Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 6, “The Somerset Levels and Moors” and “Euskal Jaiak”

StrataImage-webEpisode 6 of the documentary series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute, comprises two films that explore the forces that bind us as a people in a particular society.

From King Arthur and the Isle of Avalon to the incredibly preserved remains of prehistoric trackways and lake villages, the unique wetland of the Somerset Levels and Moors in southwest England has a rich and varied heritage. Part 1 of Episode 6 reveals how humans have adapted to and tamed the natural elements of this region, making it the repository of thousands of years of civilization.

Part 2, “Euskal Jaiak,” captures the spirit of the annual gathering of Basque families from across the American West on the July 4th weekend in Elko, Nevada.  This film highlights the 2013 National Basque Festival, featuring music, dancing, traditional foods and competitions in weightlifting, log splitting and chorizo-making.

These two films present cultures separated by time and geography. But these films also share universal and very primal themes: a reverence for the land, an attachment to ancestral roots and the indomitable force of our collective sense of legacy.

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 march 2015

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

Lesson Plans


  • To introduce students to the concept of cultural heritage and its relationship to the natural world
  • To  demonstrate to students how ancient people developed cultural identity
  • To think about the different ways we identify who we are and where we belong
  • To appreciate how even in modern times ancient lives can still influence us, and how bonding to a people and a region is a powerful human force


  • To grasp the importance of cultural preservation by appreciating how deeply we humans are connected to our ancestral roots
  • To realize how civilizations through time have tamed and shaped the natural environment, and how today we must preserve and respect our planet’s resources
  • To appreciate the importance of language to cultural identity and learn about the current efforts in preserving dying languages

Lesson Plan 1

The Somerset Levels and Moors

Project Idea #1

  • Create a chart of the different people who lived in this area of England. Next to each name write how they were able to adapt to their environment, including the technologies they developed to sustain their societies.
  • How do people today adapt to different environments? Make a chart describing how in modern times people have adapted to such hostile climates as: the Artic, the desert and the jungle.

Project Idea #2

  • Class discussion: Imagine a colony on a distant planet. What must be considered to live in such an environment? What are the pros and cons of this kind of colonization? What comparisons can you make with past colonizations on Earth, such as by the Spanish in the  Americas or the English worldwide? What are some of the lessons learned from these events?
  • Pretend you are a travel writer going to a colony on Mars. Describe your trip and what you see.

Project Idea #3

  • Class discussion: In the film the comment is made that “…climate change will pose new challenges” and that this region is a “living landscape to celebrate and cherish.”  Why do you think there is concern of this sort about the land?
  • Write an essay (250-500 words) about why you think people become so attached to their ancestral lands. Include the idea of how people view property: as owners, as caretakers, as stewards. How would people’s idea of property affect their connection to the land?

Lesson Plan 2

Euskal Jaiak

Project Idea #1

  • Class discussion: How do cultures evolve? In this film on the Basque culture, a comment is made that the songs and dances were about “simple things from a long time ago.” Why would weaving or farming, for example, be the subjects of singing and dancing?
  • Write a song about the things that are important to you. You can make up your own melody or borrow from a song that already exists. What should you include that defines you and will be remembered for future generations?

Project Idea #2

  • In the video we learn that Basque is an endangered language. Explore the Endangered Languages Project site.
  • Explore the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) site and watch the video on endangered languages.
  • Class discussion: Why is language important to a people? If a language is dying out, why should it be revived? How is the internet influencing language and how the people of the world speak to each other?
  • Think about how language defines a group. For example, what words or phrases do you and your friends say all the time? What slang do you use?  What words are part of your “in” group conversations?  Now imagine it’s 2215. A linguistic archaeologist has found a recording of you and your friends talking. Write a report as an archaeologist on who and what this group in 2015 was all about. How accurate would this be? What could be misinterpreted? What values would an archaeologist attribute to your group?

Web links:

Center for Basque Studies (University of Nevada, Reno)

Narrative History of England (Britannia)

Nevada Arts Council

Sheepherders of Northern Nevada (University of Nevada, Reno)

Somerset County Council

Somerset Levels (Wikipedia)

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