________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number 14 . . . . September 15, 1995

The Face of Tutankhamun
Episode One: "The Great Adventure."

Arts & Entertainment Network. 49 minutes.
Distributed as part of the Cable in the Classroom project: 7 - 8 a.m. Eastern time, Friday, September 29th. (Episodes 2 through 5 will be broadcast at the same time in succeeding weeks.)

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Duncan Thornton.


From the discovery of the fantastic burial place of Tutankhamen to a sparsely attended funeral in South London, the career of archaeologist Howard Carter was one of stark contrasts -- between high adventure and deep disappointment; between fame and neglect; a blessing and a curse.

This is the first part of Cable in the Classroom's presentation of the A&E series on King Tut, The Face of Tutankhamun, hosted by the genial and amusing professor Christopher Frayling.

Like APEMAN (reviewed here this week and last), and most A&E materials, it is smoothly made and attractively filmed, and the story of the young king, and how his tomb was found is as fascinating as any in archaeology. But this first episode will really hold the attention only of those already caught by the Tut mystique: it's largely an account of everything in the career of Howard Carter, the archaeologist who made the great discovery, right up to the point when the door is opened.

So it might be smarter to wait to use this one for a resource after showing later episodes that get into the meat of the find, or after using other projects or curriculum items to whet the appetite for Egyptology. But for an interested audience, this has plenty of good material. (It's interesting, for example, to find that as a boy Carter was friends with Lord and Lady Amherst, whose home, Didlington, held the largest collection of Egyptian relics in England; thus Carter was practiced at observing and drawing Egyptian artifacts before he ever left England.)

And there are good asides, like the difference between ancient tomb robbers -- who ruined so many potential finds -- who were interested precious metals, and modern tomb robbers, who are primarily interested in stealing ancient Egyptian art, for which there's a ready market. Of course the Tut find was to hold both art and gold in abundance, though the question of whether breaking into a someone's grave and despoiling it is really all right just as long as, like Indiana Jones, you cry "It belongs in a museum!" is left unasked.

But there's an awful lot of detail about the early archaeological career of Carter, a man with a good eye and a chip on his shoulder. More about the politics between the early twentieth-century French and English administrations in Egypt than we really want to know, and more details about Carter's early patrons, or more about how exactly he managed to climb into one of the tombs he discovered before the great find of Tut.

So it's a long wait before we reach the climax of this episode, and the start of what should be the really fascinating stuff, the thrilling moment Carter recorded:
At first I could see nothing; the hot air escaping from the chamber caused the candle flame to flicker. But presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist -- strange animals, statuettes, and gold! Everywhere, the glint of gold!
Recommended, with reservations.

Duncan Thornton is the Editor of Canadian Materials.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364