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History programmes have to keep up with the Kardashians, Egyptologist claims

Published 19/02/2016

A statue of Ramesses II, aka Ramesses the Great
A statue of Ramesses II, aka Ramesses the Great

Egyptologist Dr Chris Naunton has said it is "vital" to see television programmes about history and archaeology alongside EastEnders and Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

The expert on ancient Egypt is featured in two Channel 5 documentaries which are scheduled for broadcast on Friday.

In the first at 8pm, The Lost City Of The Pharaohs charts the discovery of Ramesses the Great's lost city of Pi-Ramesses.

It will be followed by a programme about King Tutankhamun called King Tut's Tomb: The Hidden Chamber, in which, for the first time ever on TV, evidence will be presented supporting the theory that Queen Nefertiti is buried in a chamber next to his tomb.

"It's great that we can get on Channel 5," Dr Naunton told the Press Association.

"History and archaeology and understanding the past is an enriching thing.

"The reality is that if anyone is ever going to get interested enough to think about the past like that, we need films like these to be given a platform."

He added: "It's vital that this sort of stuff is given some space in and amongst EastEnders and Keeping Up With The Kardashians."

The CEO of the Egypt Exploration Society, a charity dedicated to ancient Egypt, Dr Naunton presented the 2012 BBC documentary Flinders Petrie: The Man Who Discovered Egypt.

A year later, he was the lead Egyptologist on a new investigation into the death and burial of King Tut for Channel 4's Tutankhamun: The Mystery Of The Burnt Mummy.

When asked why the fascination with the boy king persists, Dr Naunton said: "Probably because of the discovery of his tomb intact and the gold death mask, I think.

"An intact tomb with a load of rubbish made of cardboard would have been forgotten, but it's the gold and the glint of gold that has captured the imagination."

In 1922, in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, Britain's Howard Carter made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of archaeology: he found the intact tomb of the boy king who had been buried with more than 5,000 priceless objects, including a gold throne.

"Indiana Jones could not have been written without this - none of that genre of archaeological stories and films could have happened without it," Dr Naunton said.

"I really think it's that death mask that gives you a face in the same way we all know magazines sell more if there's an attractive face on the cover. It's the great advert for everything that people think of ancient Egypt."

Nearly a century later, laser and radar scans of the tomb walls have revealed a new twist to the story.

Archaeologist Dr Nicholas Reeves thinks one of these chambers could hold the untouched, missing burial chamber of Queen Nefertiti, one of the most famous figures of ancient Egypt.

On the subject, Dr Naunton said: "There is little doubt that this would be the most sensational archaeological discovery there has ever been."

King Tut's Tomb: The Hidden Chamber follows the experts as they forensically analyse the tomb, and hunt down the clues to solve this 3,500-year-old mystery.

"If we knew the full story, that story could be told and you could close the book and put it down," Dr Naunton stated.

"But things like hidden chambers and new discoveries mean this story's never quite finished and there are gaps, so there's a tantalising possibility that if you just keep watching, there's going to be a revelation."

:: The Lost City Of The Pharaohs and King Tut's Tomb: The Hidden Chamber will be broadcast on Channel 5 from 8pm on February 19.

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