by Timeline - World History Documentaries
December 01, 2017

from YouTube Website






On a desolate mountain top in California lives the world's oldest organism - a gnarled and twisted bristlecone pine.


The scientist who discovered the tree gave it the name Methuselah. It was a seedling when the Egyptian pyramids were being built and a mature tree at the time of Christ.


It is now over 4,000 years old...


The Curse of The Methuselah Tree shows how the climate and dramatic events - from volcanoes to nuclear tests - over the last 4000 years have affected Methuselah's growth rings.


Archive footage and stunning computer animation are interspersed with Methuselah's own narration, supplied by poet Roger McGough.


The program also contemplates the tree's future and reveals the curse that has followed anyone who has dared to work on the tree - an early death...


In the arid and inhospitable California desert stands a bristlecone pine tree (Pinus longaeva) with the mythical name of Methuselah.


At nearly 5,000 years of age, it had long been thought to be the oldest living organism on our planet.


Pre-dating the construction of the pyramids and the birth of Christ, the tree is a marvel of resilience and survival.


"The Curse of the Methuselah Tree" attempts to deconstruct its long and complex history.

The most unique aspect of the film is its point of view. Much of the narration consists of sumptuous poetry provided by Roger McGough.


Assuming the role of the tree, this lyrical inner monologue deepens our sense of empathy and engagement with the scope of events detailed in the film.

For much of its life span, the mysteries of this extraordinary tree eluded us.


It wasn't until Edmund Schulman, a pioneer in tree aging, first discovered Methuselah in the 1950s that the scientific community began to take notice.


Studying the endless layers of inner rings housed under its bark, Schulman was able to assemble a detailed account of the tree's rich and eventful existence.

These rings convey stories of,

  • calamitous weather events

  • civilizations come and gone

  • nuclear tests that set the desert ablaze with furious plumes of fire and diseased smoke

The film reenacts many of these events in visceral detail, including,

  • the emergence of ancient Indians to the region

  • the arrival of white immigrants soon after

  • the actions of industry that choked the desert of much of its resources

When the seedlings of the tree's bristlecones were examined in a lab, they showed no signs of deterioration.


From outside appearances, the tree might strike spectators as nothing more than a weakened and twisted mass. But upon closer inspection, it's as vital and robust as the day it was born.

"The Curse of the Methuselah Tree" is an impressive and multi-layered work.


The history of this mystical tree reflects much of our own history in a manner that sets it apart from other documentaries that cover similar events.


The film's conclusion is equally distinct as it delivers an unexpectedly vivid and harrowing environmental statement.