by Patricio Guzman, on the high altitude desert in Chile called Atacama. Atacama is famous in archaeological circles for preserving the oldest known mummies in the world, and for being the perilous trade route used by both the Inca and Tiwanaku civilizations. Nostalgia for the Light presents the meaning of the Atacama, from billions of years ago as seen from astronomical observatories to the fallout from the Pinochet regime's massacres. Fascinating!

Time Team: Unearthing The Roman Invasion

Time Team: Unearthing the Roman Invasion
Athena Learning and Acorn Media

Unearthing the Roman Invasion is a collection of twelve episodes from the British reality TV program Time Team. This delightful educational romp takes the viewer through the villas and temples and way stations and forts and military cemeteries and shops of the ancient Roman Empire. Nearly 600 minutes of video on four DVD discs can be watched again and again. I loved it!

PBS Nova: Ancient Marvels

Ancient Marvels: PBS Explorer Collection Video Cover
Courtesy Shop PBS

PBS's phenomenally successful science program NOVA has produced plenty of anthropology and archaeology related videos since it began more than 35 years ago. This new collection brings six videos covering the scientific search for clues as to how ancient people built Stonehenge, the Great Sphinx, Machu Picchu, the Parthenon, Easter Island moai, and the Song Dynasty Rainbow Bridge (a bonus). Nearly six hours of video in a boxed set.

See Shop PBS for additional details

Standing with Stones

While pretty much everyone has heard of Stonehenge, you might not be aware that there are thousands of stone circles, boulders, marked pathways, lines of sight, wooden poles, underground passageways, inscriptions, and astronomical alignments all over Europe. Standing with Stones is a terrific introduction to the megalithic monuments in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales from director Michael Bott and produced by Illuminated Word in 2009. Presenter Rupert Soskin takes the viewer on a geographic tour of dozens of sites within their pastoral or woodland or seaside environments.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog is a film director famous for such movies as Aguirre Wrath of God, who has turned his attention to documentaries of late, including the fascinating train wreck called Grizzly Man. Cave of Forgotten Dreams documents Herzog's visit to the fabulous Upper Paleolithic Chauvet Cave in France. This 32,000 year-old cave is decorated with beautiful paintings of animals, and Herzog's three-dimensional images of them are simply astounding. DVD and Blu-Ray formats available.

Legacy of a Lost Civilization

The ancient stone structures of the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo are some 6,000 years old, and this video, produced by the Mediterranean Institute of Ancient Civilizations and the Old Temples Study Foundation focuses on four major above-ground temples (Ggantija, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien) and the underground charnel house/temple called Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.

Waking the Baby Mammoth

Waking the Baby Mammoth - Video Cover
National Geographic

Waking the Baby Mammoth is an hour-long video from National Geographic, published in 2009, on the recovery and study of an excellently preserved baby mammoth called Lyuba. The 1-2 month old female woolly mammoth died about 40,000 years ago, in what is today the Yamal region of Siberia. Narrator Victor Garber leads us to laboratories in Japan, Russia and the United States, where scientists tell us what they have learned about this amazing animal.

The Human Family Tree

The Human Family Tree - Video Cover
National Geographic

National Geographic's 90 minute The Human Family Tree is the product of the Genographic Project and National Geographic, describing the ongoing research of the famous investigative team up until 2009. The program is a fascinating look at ancient human migration patterns beginning with our evolution and exit from Africa, and how they are not, by and large, reflected in the perceived ethnic differences of today.

Time Team America: Range Creek

Time Team America Member Jeff Brown Descends to a Fremont Culture Granary
Credit: Doug Brazil

Of the Time Team programs from 2009, I believe I liked the Range Creek investigations best. Range Creek is a region in the Great Basin of Utah in the American southwest, where several Fremont culture sites are located. The Fremont culture were farmers, who lived in the arid high altitude canyon for some 800 years beginning about 600 AD. The Fremont are best known for their rock art, etched into the stones of the canyon.

Time Team America: Fort Raleigh

Time Team America’s lead digger Chelsea Rose at work at Fort Raleigh
Crystal Street
The British series of Time Team was imported to the United States in 2009. In this video, Time Team America visits the state of North Carolina, specifically Roanoke Island, to search for the lost colony of Sir Walter Raleigh. Every school kid knows about the first English child born in the New World was Virginia Dare: but what they don't know is that the fort truly is lost, that archaeologists have yet to discover its location.

Lost Cities of the Amazon

Lost Cities of the Amazon
National Geographic

Lost Cities of the Amazon is a terrific video from National Geographic, combining history, archaeology and environmental issues in one highly entertaining package. The 90 minute video tells the story of the 16th Spanish conquistadors searching for what they called "El Dorado", and got lost in the Amazonian jungle; and the 21st century archaeologists who had far better luck finding the communities who lived and thrived there.

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