Egypt Season 1
Egypt Season 1
First Air Date: October 30, 2005
|First Aired on||:||2005|
1x06 The Secrets of the Hieroglyphs (December 04, 2005)
In the final episode of Egypt, Jean-François Champollion has unlocked the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs but, in doing so, faces opposition from the Church and a challenge to his own beliefs. The programme begins in 1815, when everyone in Europe has been infected with a fascination for Ancient Egypt. The King of France buys - at huge cost - a relief, removed from the ceiling of the temple of Dendera in Egypt. A number of experts believe this to be an ancient temple. There is much excitement about just how old it really is. If it was much older than 2,000 BC, it threatens the established chronology of the Bible. Jean-François Champollion is invited to give an opinion by one of the King's aides, the Duc de Blacas. This is the first test of his ability to understand hieroglyphs. Known as a free thinker, his presence makes the Church nervous. However, to everyone's surprise, Champollion declares, quite definitely, that the relief was made after the birth of Christ, due to the crude quality of its art and the existence of some hieroglyphs that spell the name of a Roman leader. It is the first dramatic and very public demonstration of Champollion's understanding of the hieroglyphs. In 1824 he is invited to Italy to see some of the world's greatest collections of Egyptian artefacts. While there, he discovers, to his delight, that he can read quite easily all the hieroglyphs he sees. He is also able to decipher ancient lists of Egyptian Pharaohs and parts of the book of the dead, describing the journey of the Pharaoh through the afterlife. He is the only person in the world who understands how to read hieroglyphs, but not everyone believes him. Jealous academics in Paris and elsewhere are waiting to disprove him. Now Champollion is desperate to test his skill in the temples and tombs of Ancient Egypt but, as a poor country boy, cannot fund his own voyage. The Church hears of Champollion's desire to travel to Egypt and they offer to support him on the condition that he never reveals any findings that contradict the teachings of the Church. As a deeply religious and now desperate man, Champollion agrees. He assembles a combined Tuscan-French team and travels the length of Egypt, stopping in as many tombs and temples as he can. They wonder at The Great Pyramids at Giza and then visit the the oldest pyramid in the world at Saqqara. Here, Champollion discovers a tomb covered in ancient hieroglyphs. It gives him an amazing insight into the lives of the Ancient Egyptians, including their calendar. It also tells him something incredible about the age of the world. The tomb belongs to a man called Menofre who was Royal hairdresser to a King called Djedkare – a King who lived during the fifth dynasty, one that predated Noah's Flood and, according to the Church and the Bible, could not have existed. Champollion is awestruck by this knowledge and, several decades before Darwin, this was a discovery that threw into doubt the very date of creation. But unlike Darwin, Champollion has to keep it to himself and it is a revelation that must go with him to his grave. Finally, Champollion comes to The Valley of the Kings, where he spends months walking from tomb to tomb, reading the hieroglyphs. Here, at last, he begins to understand the Ancient Egyptian religion, the motivation behind the construction of the pyramids, the temples and the tombs. For the first time in over a thousand years, their system of belief and the true role of their Pharaoh become clear. Champollion has single-handedly unlocked the secrets of the lost civilisation of Ancient Egypt.
1x05 The Mystery of the Rosetta Stone (November 27, 2005)
This is the story of Jean-François Champollion, the brilliant linguist, genius and one of the first true Egyptologists. The programme begins in Egypt in 1798, when the country had been virtually closed to Europeans for centuries and its ancient culture lost and forgotten for over a thousand years. Napoleon has with him scholars, including antiquarians and linguists, whose job it is to unravel the mysteries of ancient Egypt. But they were able to achieve little more than to paint its beautiful ruined monuments and wonder what it all meant, for Egypt's secrets were locked in the strange ancient writings, the hieroglyphs. Meanwhile, Napoleon's soldiers have unearthed an extraordinary object that offers a crucial clue. The Rosetta Stone has written on it a proclamation by Pharaoh Ptolemy V, in three different texts, Greek, and the common writing of the time, the sacred script of the hieroglyphs. However, before a translation can begin, the British defeat Napoleon and The Rosetta Stone is taken as a spoil of war to the British Museum. The French are left only with copies… Back in Europe, the Stone proves impossible to decipher, and the greatest minds in the continent give up. Authorities on either side of the Channel search for a genius. Anglo–French rivalry intensifies when the two geniuses recruited for the task begin work. Englishman Thomas Young, a great scientist with a razor-sharp analytical mind, and a brilliant linguist, the young Frenchman Jean-François Champollion, start the race to crack the hieroglyphics. Young takes a typically methodical approach, essentially using mathematics - comparing the scripts to analyse how often certain words or hieroglyphs appear. He makes a number of breakthroughs, including working out how to read the name of the Pharaoh Ptolemy. Young always believes that the ancient hieroglyphs are really just symbols (like road signs) and do not make sounds in the same way as words do – to him, The Rosetta Stone is nothing more than a giant crossword puzzle. Champollion instinctively takes a very different approach. He has already learnt Coptic, a language that survives only in the Egyptian Coptic Church, because he believes that it is the nearest living language to that spoken by the Ancient Egyptians. Through his linguistic ability, he is able to trace back Coptic to earlier forms of Egyptian writing, and beyond, all the way back to the hieroglyphs. He makes the key breakthrough, that the hieroglyphs are more than just symbols - they could make sounds, too, just like an alphabet. Champollion brings honour to France and discovers the key to unlocking the secrets of Egypt. However, he would have to go there to read the story of the Egyptians for himself, and, in doing so, came to the attention of the Catholic Church…
1x04 The Temple Of The Sands (November 20, 2005)
The Great Belzoni, actor, strongman, and engineer, has now turned all his attentions to becoming a famous adventurer. In episode four of Egypt, Belzoni makes some of his greatest discoveries, and uncovers the entrance to The Temple Of Ramesses at Abu Simbel. Belzoni's new ambition is to be the greatest collector in history, but in the fashion of all good swashbuckling tales, he has a rival. Drovetti, the tenacious French collector, is waiting to thwart him at his every turn. Henry Salt asks Belzoni to go back to Thebes and Philae to find more artefacts for the British Museum. However, Belzoni doesn't realise that Salt is using him to furnish his own collection and sell artefacts to the highest bidder. Belzoni is only a few miles down the Nile when he runs into Drovetti's men, who are also on their way to Thebes. A race across the desert then follows as Belzoni tries to prevent Drovetti's men from stealing his precious collections at Thebes. But when he arrives, Belzoni finds he is too late and Drovetti is well advanced in the process of removing everything he can from the great temples. This setback only firms Belzoni's resolve and he finds another beautiful and colossal statue. Infuriated, Drovetti threatens Belzoni so, under the cover of darkness, he slips anchor and heads south. On reaching Abu Simbel, Belzoni has the problem of shifting the tons of sand surrounding the opening to the temple. It proves an impossible task; every time they try to dig a hole, more sand flows in to fill it. Soon, the labourers lose patience and leave. Then Belzoni has an idea. To make the sand easier to dig he wets it with water from the Nile, and then builds a palm tree fence around the opening of the temple to prevent sand from flowing in. Eventually, they break through the top of the temple's doorway and slip inside. The interior of the temple is spectacular, featuring colossal statues of Ramesses II which support the ceiling, and fabulous reliefs telling the story of his life. Spurred by the discovery, a triumphant Belzoni goes on to thwart his arch-enemy Drovetti, discovering many lost tombs such as those of Seti I, father of Ramesses II. In parallel with Belzoni's story, the programme tells how Ramesses II secured his position in history as the greatest Pharaoh – a warrior and diplomat who became a god.
1x03 The Pharoah and the Showman (November 13, 2005)
Belzoni fails to please Pasha Ali of Egypt and his new career in 'water mechanics' fails. He is penniless and stranded in Cairo without work. Just 16 years after the invasion by Napoleon, the enthusiasm of Europeans for all things Egyptian is growing and there is intense rivalry between explorers and collectors - the rivalry is particularly intense between the French and the British. In Cairo, Belzoni meets two men who will change his life for ever. The first is John Lewis Burkhardt, who, disguised as an Arab, has travelled to unknown Egyptian temples that have remained lost from the world for centuries. The other is Henry Salt, the British Counsel General, keen to make his name as a collector. Inspired by the tales of Burkhardt, Salt offers Belzoni a job: to travel down the Nile to Thebes to collect a giant seven-ton granite bust named the 'Younger Memnon' from an Egyptian temple. The French have tried and failed to lift it, so Anglophile Belzoni rises to the challenge in order to bring it back for the British Museum. At the time, nobody can yet read hieroglyphics but the 'Youger Memon' is, in fact, the likeness of Ramesses II, the greatest of all Pharaohs. Belzoni discovers he has the perfect skills for the job: vast strength, engineering knowledge, maverick intelligence and wit combined with bravery and cunning, and the head of Ramesses II is soon on its way to Henry Salt back in Cairo. Flushed with success, Belzoni and his crew decide to travel further down the Nile to search for more collectable artefacts for Salt. Near the border with modern-day Sudan, they arrive at an amazing temple carved directly out of the mountain – unbeknown to them, they have found Ramesses the Great's Temple at Abu Simbel. However, to Belzoni's frustration, he cannot find the entrance as most of the temple is covered in tons of sand. Intrigued and fascinated, Belzoni vows to return… In parallel with Belzoni's story, the programme tells that of Ramesses II: how he came from a military dynasty and went on to reign for an incredible 67 years, fathering over 100 children and erecting some of Ancient Egypt's most impressive monuments.
1x02 The Curse Of Tutankhamun (November 06, 2005)
The story of the tomb of Tutankhamun captivates the world's media and propels Carnarvon and Carter to instant celebrity status around the globe. The ultimate prize that Howard Carter has sought all his adult life yields more than he could ever imagine: thousands of priceless artefacts, eventually crowned by the solid gold coffin and death mask of Tutankhamun. However, Carter is uneasy with his new-found celebrity status, and the absence of any real historical information frustrates him. As the dig progresses in the heat of the Egyptian desert, tensions between Carter and his team begin to boil over... Carter is working in the full gaze of publicity - everything he does is under the watchful eyes of packs of international journalists. He realises that in order to preserve the tomb's contents for posterity, his work has only just begun. Meanwhile, Carnarvon is desperately trying to keep the press at bay. In order to minimise the disturbance for those working at the site, he strikes an exclusive deal with The Times. This angers other journalists, especially Weigall from The Daily Mail, who starts writing stories claiming the tomb is cursed. With all the material from the antechamber removed, Carter's team begin to break through to the chamber beyond. Finally, it is the day Carter has been waiting for all his life and he is delighted when he can officially open the burial chamber of Tutankhamun. Unfortunately, under the terms of Carnarvon's agreement with the Egyptian Director-General of Antiquities, if the site contains an intact Pharaoh's tomb its contents must revert back to the Egyptian Government. Carnarvon and Carter play for time and persuade the authorities to let them excavate the rest of the chamber. From the opening of the burial chamber, things begin to go badly wrong. Carter becomes increasingly irritated and sacks key colleagues. Carnarvon and Carter argue over his pedantic management of the tomb, and Carter's 'friendship' with his daughter, Evelyn. Finally, a strange infected mosquito bite on Carnarvon's cheek causes blood poisoning and he dies in Cairo, fuelling the curse stories back in England. Soon, it is widely believed that Tutankhamun has killed Lord Carnarvon. Carter is devastated by his only friend's death and is now leading the excavation alone. Without the diplomatic skills of Carnarvon, the atmosphere at the dig grows very tense. In the burial chamber, a nest of four golden shrines, each sitting within the other, are removed, to reveal a stone sarcophagus. The lid is raised to reveal the first, outer coffin. It seems certain that the tomb does, indeed, contain the remains of Tutankhamun. As the sarcophagus is discovered, Carter has a disagreement with the Egyptian authorities. The incident is trivial but Carter stops work as a matter of principle. By doing so, he breaks his contract with the authorities and the Director of Antiquities moves in and takes the key to the tomb; devastated, Carter returns to England. All seems lost for Carter, particularly with the death of another close colleague. However, back in England, he receives news that there has been a dramatic change in the political climate in Egypt and the Director of Antiquities invites him back to work. At last, the remains of Carter's team lift the lid of the third coffin, made from solid gold, and Carter comes face to face with the man he has searched for relentlessly for nearly three decades. In parallel with Carter's story, the programme also tells the tragic story of how Tutankhamun died without an heir at the age of 18; how he was mummified, buried and his name eventually erased from history... Tutankhamun would lay forgotten until Carter's discovery of his tomb.
1x01 The Search for Tutankhamun (October 30, 2005)
Carter's fledgling career in Egyptology suffers a blow when a tomb he opens to huge fanfare is found to be empty. Undeterred from his ambitions, Carter parts company from his partner, Thedore Davis, and resumes his work as an archaeological artist and desperately hopes he will find a new patron. A meeting with the maverick Lord Carnarvon is to change Carter's life forever. Carnarvon - who has come to Egypt to recover from a horrific car accident - has become obsessed with finding an undamaged tomb and teams up with Carter in the search for the elusive burial site of the Boy King Tutankhamun. They begin digging but are unable to excavate The Valley of the Kings as Carter's old rival, Davis, owns the only concession to excavate. By 1912, Davis believes he has discovered all the major finds in The Valley, including the tomb of Tutankhamun. Carter, certain that Tutankhamum remains undiscovered, persuades Carnarvon to secure the permit to continue to excavate in The Valley of the Kings. However, just as the team begin work, war breaks out with Germany and the dig is suspended. Carter and Carnarvon resume their work with renewed vigour when the war ends and The Valley of the Kings is explored piece by piece. Excavations continue until 1922, when, frustrated with the lack of progress and nearing financial ruin, Carnarvon decides to pull out. Carter is devastated and pleads with him to reconsider, even offering to pay for the dig himself. Eventually Carnarvon relents and, while excavating the very last plot, the water boy discovers a step that appears to be part of a tomb. Carnarvon and his daughter, Evelyn, watch nervously as Carter makes a hole in the first plaster-sealed entrance. Placing a candle through the opening, he is stunned by what he sees: an antechamber filled with all sorts of Royal possessions, including amazing golden chariots and other 'wonderful things' to take the Pharaoh to his afterlife. Instead of immediately summoning the authorities, as is Egyptian law, Carnarvon persuades Carter to make a small hole in the next chamber. He finds that it is an intact burial chamber and realises that he has finally found his own Holy Grail - the last resting place of Tutankhamun… In parallel with Carter's story, the programme traces the first year of the reign of King Tutankhamun. Ascending to the throne at the age of nine, the Boy King was made to marry his half-sister, Ankhesanamun; between them, they were expected to continue the dynasty. One of the new King's first acts would have been to start work on the building of his tomb - work that would continue until his death.