Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 5, “Archaeology in 12 Minutes” and “Photographing the Invisible”

StrataImage-webEpisode 5 of the new documentary series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute, is a two-part episode 1) illustrating the history of archaeology and 2) demonstrating one of the technologies used today to recover the amazing artistry of our ancestors.

In Part I, “Archaeology in 12 Minutes,” Christian Ris takes us on a travelogue through time to reconstruct in 12 minutes—yes, 12 minutes—the story of archaeology. With Ris’ inimitable style, wit and time-worn (and enigmatic) trench coat, he propels us on a fast-paced journey enumerating archaeological challenges, mysteries and major advances. With this lively narration and a series of drawings and archived images, “Archaeology in 12 Minutes” shows that people from the earliest times have always been interested in our collective heritage.

In “Photographing the Invisible” research engineer Andre Pelle explains how he has used black light and intricate exploitation of digital photography to expose the secrets of the catacombs of Kom el-Shougafa in Alexandria, Egypt, the mummies of the Taklamakan Desert in China and an Etruscan sarcophagus.  Pelle demonstrates how he is uncovering the pictorial complexity and exquisite artistry of these ancient cultures in images that are barely perceptible to the naked eye, but are gloriously unveiled through modern techniques.

Strata: Portraits of Humanity is a monthly half-hour video series available online and on select cable channels. Strata is a showcase for unique and diverse stories about the world’s cultural heritage. Stories come from across the globe with segments produced by Archaeological Legacy Institute and dozens of producer and distributor partners around the world.

Click on the image below to view the documentary on The Archaeology Channel and scroll down to see the curriculum developed by AntiquityNOW to accompany this episode’s videos.

Strata February 2015

*Produced in 2014 by Archaeological Legacy Institute, Copyright 2014 by Archaeological Legacy Institute

Lesson Plans

spade-309940_640 OBJECTIVES

  • To introduce students to the concept of cultural heritage and its legacy today
  • To demonstrate to students how ancient people developed cultural identity
  • To appreciate how even in modern times ancient lives can still influence us
  • To understand how from ancient to modern times humankind has been intrigued by history and by the lives of our collective ancestors
  • To discover the ways that modern technology is capturing past lives and civilizations, expanding our awareness of ancient times and finding correlations in the human experience throughout history


  • To grasp the importance of cultural preservation by appreciating what we learn from ancient endeavor and how it applies today
  • To realize how civilizations and the ancient ingenuity that created them don’t die as long as we memorialize and record our global inheritance

Lesson Plan 1

Archaeology in 12 Minutes

Project Idea #1

  • Write down the names of some of the cultures from the video. Mix up the letters. Now switch papers with a classmate and see if each of you can decipher the names.
  • Write next to each deciphered name why this culture is important or some of the contributions of this culture to world history.

Project Idea #2

  • Think about how this video presents so much material in only 12 minutes. How do the film’s producers compress so much information? What techniques do they use?
  • Think about the last school year and some of the major events that you remember. (You can use another subject if you want such as a trip you took over the course of a few days.) See if you can compress the events into a 30-second presentation. What images, words, sights and sounds would you use? Do a storyboard to help you visualize what you want to say.

Lesson Plan 2

Photographing the Invisible

Project Idea #1

  • Group Activity: Break into groups and discuss the following ideas. Share your comments and thoughts with the rest of the groups.
  • Chinese artist Song Dong has written a daily diary on a particular block of stone for years. Each day he meticulously writes his entry in water, and it disappears, leaving only the memory embedded in the stone. He carries this stone with him because he believes it contains the story of his life. Read more about Song Dong and other artists and consider the concepts raised about memory, art and the power of invisibility.
  • Write an essay (250-600 words) on why you think our ancestors took such pains to record their lives and compare to how people today are capturing their own life moments. Use specific examples to make your points.

Project Idea #2

  • See how you can create invisible images using one of the five methods described in this video.
  • Draw or write a message on your paper.
  • Switch your paper with a classmate’s; fill in and color the hidden message(s).

Project Idea #3

  • Write a short story to accompany your artwork or that of your classmate’s.

Web links:

Center for Alexandrian Studies

History of archaeology (Wikipedia)

History of Archaeology: The Series (

Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP)

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