Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Silver Pharaohs, Greeks and Alexander the Great - Oh My!

Each week I check the latest releases available instantly from Netflix and today I was thrilled to see that a number of great history titles from National Geographic are now available to add to your instant queue.
Alexander the Great:  The man behind the legend:

Other titles include: Egypt: Quest for Eternity and Egypt: Lost Tombs. I also noticed that the excellent PBS series Greece: Crucible of Civilization has also been added to the list of programs available for instant download.

Also, while I was up on YouTube looking for these clips I noticed that the new National Geographic program "The Silver Pharaoh" is available in three installments up on YouTube. Here's the clip for part 1:

The tomb of 21st century pharaoh Psusennes I was originally discovered in 1940 in the remains of the ancient city of Tanis by French archaeologist Professor Pierre Montet. Psusennes I was the third king of the Twenty-first dynasty of Egypt who ruled between 1047 – 1001 BC.

The intact tomb yielded treasures comparable to those found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
"fingers and toes had been encased in gold stalls, and he was buried with gold sandals on his feet. The finger stalls are the most elaborate ever found, with sculpted fingernails. Each finger wore an elaborate ring of gold and lapis lazuli or some other semiprecious stone." - Egyptian Mummies: Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art  By Bob Brier
But, the discovery was overshadowed by the start of World War II.  With the exception of a cursory autopsy of the badly decomposed remains of the king, treasures from the find have unbelievably been virtually ignored for the past 70 years until now.

As I watched the program I was fascinated to learn that Psusennes I was the fourth son of the High Priest of Amun in Karnak, who became pharaoh during Egypt's last dark intermediate period.  The high priests of Amun, once thwarted in their lust for power by the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten (read about the Amun vs. Re/Aten rivalry in my recent review of Michelle Moran's novel "Nefertiti") apparently finally succeeded in their ultimate quest to take over the Egyptian state three hundred years after the fall of Amarna (Akhetaten).
The silver sarcophagus of 21st dynasty pharaoh Psusennes I.
Image courtesy of National Geographic.

I also found the description of the extra craftsmanship needed to produce a silver sarcophagus rather than a gold one very interesting.  Psusennes I did have a gold death mask like Tutankhamun but the outer coffin was silver, a once scarce and costly metal in Egypt that had become more plentiful at the time because of international trade.  In my opinion, it is as exquisite as Tut's gold one.
Forensic portrait of Pharaoh Psusennes I in his later years. 
Image courtesy of National Geographic.

Of course he is depicted as a young man on his coffin but in fact was probably over 80 years old at the time of his death.  A couple of days ago I wrote about the wonderful forensic 3D artwork of Elisabeth Daynès. (See next post below).  This program included a forensic artist's 2D rendering of Psusennes I in his later years based on his skull and lack of teeth.

I don't think I would have wanted to cross this king.  He looks like he was the model for faces of the mummies who have appeared in old Hollywood horror flicks!
Tanis, Part 1   God's Wife, God's Servant: The God's Wife of Amun (ca.740525 BC)   Gods and Religion of Ancient Egypt: An in-depth study of a fascinating society and their popular beliefs, documented in over 200 photographs
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