Preview: Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez

Janina Ramirez
From German caves up to Norway, Janina follows the pawprints of the Lion Man. Photo: BBC

From German caves up to Norway, Janina follows the pawprints of the Lion Man. Photo: BBC

Janina Ramirez must travel back in time to Nazi Germany, where in a remote cave in August 1939, archaeologist Robert Wetzel came across a 40,000-year old artwork now known as the Lion Man.

The Second World War broke out just a week later, and Wetzel never mentioned his find again. As Nina learns, the figure represents the first instance of human-made non-literal representation; in other words the first object inspired by imagination, the first art.

But Janina realises that it’s almost a miracle the Lion Man ever came to light because it was pulled out of the cave as hundreds of tiny ivory shards, not a single artwork, found in numerous chance discoveries across eight decades.

She also struggles with the ramifications of this very recent archaeological history, in which a pioneering scientist like Wetzel could simultaneously exploit the ice-age artwork to justify Nazi ideology.

Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez – Monday at 8pm on BBC Four

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