Monday, June 05, 2006

Discovery Mauls KV-63

I wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence. There's a knob called "brightness," but that doesn't work. ~Author Unknown

Last night, the Discovery Channel managed to make utter hamburger of an amazing event: The discovery of the first new tomb in the Valley of the Kings since Howard Carter found Tutankhamun's perpetual digs. This show violates so many of my Guide to Documentary Television, I would normally have dispatched it in the first five minutes. For example:

-- We had the repeated introduction.
-- We had the long list of questions to which we got the Guide's standard answers.
-- We got "the show so far" almost continuously.
-- We saw the same graphic and interior shots of the tomb about 100 times.

Besides this, the "reporter on the spot", supposedly an archaeologist, was not the brightest bulb on the tree. When an investigator was digging natron and human tissue out of a jug, this dimbulb practically stuck his nose in it and probably would have had he not started coughing and had not the investigator suggested rather strongly that he put a mask and gloves on.

Oh, and since Tut's tomb is in the area, this guy had to tell us that Tut died under "suspicious circumstances." Evidently, he doesn't watch Discovery or National Geographic, because it's been pretty solidly determined that Tut diesd of a horrifically broken leg.

The tomb is a fascinating find, although it may not be a tomb at all, but an "embalmer's cache" of used embalming materials. That doesn't make the find any less exciting, and the program could have discussed this aspect in some detail. But, they were absolutely focused on two coffins that might contain bodies. Nothing else mattered to the producers but those two coffins, so they showed them and foreshadowed about them until I was ready to scream "Uncle!"

Unfortunately, the coffins haven't been reached yet and won't be reached for some months. Now, they could have been honest about that, because they had all those urns, the funereal masks that they could reach, and a marvelous tiny gold leaf (not solid gold, as the show implied) coffin of marvelous workmanship. But, no. Violating yet another of the Guide's principles, we got to the end of the show to find out we hadn't found out anything.


They will undoubtedly show this sad effort a dozen times between now and the fall (when the coffins are expected to be open). Avoid it. Instead, here's a good article from the New York Times (which may require registration), some more coverage from U. of Memphis, and a detailed article and interview from Archaeology Magazine, always a good resource. In the event anything new is learned at the site, we can depend on those sources, Science Daily, and/or New Scientist (links at the right) to be quick to let us know. Of course, they have a KV-63 web site, as well, but, it's actually a bit bland. However, it does have pictures and a decent list of articles about the site, so it's worth a look.

Besides, those guys are busy investigating; they ain't got time to do websites with little dancing mummies and singing sphinxes.

Thank god.

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