TREASURES OF THE WORLD – THE STORY
During lockdown I called many friends and colleagues working in archaeology and heritage across the world to check how they were and to see what, if anything, we could do to help. The answer was pretty much unanimous ‘show that we’re still here, show that we’re still trying to do what we can to uncover the human story across time’. So the minute it was legal we formed a tiny, tight filming bubble, waved goodbye to our families, and went on the road. Our aim was to find remarkable culture and brand new discoveries, to celebrate neglected voices and stories, to understand those moments in time when people have collaborated across borders and boundaries and to try to understand how the past shapes our lives today. We discovered so much about resilience and the human spirit, and felt so honoured that people wanted to share their passion and their finds with us. Our access was just incredible, we owe a debt of gratitude to all who helped. These films - Season Two of Treasures of the World is now being shown on Channel 4 and on All 4 and around the world, we have many more episodes in production for the future and we launch with Treasures of Turkey - The Delights of the East on Feb 11th at 7pm. Enjoy! Here’s a log of my travels through Türkiye…
Travelling in a 4x4 through the spectacular otherworldly region of Cappadocia, I visited rock-carved settlements to understand how communities lived and thrived in this strange landscape for centuries. Kaymaklı is a feat of engineering with 100 tunnels over 8 floors, cleverly designed to accommodate thousands of people.
I then made my way to the 10,000-year-old temple and settlement at Göbeklitepe to further understand how hunter gatherers were far more sophisticated than previously thought. We were also allowed to film a 11,400-year neolithic site- at Karahantepe. We are the first film crew allowed down into the digs themselves. Then we were taken to a brand-new discovery - the incredible 11,400-year-old, stone-carved storyboard discovered in a cellar outside Şanlıurfa, in Southeastern Türkiye - from a similar period to Göbeklitepe. The stone carving shows a naked man being attacked by big cats and a charging bull. It was just discovered in a villager's cellar this year. It has never been filmed before. Extraordinary. It is the world’s first storyboard.
We went on to explore Şanlıurfa, one of the most important pilgrimage cities of the Middle East, believed to be the birthplace of Abraham. According to that tradition, Abraham’s mother was pregnant when King Nimrod was given a terrible prophecy by his stargazers that a boy child would destroy his Kingdom. Paranoid, the King had all pregnant woman brought to his palace. If they delivered a girl, they were allowed to go free. But if it was a boy, then that child was killed. So, to guard against this terrible fate. Abraham’s mother hid in a cave and birthed her son safely. The cave Abraham is said to have been born in, around 4000 years ago, is now in a mosque in Şanlıurfa. The cave of Abraham is visited by people from all faiths.
Travelling by boat on the Euphrates, I then went to Zeugma, an ancient Roman frontier city submerged in the river. In Zeugma we were allowed access by the archaeology team to a newly restored Roman house, saved from flooding by the Zeugma dam project. Here in the women's quarters graffiti has been identified left by the Roman women (time of Hadrian/Trajan) seeking protection from invading Sassanians. The graffiti includes 'SPQR', a drawing of the women's husband (a camelarius) and an attacking Sassanian. The mosaics here are also of stellar quality, featuring the Muses and female heroines from history - these are women's quarters. It was so fascinating to see the heroine women they chose to decorate their floors. World-class quality.
Finally, at the crack of dawn, I hiked up to Mount Nemrut, the highest open-air museum in the world, discovering a giant 2000 -year- old mausoleum built for King Antiochus 1st. We haven't actually discovered Antiochos’ tomb yet – but his burial is almost certainly right inside the mountain. 9-metre-tall statues of Gods decorate the peak- a statement that Antiochus saw himself as a King aligned with the Gods. It is one of the most awesome sights in the world.
Catch up on other episodes on All 4!
Treasures of Türkiye- Sea and Secrets
Boarding a traditional gulet yacht, I set sail along the coast of Türkiye.
At modern day Bodrum, ancient Halicarnassus, I uncovered the story of a remarkable ruling family from the 4th century BCE- the Hecatomnids.
Mausolos of Halicarnassus built one of the Seven Wonders of the world - his own tomb, the original Mausoleum. But before that he constructed a beautiful, secret tomb for his dad, Hecatomnus. We were given exclusive access to this tomb of Hecatomnus, this was only discovered by chance when an organised crime gang were busted for having drilled through the bedrock to rob it in 2015. Archaeologists first went in in 2019, but it has not been shown to anyone else. This is an incredible scoop. No one else has filmed here before. Only restorers have been allowed in. It is a masterpiece from the ancient world. Mausolos himself is shown as a child and as a young man on the carvings.
I loved returning to world-famous site of Troy to reveal how the tales of the Trojan War are rooted in reality. With the Director of Excavations at Troy we uncovered, on screen, the 4,500-year-old burnt mud-brick of the palace where Schliemann discovered the 'Jewels of Helen'. A palace burnt to the ground.
Finally, at Ephesus, one of the greatest cities of antiquity, I explored the cult of the goddess Artemis in public and private life. I got to walk through the newly restored private homes in Ephesus - with hot and cold water and frescoes that rival Pompeii and revealed how the people of Ephesus took to the streets in the 1st century to protest against Christianity. But despite initial resistance to the new – Christian religion flourished in Ephesus. The city had a special connection to Jesus’ mother Mary who is said to have spent her final years nearby. The first church in the world to be dedicated to Mary stands here. And not only that but right here at the council of Ephesus in the 5th CE, Mary was declared ‘theotokos’ the mother of God.
Treasures of Türkiye - İstanbul
I travelled back to my favourite city in the world- magnificent İstanbul, powerbase of the Ottoman and Eastern-Roman empires, a place that has fascinated me for over thirty years. Once known as Byzantion or Byzantium, Constantinople and now İstanbul, this is the ‘Queen of Cities’. I went behind the scenes to my favourite locations across the city uncovering its many rich layers of history. With special access to the wonders of Hagia Sophia, and its upper galleries, and the subterranean Basilica Cistern with its medusa head columns, this was a remarkable tour of İstanbul’s gems.
At the jewel of the Ottoman empire- Topkapı Palace, I explored the extensive gardens, revealing the Sultan’s passion for flowers and exotic animals. With rare access into the pavilions and kiosks, I was mesmerised by the colourful mosaics and stained-glass windows. Leaving İstanbul, I visited the Princes’ Islands where mansions stand side by side with the ruined home of political exile, Trotsky. With special access to the Prinkipo Orphanage – Europe’s largest wooden building – I was moved by the stories of more than 1,000 children who once lived there.