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K. Kris Hirst

The Silver Pharaoh: Secrets of the Dead

By October 31, 2010

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On Wednesday, November 3, 2010, Public Broadcasting will air The Silver Pharaoh, an hour-long video blending a tale of the history of archaeology in WWII and that of Psusennis I, the best known Pharaoh of the Third Intermediate Period (ca 1069-664 BC).

Portrait of Psusennes I by Melissa Dring, Forensic Artist
Portrait of Psusennes I by Melissa Dring, Forensic Artist. Photo
Andy Webb Blink Films

This powerful fellow illustrated above is a reconstructed drawing of Psusennis I, a king of Northern Egypt during the tumultuous times after the end of the New Kingdom.

The New Kingdom is the best known period of Egyptian history, that is to say, best known to the non-academic public: it is the period of Ramses II and Tutankhamen. Ramses II was the most powerful king, controlling all the Nile valley, but he made a fatal mistake that the Greeks would recognize as hubris: he built a third capital, Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta, dividing his forces and decreasing his ability to maintain control over the entire upper and lower Nile.

When the river changed course, Pi-Ramesses was abandoned, and Pharaoh Psusennis I moved many of the structures, stone by stone, to his capital Tanis: nearly 3,000 years later, Psusennis' collecting mentality would completely confuse archaeologist Pierre Montet.

Psusennes I silver coffin
Psusennes I silver coffin. Photo
Andy Webb Blink Films

The Silver Pharaoh recounts Montet's discoveries at Tanis, including the only untouched Egyptian pharaoh's tomb ever discovered: Psusennis I. Narrated by actor Leiv Schreiber, The Silver Pharaoh features commentary from archaeologists Salima Ikram, Peter Lacovara, Yasmin el Shazly and Fawzi Gaballah, and historical photographs and reconstructions of Montet's 1939-1940 excavations.

The program, produced by WNET, is an excellent presentation of the history of archaeology in the 1930s under the threat of Hitler, and the ancient history of the little known Third Intermediate Period in Dynastic Egypt.

Sources and Further Information

Secrets of the Dead: The Silver Pharaoh airs nationally on PBS stations Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 8 p.m. (ET). You should be able to view the program on the PBS website beginning November 4; check local listings to see it when it airs.

Zivie-Coche C. 2008. Late Period Temples. In: Wendrich W, editor. Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Los Angeles: Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, UCLA. Free download


June 22, 2011 at 9:05 am
(1) linda.clowting says:

I was facinated by the TV program and cant wait for all the artifacts to be displayed to the public. After my return from a tour of Accient Egypt i have been bitten by the bug. So much in one country and more being discovered all the time. This can only help Egypt flourish.

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