chapter  21
7 Pages

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.