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Case Number 18610: Small Claims Court

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Legacy: The Origins Of Civilization

Acorn Media // 1991 // 304 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // March 27th, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wants to visit the world's oldest restaurant, if they have good french fries.

The Charge

"This series of journeys is a search…a search for those first civilizations and their continuing legacy."

The Case

Where was the start of civilization? That's easy: in Iraq, at the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. If you want a bit of a harder answer: with the first cities. In Legacy: The Origins of Civilization, host Michael Wood (The Story of India) travels to the places where civilization started and grew, showing the connections between the ancient cultures and the modern world.

Legacy: The Origins of Civilization features six episodes on three discs:

Disc One
• "Iraq: Cradle of Civilization"
Wood heads for the sandy sites where the world's first cities formed, and visits manmade islands with reed homes built in an ancient method, and the oldest inhabited city.

• "India: Empire of the Spirit"
Wood considers early Sanskrit texts that tell of an invasion, and follows pilgrimages to the Ganges River and to a holy Buddhist text.

Disc Two
• "China: The Mandate of Heaven"
Wood goes to outdoor food stalls and the world's oldest restaurant as he considers the effects of Confucian and Daoist teachings on everyday life.

• "Egypt: The Habit of Civilization"
Wood heads for the world's first state to see how it shaped modern nations and how the Greek invasion changed it.

Disc Three
• "Central America: The Burden of Time"
Wood visits the excavation of an Aztec pyramid in Mexico City as he discusses the Aztecs and the Mayans.

• "Europe: The Barbarian West"
Wood visits Greece, the first democracy, and considers the ideas of individualism and capitalism while reflecting on the warlike nature of Europe.

Wood sounds enthusiastic about his subject, even as he's buffeted by wind as he walks in the desert. There, he contentedly picks up pieces of plates and other artifacts. While he doesn't tell you everything you'll ever need to know about civilization, his overview provides a good starting point. At his best, Wood illustrates his points deftly, as when he tours a Chinese outdoor food court to show how ancient spiritual thinking continues into everyday life. At times, Legacy can move through points too fast, though.

Chances are you won't be able to keep track of all the names, dates, and places, but Athena kindly includes text bios on great thinkers on the DVD, along with a booklet that can be used as a study guide. I'll note that I'd have liked a few more text bios, but their supplementary materials are otherwise first-rate.

The picture on this relatively recent documentary series is sharp and clear.

With the help of the booklet and text features on the DVD, Legacy becomes a useful learning tool. Since there are glimpses of naked bathers and statues, use it at your own risk in the classroom.

The Verdict

Not guilty, even for those of us who wouldn't go around picking up pieces of plate in a windy desert.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 304 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Text Bios
• Booklet


• IMDb

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