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17 February 2011 @ 03:04 pm
Nefertiti & The Lost Dynasty; Michael Wood's Story of England  
First programme for the evening was a programme about Egypt that J had spotted was on More 4 over the weekend - Nefertiti & The Lost Dynasty. This was about trying to track down the mummy of Nefertiti and/or identify the other potential Amarna era mummies, and was clearly made before the recent DNA evidence. As a result the evidence they were showing all came from CT scans of the various mummies. It was interesting to see the previous evidence and to put it together with our knowledge of the evidence the DNA study came up with - for instance there was strong anatomical evidence to suggest that the Older Lady from KV35 was Tiye (corroborated by later DNA evidence) and that the Younger Lady from KV35 was Tutankhamun's mother & the KV55 mummy was his father (both also corroborated by the DNA evidence). And none of the three mummies was Nefertiti (again corroborated by later DNA evidence). So, nice to see how it hangs together, which strengthens all the identifications proposed.

In terms of watching the programme, it was also nice to see the places and things - particularly the mummies. And the obligatory reconstructions were well done (even if the actors were clearly encouraged to pull weird faces ;) ). The script, however, left much to be desired. For starters there was one thing J picked up on as outright wrong - Tutankhaten doesn't mean "Servant of the Aten" it means "Living Image of the Aten". And mistakes like that don't inspire confidence in the rest of it :/ Particularly as they could've looked it up in 2 seconds (like I just did to double check the right translation).

My other quibbles are primarily stylistic. Firstly an overuse of the word "proved" when what they actually meant was "theorised" - yes, as J says, I have a more technical approach to "proof" than the general lay audience might, but other programmes do this better (mostly not ones about Ancient Egypt, tho). I just think it's better to say "the evidence suggests that ..." or "this evidence supports our theory that ..." rather than "We have now proved that ...", particularly when anyone applying a bit of logic and common sense can come up with a couple of other sensible possibilities and/or questions that need to be answered before you can say you've ruled out all other options. (Yes, they might also have considered other things the programme didn't tell us about - I'm aware that we'll only be shown a simplified overview. But even then it's still wrong to say that this one specific thing is "the proof".)

Secondly, I thought the presentation was rather muddled. They CT scanned 3 mummies, and on the third one we got a voice over telling us what this meant and how images were obtained. Surely this should have happened first? Also the programme was clearly originally intended to tell us a story about Nefertiti, but then they didn't find Nefertiti's mummy, surely they could have re-done the voice over to turn it into telling us a story about Tutankhamun's family? Rather than starting with Nefertiti, but turning it into being about Tutankhamun's family by the end. I also felt a bit more empahsis on showing us the evidence rather than showing us the experts pointing at the evidence would've been nice - like when you're saying "this arm is in proportion, this one isn't" it might be nice for us non-anatomists if you'd done a couple of quick still images with the arms "attached" so we could see visually that it was wrong. Rather than just point at numbers on the screen with two bespectacled gents explaining how it proved this, that & the next. Or if you're comparing two skulls, how about orienting them the same way not at a 15° angle to each other. Simple things.

It still interesting to watch, just I think as programmes go it's one to watch only if you want to watch everything about ancient Egypt and find out all the details (and it is nice to see the things like the mummies that you can otherwise only read about). But there are better programmes out there if you're just wanting to watch some ancient history programme.

Second programme of the evening was the next episode of Michael Wood's Story of England - where they were capable of adding the right caveats to their evidence -> conclusion trails ;) This one covered the time from the Peasants' Revolt in the late 14th century to the start of the Tudor dynasty in the early 16th century. Wood traced three separate (but intertwined) strands through the time period - the rise of education amongst the peasantry, the increased social mobility and a rise in free thought. I continue to enjoy the mix of modern day footage, old documents and archaeological evidence that they've achieved. Particularly fascinating in this episode was the house in the village that they can trace in documentary evidence back to the late 14th century or early 15th century and then tree-ring dated the timbers in to get a "earliest possible" building date of 1385 (that was the most recent felling date for any of the timbers). Which nicely dovetailed with some of the documents. And they then followed members of that same family to show the social mobility - they moved to Coventry (where a daughter married the mayor) & then to London to be Mercers there (and a later generation invited back to be Mayor of Coventry himself - he turned it down tho). Not bad for a family which had started as villeins a couple of hundred years before. This social mobility of course enabled by both the better education for even the peasantry, and by the significantly reduced population after the Black Death opening up opportunities. And these twin influences also helped to lead people to question the received wisdom of the church. Kibworth had links to the Lollard movement, which was a sort of Reformation-come-early and failed - as it was against the King (Henry V) rather than with the King (Henry VIII). Next must be on to the Tudors and the Reformation - my favourite era of English history :)
 
 
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