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24 September 2014
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Dan Cruickshank in Egypt


Egyptian Journeys with Dan Cruickshank on BBC TWO


In this six-part series, Dan Cruickshank, long-time enthusiast of Ancient Egypt and its civilisation, travels the length of the country exploring some of the extraordinary stories that have emerged from the land of the Pharaohs.


On his journeys, he uncovers the dramatic spectacle, the characters, the intrigues the superstitions and the mysteries that lie at the heart of this remarkable ancient culture which flourished for more than 3,000 years.


Dan's journeys take him to many of the great sites of Egypt - from the ancient capital of Alexandria in the north, to the island temple of Philae in the south.


On the way, he explores the stunning temples of Karnak, Luxor and Dendera and the mysterious Theban necropolis on the west bank of the Nile.


He visits the Valley of the Kings, the striking mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri, and Ramesses II's spectacular temple, known as the Ramesseum.


He also unravels the secrets of the wall reliefs at Medinet Habu, the temple created for Ramesses III.


In Middle Egypt, Dan's quest takes him to the desolate windswept ruins of El Armana, the site of the city created by the heretic Pharaoh, Akhenaten.


This running order is not confirmed and may be subject to change.


Programme One - The Secrets of the Tomb Builders


Dan Cruickshank explores the exquisite underground tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and goes in search of the unsung heroes of Ancient Egypt, the highly-skilled workforce who spent their lives building these lavish, gilded burial chambers for the Pharaohs.


The tombs are wonderful feats of art and engineering and Dan finds a wealth of intriguing evidence about the lives of the supposedly anonymous people who built them.


Given rare access to the most extraordinary tomb of all – the labyrinthine 150-room necropolis built for the sons of Ramesses II, Dan speculates on the skill of the men who designed and excavated this tomb thousands of years ago.


In the tomb of the Pharaoh Horemheb, he discovers an unfinished burial chamber, where the intricate process of tomb building was stopped in its tracks, leaving detailed evidence of the artistic techniques used by these ancient artisans.


Across the dry desert hills beyond the Valley of the Kings, Dan visits the village where the tomb-builders lived, explores their homes and reveals their personal lives through unique written records that have survived for thousands of years.


Were the tomb-builders slaves, forced to use their skills to glorify the dead Pharaohs? Dan pieces together the truth, and reveals an unexpectedly intimate picture of these ancient artists and craftsmen.


Producer: Naomi Austin

Series Producer: Martin Mortimore


Programme Two – The Pharaoh Hunter


Dan Cruickshank traces the story of the British archaeologist Howard Carter, who rose from humble origins to become the most famous archaeologist in the world, responsible for one of the richest discoveries of all time: the tomb of Tutankhamun.


But despite his spectacular success and worldwide fame after this discovery in 1922, Carter was never honoured in Britain, and received no official recognition from his own country. He is buried in a simple grave in Putney, with no statue or honours.


Dan looks for clues to this mystery as he follows the roller-coaster of Carter's career, from his first visit to Egypt as a teenager hired to copy Egyptian art, right up to the fame of his later years of discovery.


Dan visits many of the key archaeological dig sites along the Nile that marked the turning points in Carter's career, including a visit to the tomb of Tutankhamen himself, and he finds out that Carter played a crucial role in updating the science of archaeology and reveals his hidden legacy - a wealth of exquisite drawings and photos.


Producer: Martin Mortimore


Programme Three - The Rebel Pharaoh


Dan Cruickshank goes down the Nile in search of the truth about Akhenaten, the most bizarre, radical and mysterious Pharaoh ever to take the Egyptian throne, and his beautiful wife Nefertiti.


They were the golden couple, rich and all-powerful, but their reign was so scandalous that soon after their deaths the Egyptians tried to obliterate all trace of their memory from history.


And that's because Akhenaten committed the ultimate heresy: he overturned the entire religious belief system of Ancient Egypt, swept aside thousands of years of worship of many gods, and declared that there was only one god, the Sun – the 'Aten' - thus creating the first monotheistic religion in the world.


And, as Dan discovers, Akhenaten's ambition went further – he decreed a vast new capital city should be built far away from the ancient capital of Thebes, a city dedicated to the Aten, in which he and Nefertiti lived in splendour.


But it didn't stop there, for soon the king and queen decided that they were themselves divine, and should be worshipped as gods.


But the royal couple's dreams would soon come to a tragic end.


From the grand temples at Karnak, Dan traces the route of the heretic king and queen down the Nile to the site of their splendid new city at El Armana, in Middle Egypt - now just a poignant, desolate ruin where Akhenaten and Nefertiti lived out their glorious but doomed lives.


Producer: Tanya Batchelor

Series Producer: Martin Mortimore


Programme Four - Building for Eternity


Dan Cruickshank journeys through Egypt to uncover the secrets of how and why the Egyptians built everything to last forever.


From the colossal, indestructible pyramids at Giza and massive stone temples at Karnak, to the mummification process designed to keep their bodies intact forever after death, Dan discover how the religious belief in the afterlife dominated the lives and deaths everyone in the land.


The Egyptians' sense of eternity and the conviction that life continues forever meant that hundreds of monuments – from magnificent temples to lavish tombs – were built to survive, and can now help us understand their beliefs.


Above all, thousands of mummies found all over Egypt bear witness to how they believed, more than any other culture in history, that the human body played a part in the continued survival of the spirit.


Dan discovers the ingenuity that lies behind the heroic building projects and the mummification techniques of the Ancient Egyptians – all a result of their obsession with superstition, magic and the afterlife.


Producer: Martin Mortimore


Programme Five - Pharaoh's Wives


Ancient Egypt was a man's world. If you were a woman and wanted power there were very few ways to get it.


In this programme, Dan Cruickshank traces the lives of two extraordinary women of the Harem who sought power in two very different ways – the first woman, Hatshetsup, took on the identity of a man in order to become Pharaoh, and reigned successfully for more than 20 years.


The second woman, Tye, used darker and more nefarious means to achieve her ends – resorting to black magic and ultimately the murder of the King, in what famously became known as the Harem Conspiracy.


Producer: Tanya Batchelor

Series Producer: Martin Mortimore


Programme Six - The Mysterious End of Egypt


The extraordinary history of ancient Egypt spans 3,000 years but why did it come to an end?


When the culture vanished, so did the ability to read hieroglyphic text, and that meant much of the long history of Ancient Egypt was completely unknown to the rest of the world until the code was cracked in the 19th century and a window opened on this fascinating civilisation.


Dan Cruickshank charts the key dramatic events that marked the tragic decline in the fortunes of the ancient Egyptians and reveals the rich cast of characters, Emperors and Pharaohs, Kings and Queens – from Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar and Cleopatra - who were the principal players in this drama.


Dan visits the last known hieroglyph inscription in Egypt and discovers the surprising truth about those responsible for the final collapse of this great civilisation.


Producer: Naomi Austin

Series Producer: Martin Mortimore



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