19th January 2001 at 00:00
Meet the Ancestors

BBC2 Monday, January 22, 8.30-9pm

A primary school in the Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water is the setting for this week's programme in Meet the Ancestors, a history series that centres on the reconstruction of individual human features from skulls found on archeological sites.

In this case, building work in the school playground revealed evidence of an Iron Age settlement and the skeleton, nearly 2,300 years old, of a teenage girl. Such burials were rare in this period, so there is a mystery about who she was and why she was placed here. Archeologist Julian Richards tries to find clues that will suggest an answer to the puzzle.

Meanwhile, the children are reconstructing an Iron Age hut and the scientists are building up a picture of life in the village.

This is a series about informed speculation - how science uses evidence to produce an image of the past, much as the forensic sculptor builds up a plausible likeness of the dead girl by reconstructing the missing tissue around her skull. The result, a mixture of science and art, touches the essence of historical research.

Schools spotlight

History The Soviets; The Cold War

BBC2 Tuesday, January 23, and Wednesday, January 24, 2-4am

This series for 14 to 16-year-olds uses archive film and documents to tell the story of the Soviet Union, starting with the collapse of the Tsarist regime, the Bolshevik reolution, the Stalin era and the nature of Soviet power.

The second part concentrates particularly on the Cold War, seen from the viewpoint of the USSR, and suggests how the struggle eventually led to the collapse of the communist regime. The programmes, which should provide a valuable resource for individual projects and group work, are designed for overnight recording and are available on video.

More Adventures from the Writing House

Channel 4 Mondays, 10.15-10.30am; repeated for overnight recording on March 13 and 14

Writing House shows six and seven-year-olds how to use written English for practical tasks such as compiling a shopping list or writing letters and postcards, before more imaginative work with stories and poems.

Word-processing, email and the Internet also feature in this second series; the tasks are introduced in an amusing way by the characters in the house. The programmes will be available on video in April and May, and there is an activity book to accompany them, as well as a teachers' guide.

Best of the rest

Grange Hill

BBC1 From January 23, 5-5.25pm

New faces in Year 7 for the 25th season of Grange Hill, which offers a familiar mixture of pranks and problems in and out of class. Racism, cancer, divorce, a fire, a poisonous spider and, naturally, a fine crop of adolescent affairs provide the storylines. How do they ever get their homework done?

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