One of the things that strikes me, speaking as an unapologetic generalist, is that, if you want to succeed in the academic archaeology world you have to specialize. It's true--for one thing, there's a finite quantity of literature you can stay on top of, and to stay ahead of the game you must stay on top of your specialty. But I get bored, so I need variation in the kinds of cultural stuff that I can look at and think about. (Obviously, I wasn't much of a success as an academic archaeologist). The eastern Mediterranean, though, is an area that includes a vast amount of cultures in a relatively small area, leading to a huge interconnectedness between myriad societies that draws me in. Sort of a non-specialists area of specialization, if you see what I mean.
Alexander the Great is an example of that. In 332 BC, Alexander the Macedonian spent six months in Egypt. Six months. During that time, he conquered the society (albeit a bit moribund at the time), had himself named pharaoh and began (in a loose manner of speaking) the Ptolemaic dynasty. Wow.
Anyway, because he was such a powerful, interconnected man, or so the theory goes, after he was dead, his body was carted around and buried in different places. NatGeo's premiere today looks at three of those temporary burials.
- Alexander the Great's Lost Tomb, Viewers Guide on About.com
- Alexander the Great's Lost Tomb, on NatGeo
- Everything you ever wanted to know about Alexander the Great, from our Ancient History guide
- The Elusive Tomb of Alexander, by Robert Bianchi on Archaeology Online
- Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II, a multi-region overview book by Marc Van de Mieroop that illustrates part of my fascination
Alexander the Great's Lost Tomb will premiere tonight, Friday, November 21, 2008, on the National Geographic Channel. Check local listings.