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Secrets of the Viking Super Sword
Premieres Wednesday, October 10th at 9PM/8c
The Vikings were among the fiercest warriors of all time. Yet only a select few carried the ultimate weapon of their era: the feared Ulfberht sword. Fashioned using a process that would remain unknown to the Vikings’ rivals for centuries, the Ulfberht was a revolutionary high-tech tool and a work of art as well. Considered one of the greatest swords ever made, it remains a fearsome weapon more than a millennium after it last saw battle. But how did Viking sword makers design and build the Ulfberht, and what was its role in history? Now, NOVA uses cutting-edge science, old-fashioned detective work, and age-old methods to reconstruct the Ulfberht and finally unravel the mystery of the Viking sword.
Forensics on Trial
Premieres Wednesday, October 17th at 9PM/8c
There is a startling gap between the glamorous television world of “ ” and the gritty reality of the forensic crime lab. With few established scientific standards, no central oversight and poor regulation of examiners, forensics in the U.S. is in a state of crisis. In Forensics on Trial, NOVA investigates how modern forensics, including the analysis of fingerprints, bite marks, ballistics, hair, and tool marks, can send innocent men and women to prison — and sometimes even to death row. Shockingly, of more than 250 inmates exonerated by DNA testing over the last decade, more than 50 percent of the wrongful convictions stemmed from invalid or improperly handled forensic science. With the help of vivid recreations of actual trials and cases, such as the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the Madrid terrorist bombings, NOVA investigates today’s shaky state of crime science, as well as cutting-edge solutions that could help investigators put the real criminals behind bars.
Iceman Murder Mystery
Airs Wednesday, October 24th at 9PM/8c
He’s been dead for more than 5,000 years and probed by scientists for the last two decades. Yet today, Otzi the Iceman, the famous mummified corpse pulled from a glacier in the Italian Alps nearly 20 years ago, continues to keep many secrets. Now, a new autopsy yields fresh clues to his way of life and the mysterious circumstances of his murder. If he was a warrior or a hunter, what was he doing so high up in the mountains, armed with an unfinished bow and useless arrows? If he was fleeing for his life, why did he eat a big meal less than an hour before he was killed? Besides clues to this original “cold case,” Otzi’s frozen remains reveal intriguing details of his life and times in the ancient Copper Age. Join NOVA and National Geographic as they defrost the ultimate time capsule, the 5,000-year-old man.
Ghosts of Machu Picchu
Airs Wednesday, October 31st at 9PM/8c
Perched atop a mountain crest, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago, Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western Hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this "Lost City of the Incas," yet it remains an enigma. Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system? NOVA joins a new generation of archeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven't been touched since the time of the Incas. See what they discover when they unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site.
Mystery of Easter Island
Premieres Wednesday, November 7 at 9PM/8c
A remote, bleak speck of rock in the middle of the Pacific, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has mystified the world ever since the first Europeans arrived in 1722. How and why did the ancient islanders build and move nearly 900 giant statues, or moai, weighing up to 86 tons? And how did they transform a presumed paradise into a treeless wasteland, bringing ruin upon their island and themselves? NOVA and National Geographic explore controversial recent claims that challenge decades of previous thinking about the islanders, who have been accused of everything from ecocide to cannibalism. Among the radical new theories is that the islanders used ropes to “walk” the statues upright, like moving a fridge. With the help of an accurate 15-ton replica statue, a NOVA team sets out to test this high-risk, seemingly unlikely theory — serving up plenty of action and surprises in this fresh investigation of one of the ancient world’s most intriguing enigmas.
Ultimate Mars Challenge
Premieres Wednesday, November 14th at 9PM/8c
Why go back to Mars? Far from dead, Mars holds untold potential. Nearly half a century of Mars exploration has yielded tantalizing clues that Mars may once have harbored life – and may harbor it still. The extraordinary landing of a revolutionary rover named Curiosity— which successfully touched down inside the Gale Crater—means we have wheels down on the planet once again, in the form of the most sophisticated robot ever to rove the Mars surface. Will NASA’s bold mission and this marvel of technology answer some of our biggest questions and usher in a new golden age of exploration? NOVA goes behind the scenes on NASA’s quest to solve the riddles of the red planet.
Premieres Wednesday, November 21st at 9PM/8c
An unpromising lump of metal found in a 2,000-year-old shipwreck turns out to be an extraordinary treasure: the world's first computer. NOVA follows the ingenious detective work that painstakingly discovered the truth about the ancient device: it was an astonishingly sophisticated astronomical calculator and eclipse predictor, unrivaled until the era of modern science and believed to be from the workshop of Archimedes.
Secrets of Stonehenge
Airs Wednesday, December 12th at 9PM/8c
Dated to the late Stone Age, Stonehenge may be the best-known and most mysterious relic of prehistory. Every year, a million visitors are drawn to England to gaze upon the famous circle of stones, but the monument's meaning has continued to elude us. Now investigations inside and around Stonehenge have kicked off a dramatic new era of discovery and debate over who built Stonehenge and for what purpose.
How did prehistoric people quarry, transport, sculpt, and erect these giant stones? Granted exclusive access to the dig site at Bluestonehenge, a prehistoric stone-circle monument recently discovered about a mile from Stonehenge, NOVA cameras join a new generation of researchers finding important clues to this enduring mystery.
Riddles of the Sphinx
Airs Wednesday, December 19th at 9PM/8c
For 45 centuries, the Great Sphinx has cast its enigmatic gaze over Egypt's Giza Plateau. The biggest and oldest statue in a land of colossal ancient monuments, its scale is staggering: The mighty head towers as tall as the White House, while its body is nearly the length of a football field. This strange half-human, half-lion image has inspired countless fantastic theories about its origins. How was it built, and who or what does it represent?
Surprisingly, the scribes of the period when it was built — during Egypt's Old Kingdom — passed over it in silence. Adding to the mystery, archeologists found that its creators abruptly discarded their tools and abandoned the Sphinx when it was nearly complete. Searching for clues, NOVA's expert team of archeologists, including Mark Lehner, director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates, carries out eye-opening experiments that reveal the techniques and incredible labor that was invested in the carving of this gigantic sculpture. The team also unearths new discoveries about the people who built the Sphinx and why they created such a haunting and stupendous image.
Building the Great Cathedrals
Airs Wednesday, December 26th at 9PM/8c
Take a dazzling architectural journey inside those majestic marvels of Gothic architecture, the great cathedrals of Chartres, Beauvais, and other European cities. Carved from 100 million pounds of stone, some cathedrals now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, a team of engineers, architects, art historians, and computer scientists searches the naves, bays, and bell-towers for clues. NOVA investigates the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their towering, glass-filled walls and reveals the hidden formulas drawn from the Bible that drove medieval builders ever upward.