Archaeology Films Aren't Just for Scientists Anymore

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Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

You won't just see dusty old tombs and dirt screens at the Archaeology Channel's International Film and Video Festival.

"This is not just some sort of academic experience," said Rick Pettigrew, organizer of the festival.

"These are great films ... They look great, they sound great. And, you get transported to a different place," he said.

Spain, China, Mexico, Afghanistan and Italy are just a few of the places viewers can expect to visit without ever leaving their seats.

Now in its sixth year, the festival continues in its quest to bring archaeology to the masses with a five-day program at the Hult Center's Soreng Theatre.

Sponsored by the Arch-aeological Legacy Institute, a Eugene-based nonprofit or-ganization devoted to research and education, the festival kicks off on Tuesday and ends with a keynote address by former Iraqi museum director Donny George on Saturday.

Some of the more unusual subjects explored on film this time around include the history of chocolate ("Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods"), the breakneck modernization of Beijing ("From Hutong to Highrise"), the Roman underworld ("Hidden Worlds") and the excavation of a not-so-ancient touring van by a team of archaeologists ("In Transit").

There's also a movie about reindeer herders in the Arctic Circle ("Komi: A Journey Across the Arctic"), one about indigenous warriors in Central America ("The Great Inca Rebellion") and a French production about gold miners in Nevada ("The Wild West Uncovered: The Rise and Fall of Virginia City").

"The quality of film is the best we've ever had," Pettigrew promises. "These films are just plain fun to look at."

But don't just take his word for it. Viewers can catch clips from all 18 of the featured films at the Archaeology Channel Web site (www.archaeologychannel.org), and even see some films in their entirety by downloading them.

The event itself will feature a "video bar" where festival-goers can glimpse any of the featured films.

Or, they can do it the old-fashioned way and take in the movies as they unfold on the big screen.

What a concept!

While last year's event included a keynote address by paleoanthropologist Louise Leakey, this year's festival will be highlighted by Donny George's speech about the struggle to save the world's cultural treasures. As the head of the Iraqi museum system, George fought to contain the widespread looting that took place at the beginning of the Iraq war. Through his efforts, Pettigrew says, nearly half of the 15,000 items stolen from the national collection were recovered.

The festival is sponsoring a related event on Friday at the Eugene Public Library. …