What makes us human? It’s our stuff.
A truly incredible radio series from the BBC traces the history of human civilization through 100 objects from the British Museum. It kicked off last week with an Egyptian mummy from the third century BC (the series apparently isn’t purely chronological–object number 2 was a 1.8-million-year-old carved stone chopping tool). The show runs through September, ending with modern marvels like the credit card, Soviet propaganda, and Hokusai’s famous Wave. Object 100 is still a secret though–any guesses?
Maybe it’s the recession (it’s always the recession), but we seem to be going through a phase of self-analysis-through-stuff. There’s “Hoarders”, of course, and Rob Walker’s great site Significant Objects, and a host of books like Taking Things Seriously. But this is the first study I’ve seen that takes it back to the source: stone tools and spear points.
Listen here, and check out the awesome companion Web site, where users can upload their own significant objects and explain why they deserve a spot on the list. Your iPhone may be sweet, but can it really beat the Clovis point?