Iain Stewart - Journeys from the Centre of the Earth [6 TVrip (AVI)]
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The Mediterranean is one of the cradles of western civilisation, but it is a restless world. For its tranquil, sun-lapped shores are also amongst the most volatile places on an ever-changing Earth. The Mediterranean we know today has been forged in a violent hearth of clashing continents, rising mountains, a turbulent climate and restless seas.
BBC - Journeys from the Centre of the Earth (2004) - Iain Stewart
It is an irony that most visitors go there to relax. In fact, the Mediterranean is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Some visitors go for the beautiful scenery and relaxing beaches, some go for art and culture, others for the food and drink. But whether they are drawn by heart, head or stomach, none of what they desire would be there if it wasn't for geology.
The Mediterranean owes its shape, its architecture, its culture, its food, and the basic realities of its life, to geology.
In this series Iain Stewart is a kind of geological tour guide, travelling the Mediterranean to reveal the hidden side of some of the most familiar holiday destinations. By viewing places like Greece, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Egypt through rock-tinted spectacles, Iain tries to show you the connections between why you enjoy the Mediterranean now - the beach, the art, the architecture, the food, the culture - and the civilizations that have been there before you.
Each film romps back through the layers of civilizations until Iain hits rock bottom in his quest to uncover how what we do today has been shaped by the people (and the rocks) who were there before us.
Visiting all the most popular Mediterranean tourist hotspots and hi-jacking unsuspecting holiday makers along the way, Iain reveals how what lies beneath our feet is behind everything from the rise and fall of civilizations to the essential elements of our modern world, and from its spectacular scenery to its deadly dangers.
In Journeys, each programme is a whistle-stop tour that takes in many popular and seemingly familiar tourist destinations providing a unique geologist's insight which can't be found in the guide books.
Programme-by-programme guides to Iain Stewart's geology series.
Programme 1: Risky Rocks
All over the Mediterranean region, earthquakes have created a huge network of cracks in the ground. These faults provide pathways for all kinds of stuff to rise up to the top from deep below - gases, elements, molten lava.
Sometimes what comes up is good for us, sometimes bad. Just as it can be a kill or cure for an individual, so it can contribute to the rise and fall of entire civilisations. As a geologist, Iain sidesteps the tour guides of the Med and shows us how cracks in the Earth have changed the course of human history.
We look at earthquakes in Turkey; the health spa and entrance to hell at Pamukkale (good water and bad gas); a theory that asphalt is behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; how the use of copper and tin brought about the Bronze Age and how lead poisoned the Romans. We also include volcanic eruptions at Santorini.
Programme 2: Architecture
The architectural styles that the ancients used were, to a large extent, dictated by the rocks which were available to them on their doorstep. We look at how rocks influenced the Egyptians to build pyramids, the Greeks to build squares and the Romans to build arches.
It was how the rocks were formed millions of years ago which determined whether they were best suited to be building materials for an Egyptian pyramid, a Greek Parthenon or a Roman Colosseum.
Programme 3: Art
This programme relates rocks and geology to the use of pigments in art. Early cave painters began by scraping their colours from rocks on the Earth's surface, but civilisations like the Egyptians and Arabs developed ingenious techniques to transform rocks and dramatically broaden the range of their palettes.
Bringing this story up to the present day, Iain shows how advances in our understanding of rocks has given each generation of artists new potential.
Read more: Discovering the hidden stories in art
Programme 4: Beliefs
The Mediterranean is full of beautiful vistas. But pretty landscapes are much more than a feast for the eyes. Throughout the ages, they have been a huge influence on our beliefs about the way our planet works.
In the Med, rocks fashioned the way people thought about everything from the existence of God to the extinction of dinosaurs. It was once believed many powerful gods were responsible for everything and that they showed their displeasure with almighty catastrophes such as earthquakes or volcanoes.
Today, most accept the planet is shaped by the laws of nature. We know that whilst some geological processes are indeed catastrophic, others take place over millions and millions of years. Iain shows us how the rocks beneath our feet have been constantly forcing us to rethink our beliefs about life, the universe and everything.
This is largely a story of religion and science, but it is also about the debate over geological timescales. We look at the disappearance of Helike; the conversion of King Constantine - thanks to a comet; the Lisbon earthquake; and we go on to look at the discoveries of pioneers such as Leclerc and Lyell. We finish by going into the more recent understanding of plate tectonics and the KT boundary.
Programme 5: Water
This programme is about man's struggle with water. Because water is so crucial to us, the really successful civilisations are the ones which have learned how best to exploit it. But whether they can control the water or the water controls them is all down to what's beneath our feet? the rocks.
We look at: the flooding of the Black Sea when the level of the Med rose 10,000 years ago; the connection between rocks and man's attempts to navigate; the Greeks' use of sink holes to control their water supply - including how sink holes were used against them by enemies in the battle of Mantinea, back in 418BC; we go to Ephesus in Greece to look at how silting up left the city stranded inland and we finish with the opposite problem happening on the Costa del Sol where beaches are being washed away.
Programme 6: Salt
In this programme Iain looks at how salt is central to Mediterranean history. Salt is a key part of the Atlantic conveyor which switches ice ages on and off. We examine salt as a means of preservation for the Egyptians in their unpredictable climate, and as preservation and therefore a means of trading for the Phoenicians.
And we see how salt was important to the rise and fall of the Venetians and why that story ultimately influenced the food Italy is famous for today.
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