Monday, December 06, 2004

Discovery Channel Ramses a Recycle of Previous Programming

Last night I watched the heavily advertised "Ramses: Wrath of God or Man" on the Discovery Channel and was totally disgusted with it.

Essentially, Kent Weeks found four skeletons in KV-5 and selected one skull as the probable skull of the first-born son of Ramses. Why he selected this particular skull out of the four no one says. The skull has obvious damage caused by some type of weapon or blunt instrument on one side but so-called experts are called in to see if the cause of death could have been supernatural (i.e. the wrath of God).

What followed was two hours of rehashing the historicity of the Exodus including sequences of some so-called expert investigative journalist running around Egypt "discovering" the monotheistic religion of Ahkenaten. They speculated about Moses being one of Ramses own sons who was converted by remnants of followers from Amarna and basically trotted out the same information and speculations covered by their previous program on Moses and the Exodus last year. (Is this television's version of recycling?)

They made a big deal out of Ramses being less than straightforward about the battle of Kadesh and how this clearly indicates the Egyptians would not have recorded their defeat during the Exodus which explains why there has been little archaeological evidence to date to support the biblical account. Then they went on to explain away the head wound by saying that the original biblical account about the death of the first born was probably not meant to be literal. The Hebrews were armed and probably slew many Egyptian first born in the battle during their escape. What really made my jaw drop was the depiction of Nefretari and Ramses first-born nursing Ramses wounds in the campaign tent after the battle. I don't ever recall any mention of Egyptian pharaohs taking their women to battle with them, especially that far from the capital.

When the forensic tests comparing the facial geometry of the skull in question with that of the mummy of Ramses indicated a lack of familial similarity, they conceded that the only definitive answer to whether the skull was any relation to Ramses would have to come from DNA analysis and they weren't ready for that yet. (Again, no explanation was given although Zawi Hawass has been less than cooperative in approving DNA tests in the past.)

The program producers appeared to be turning themselves inside out trying not to offend religious fundamentalists while presenting information that does not support the biblical account. I would have preferred a much more scientific approach. The only important point made during the whole program was that Ramses first-born died as a mature adult, since there are references to him leading the army on a wall relief at Abu-Simbel.