Television (Non-fiction)

Cleopatra: A Timewatch Guide

Cleopatra: A Timewatch Guide was on BBC4 back in February as part of a short run of programmes cobbled together from old Timewatch footage interspersed with some narration by a current presenter (and modern footage of talking heads) tying it all together. The presenter in this case was Vanessa Collinridge, who I’d not seen present anything before (which is a shame for her, as I’m judging her based on this …). The other two that we watched were The Mary Rose: A Timewatch Guide (presented by Dan Snow) and Roman Britain: A Timewatch Guide (presented by Alice Roberts). Sadly, as you might’ve guessed from the preceding paragraph, I wasn’t much impressed with this programme on Cleopatra. The idea, I think, was to look back through the Timewatch archives and tell a story about how our ideas about Cleopatra have changed over the last five or six decades. The other two… Read More »Cleopatra: A Timewatch Guide

Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered

I must confess when I read the blurb on the BBC for their new Tutankhamun programme, Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered, I was not entirely impressed. It talks about “new scientific research” and how “presenter Dallas Campbell […] carries out unique experiments to get to the truth.” and then proceeds to talk about stuff that sounds like a re-hash of the 2010 Hawass et al paper ( JAMA. 2010;303(7):638-647). So I was sceptical going in about the likelihood of it being anything new. Interestingly, Zahi Hawass is not mentioned once during the programme, but some of the other authors of that paper (Ashraf Selim and Albert Zink, if I remember correctly) are extensively interviewed. So my overall impression is that this is a second go at making a layperson-accessible documentary based on the 2010 paper, with the intention of distancing itself from Hawass who has now fallen from grace. The programme… Read More »Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered

TV Watched While We Were Away (Almost All Egypt Related)

While we were visiting J’s parents we watched a few documentaries about ancient Egypt (or related subjects) that they’d recorded from TV channels we don’t have. A bit of a mixed bag – one of them I’d’ve switched off if it was just me (J wasn’t as annoyed by it), but the others were better. Ultimate Tut Ultimate Tut was a documentary about Tutankhamun, presented by Chris Naunton (who’s the Director of the EES), so J had heard of it and was looking forward to the chance to watch it. The focus was on how he died, and how come his burial was so small compared to other Pharaohs, although it also covered a lot of what’s known of the history of the period too. It presented a new theory for how Tutankhamun died – perhaps run down by a chariot on the battlefield. The evidence here comes from the… Read More »TV Watched While We Were Away (Almost All Egypt Related)

Assorted Documentaries About Ancient Egypt

J’s parents have Sky and so have TV channels that we don’t, so they record anything about Ancient Egypt that they notice & then we watch several of the documentaries when we visit. I’m not going to write these up in detail, instead here are some capsule reviews. I wasn’t always paying full attention to the programmes, so I’ve possibly misremembered stuff. Ramesses III: Behind the Myth of the Pharaoh Programme about the harem conspiracy against Ramesses III which led to his murder, and the resulting trial & execution of the conspirators. Focussed on how the papyri tell us a very different story to what the monuments do – the court of Ramesses III was a paranoid one concerned with threats to the Pharaoh and his authority both magical & physical. The monuments are the confident record of a Pharaoh with no enemies, and a secure succession, so if there… Read More »Assorted Documentaries About Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt – Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings

The second part of Joann Fletcher’s series about Kha and Merit who were buried in Deir el-Medina 3500 years ago covered their deaths, burials and beliefs about the afterlife. She opened the programme by explaining that death was the major employer in Deir el-Medina, and that country-wide it was one of the primary industries of Egypt. The village at Deir el-Medina was inhabited by the craftsmen and their families who worked on the tombs and temples for the Pharaohs. But it wasn’t just Pharaohs who were believed to live on after death – it was anyone who’d made the right preparations, and who’d had the right rituals performed at their funerals. So even relatively ordinary Egyptians would spend as much as they could on getting the right things said & done. If I have one criticism of this programme it’s that Fletcher kept referring to Kha as “an ordinary Egyptian”… Read More »Ancient Egypt – Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings

Ancient Egypt – Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings

There’s a new two-part documentary on Ancient Egypt showing on BBC2 at the moment, and despite recording it J decided to watch it as it aired on Friday & I joined him in this (I’d actually planned to watch the second half of the footy after dinner, but the ITV stream on their webpage was so lousy (constantly re-buffering & dropping out) during the half-time chat that I gave up on that idea). In this series Joann Fletcher is telling us about the more ordinary inhabitants of Ancient Egypt – not the Pharaohs & the aristocracy but the more middle class inhabitants of the village of craftspeople that’s been excavated in Deir el-Medina. 3500 years ago this village (just called the village in Egyptian times) housed the people who worked on the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, and it’s situated just over the other side… Read More »Ancient Egypt – Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings