Friday, 29 March 2013

Mysteries, mysteries?

I may have not seen the Stonehenge programme the other week, but this week I saw three different archaeological - or archaeologically themed - television programmes. These contained the good things and bad things about the archaeological programming. The one-off Pompeii documentary put me off instantly. Not that I have anything against Margaret Mountford, the egyptologist from the Apprentice. She was really lovely when making a guest appearance in Chris Naughton's The Man who Discovered Egypt that told the story of Flinders Petrie.

Chris Naughton in Egypt

The problem with the Pompeii documentary was that it made a huge mystery of the way the people, who have been immortalised in plaster casts, died. My instant reaction a couple of minutes into the programme was to switch channels, since I just did not want to face the prompt every five minutes requesting the solution to the puzzle. After all, there was a huge volcanic eruption, toxic gases and ashes and stones raining from the sky. How did they die? The volcano erupted. And I was wondering why we did not have a Mary Beard, but an egyptologist.

I read afterwards from a review that the problem they were looking at was the reason for the Herculaneum bodies evaporating and the brains exploding and the Pompeii bodies dropping down, decaying peacefully and leaving us with facial expressions and all. It was apparently all down to the different temperatures. Luckily, I found this out without watching an hour of prompts.

Joann Fletcher in a tomb

The really lovely and interesting programmes were both about egyptology. The Flinders Petrie documentary I already mentioned, but I have to underline how informative it was. I had not realised that Petrie was still active around the time the Tutankhamun's tomb was found. He just had redirected his interest to Palestine, since he could not profit any more in Egypt from exporting the objects from the excavations to Britain to give to the museums and societies that funded him.

The other programme was Joann Fletcher's Ancient Egypt - Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings. It the fascinating story of the builders of the tombs of the Valley of the Kings. She may look flamboyant in her all black attire contrasted with red hair, but the programme told a truly fascinating story and provided proper information and evidence. What we really need is less sensationalism and more truly fascinating details!

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