Marcus Banks Ancient Mysteries and the Modern World
Discussing the decline of broadcast ethnographic ﬁlm a year or so back with a practising ethnographic ﬁlm-maker, I asked him what kinds of ﬁlms are currently getting commissioned: ‘Ancient mysteries’ he replied without hesitation. ‘Ancient mysteries’, for those unfamiliar with the genre, are now showing on British small screens with a vengeance, albeit not as ubiquitous as docu-soaps. These are programmes that reveal for the ﬁrst time the true secrets of Stonehenge, or the Pyramids, that allow often ﬂamboyant amateur (and occasionally professional) anthropologists and archaeologists to air their pet theories before millions, free of the scrutiny of peer review. Their protagonists’ views are frequently described as ‘controversial’, yet – as the voice-over invariably continues – ‘scientists have been reluctantly forced to accept the truth of their claims’ and so on. These programmes often cultivate an atmosphere of delicious unease through a combination of spooky electronic music, dramatic camera shots, swirling mists and ghostly re-enactment
that would be the envy of any B-movie horror director. They are also anthropologically fascinating.