Examining the drive of people to depict death and violence in artwork; and to surround themselves with images of loved ones. Included: the discovery of decorated skulls in the ancient city of Jericho; the terrifying images created by the Moche, who lived in northern Peru from 100 to 700; the Etruscans' vision of the afterlife; and the depiction of Jesus on the Cross.
An examination of how the powerful storytelling medium of movies relies on techniques first developed in the ancient world. Included: how King Ashurbanipal, the 7th-century B.C. ruler of Assyria, augmented his image through art, including reliefs that depicted the war he waged against the Elamites; how Greek artists in the 1st century B.C. depicted Homer's tale of Odysseus via marble sculptures; and the storytelling techniques of Australia's Aborigines.
An examination of how kings, emperors and politicians through the ages have used images to influence and manipulate their subjects. Included: a Bronze Age ruler buried near Stonehenge whose possessions include gold hair clasps; the walls of Persepolis, which the Persian king Darius the Great had decorated with stone reliefs; Alexander the Great's use of his own likeness to unify the Persian Empire behind him; and the Roman leader Augustus, who used art to represent himself as a peacemaker.
Nigel Spivey investigates images made during what anthropologists call the “creative explosion” 35,000 years ago. His journey takes him to Altamira, Spain, where the first prehistoric paintings were discovered. He compares them with rock art made by the San bushmen of southern Africa just a few hundred years ago; and to similar drawings by American Indians. Rock-art experts David Lewis Williams and David Whitley lend insight.
The unrealistic portrayal of the human body in art, which dates back to prehistoric times, is explored. Included: the Venus of Willendorf, a tiny statue discovered in Austria that's 25,000 years old; how ancient Egyptians depicted the body; and how ancient Greeks adapted exaggeration into their portrayals of the body.