Archaeology Films A-Z: The Ancient Hydraulis

Title: The Ancient Hydraulis
Year: 2002
Length: 9.5 minutes
Made by: European Cultural Centre of Delphi
Genre: phenomenological/expository
Authors: Directed by Maria Hatzimihali-Papaliou, who was born in Greece and is part of the New Greek Cinema movement. She has made several documentaries highlighting social issues and disability in addition to her documentaries about ancient Greece. A notable film that combines these topics is People of Peace, a film that juxtaposes excerpts from ancient Greek writers and images of 20th century conflict. Interestingly, the credits list both the filmmakers and the “scientific team” behind the movie.

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Oh god, she thinks, not another archaeology video with pan-flutey music. Seriously, can’t we think of anything better?

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oh. This is new.

I fully admit that I had no idea what a hydraulis was before the viewing of this video. It is pretty damn cool.

The narrator quotes from primary sources to tell us the power of music in Greek society, how the symphony created by the hydraulis captivated an entire congress. The original 3rd century instrument was powered by a hydraulic air pressure stabilizer that was eventually replaced by bellows, turning the hydraulis into a wind instrument.

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The video streaming kept breaking, so I got to hear this dude sing at least a dozen times. I switched to watching the video on Daily Motion:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x280ns_ancient-hydraulis_creation

We switch to expository mode next, when we learn more about an archaeologist finding the remains of a hydraulis and reconstructing it. The hydraulis eventually turns into our more familiar pipe organ, adopted and then developed by the Catholic church.

There are a few overviews of the site of Dion, during which we learn about the archaeologist Dimitrios Panternalis who found the hydraulis at Dion and is now the president of the New Acropolis Museum. It is a little unfortunate that they don’t have any images of the process of construction, so we continue to see scenic Dion.

The Ancient Hydraulis is a mildly interesting video about a fun bit of experimental archaeology that could have been about half as long. If you are wildly into the Greeks, Classical Archaeology, Experimental Archaeology, or like to hear a yodeling dude, this video is for you.

3.5/5

Archaeology Films A-Z: The Aegean

Title: The Aegean
Year: 2004
Length: 7 minutes
Made by: Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Genre: Expository
Authors: Tourism Promoters
Review:

aegean

The Aegean. A place close to my heart. Opens with twangy “traditional music” that fades into newage, but at least there’s a female narrator who betrays a faint Turkish accent around her proper English. Yes, it’s a gorgeous landscape and climate, and, we are informed, a “land of kingdoms.” Begin the dervish-like spinning shots in the middle of sites!

temple
It was actually very difficult to get this blurry screenshot as it was zooming by.

Pano pano pano, fast pano, cut to a nice pot showing “King Midas of the Golden Touch.” GOD the spinning again. Does this make the ruins look more lively? No real explanation, but lots of gorgeous ruins moving rapidly.

turkish_springs

Bonus hot bath scene!

A little discussion of Ephesus, then we move on to a quick touristy overview of each spot, with minimal, Lonely Planet explanation. Sorry Turkey–I love you, I love your archaeology, but this video is a twitchy tour through ruins with a litany of famous names of people who may or may not have visited or lived there. And night clubs.

nightclubs

Why is this on The Archaeology Channel?

1/5

The Archaeology Channel: A-Z

I just finished a big-deal article on the history, genres, and evaluation of archaeological film. It draws from a chapter of my thesis and I am pretty excited about it. While I was editing the chapter it got me thinking…while I’ve seen a lot of archaeological films while teaching, uh, archaeological film over the years I should watch more. A lot more.

So.

I’m going to watch and review all of the Archaeology Channel films. Probably. There’s over 170 of them, so it’s a crazy idea. But why not?

For the inaugural film:

Title: The Acropolis
Year: 1991
Written and photographed by Kenneth and Marjorie Russell
Narrated by Thomas F. Soare, Ph.D.
Location: Greece
Genre: Expository

Authors: Not to be mistaken for the archaeologist Kenneth W. Russell who died tragically in Jordan, Kenneth L. Russell was the founder of the Educational Video Network and a Professor of Education at Sam Houston State University. Marjorie Haw Russell was a photographer and artist. Together they coauthored several educational videos about the ancient world.

title

Review: The opening made me immediately nostalgic for all the documentaries we had to watch in school. The reedy opening music evokes sadness, and a drowsiness with which we view the surrounding landscape. Most of the shots are long, landscape, no humans visible. Several Mycenean strongholds glide in and out of the screen until we get to, of course, The Acropolis.

Pelagasians

The music picks up when we get to the first humans shown–why it’s the Pelasgians, of course! They’re a wallpainting of some dudes with weird eyes carrying fishes. Apparently they were “deeply concerned with vegetation and fertility cults.” Aren’t we all?

After touching on the important people in Greek history (mostly gods and kings), we follow the subsequent history of the Acropolis. I was excited when the Persians busted things up in 480 BC, but not much came of it, except for some column bases now placed in the walls.

Overall, the historical record is not questioned; this is a very art historical approach to classical archaeology. There are no revelations, archaeological investigations, or moving images, for that matter. It is a slide-show with poorly preserved image quality and a didactic voice-over.

People who grew up in the 80s or 90s may want to watch the first 30 seconds to hit a certain muddy technicolor documentary sweet spot.

educational
Waves of nostalgia!

1/5