Welcome to the companion Web site to "Secrets of Lost Empires," a special five-part NOVA series originally aired in February of 2000. In the series, NOVA crews attempt to ferret out long-forgotten secrets of early architects and engineers. How did they design and erect the medieval war machines known as trebuchets? Egyptian obelisks? The Easter Island stone monoliths called moais? Roman baths? The rainbow bridges of ancient China? Here's what you'll find online:
In the Middle Ages, those who attacked castles used trebuchets, military engines capable of firing missiles with frightening force. In this section, view an actual trebuchet NOVA built, and construct and fire one of your own online. Also, find out what other weapons were used and what daily life was like in a medieval castle.
The soaring stone monuments known as obelisks were the Egyptian pharaohs' way of capturing a ray of revered sunlight in stone. In this section, follow NOVA's ultimately successful attempts to raise an obelisk of its own. Also, learn where ancient Egypt's obelisks have ended up today, explore other Egyptian monuments using QuickTime VR, and more.
This remote Pacific island's so-called moai statues are among the world's most enigmatic sculptures. In this section, explore an interactive map of Easter Island to find out where ancient residents quarried and moved the famous monoliths. Also, follow recent attempts by NOVA and others to transport moai overland.
The plumbing that brought hot water to the communal baths the Romans enjoyed was highly sophisticated. In this section, watch as NOVA builds its own Roman bath, then try your hand at constructing a working aqueduct online. Also, learn about the Romans' water system from a noted scholar, and get a taste of Roman-era recipes such as scaloppine pine nut sauce.
The ancient Chinese relied on bamboo, one of nature's most versatile building materials, to lash together their famous rainbow bridges. In this section, learn more about this amazing plant and about China's most noteworthy inventions, including paper money, gunpowder, and the compass. Also, play an interactive game that challenges you to use the right bridge type to span a span.