summer

Immortal Egypt: The Road To The Pyramids (Ancient Egypt Documentary) | Timeline

can't we'll get up

[Laughter]

this is brilliant this is obviously an

iconic image

taking a camel ride by the pyramids

surely it encapsulates the spirit of

egypt

but such an image is completely

misleading

because there weren't any camels here

when the pyramids were built four and a

half thousand years ago

and that's the thing ancient egypt

is instantly recognizable but all too

often

completely misunderstood

so i'm gonna try and change that

good luck shall crank

the great pyramid of giza final resting

place of king khufu

over 140 meters from bottom to top

no wonder it still pulls in the crowds

and the occasional egyptologist

it's hard to really get it into words

but we are now entering

into the depths of this iconic monument

of ancient egypt

it's a very care it's a very busy iconic

monument though

it's available and as we set foot on

this journey upwards

it's a brilliant metaphor for the way

that the ancient egyptian civilization

literally

rose up from the earth to a real zenith

so come with me and i'll show you

something really brilliant

because the pyramids are really only the

tip of the iceberg

[Music]

oh oh flipping out

[Music]

so all this was a big city overwhelming

that is absolutely superb

in this series i'm going to explore the

story of what i consider to be the

world's greatest

civilization more than 4 000 years of

history that has shaped our world

and left unmistakable marks that can

still be read today

i'll be looking into every nook and

cranny

from little known tombs it's staggering

i've never

ever been into a tomb quite like this

before to the hidden corners of vast

monuments

it's like being on top of the world

isn't it yeah we are in the tub of

[Music]

karnak

so it's really no surprise that weird

and wonderful theories about ancient

egypt

crop up all the time

but what i find so amazing is that this

most intriguing civilization

was actually created by people not so

very different from you and me

and that's the story i want to tell

a story full of secret treasures

dark deeds

and sometimes controversial theories

this mask was originally made for

someone else

and for the first time i'll be piecing

it all together

from the earliest egyptians to the last

of the pharaohs

wow look at that look at that oh that is

oh that is so beautiful

welcome to my story of ancient egypt

the big question is how did ancient

egypt begin

where did the first egyptians and their

extraordinary culture come from

[Music]

this immortal civilization was thousands

of years in the making

so to pull it all together is a daunting

task

but bear with me as it's utterly

fascinating

but we won't begin with massive

monuments but with some enigmatic clues

you could easily miss

[Music]

this is curta around a hundred

kilometers south of luxo

unless you're an archaeologist you

almost certainly won't have heard of it

because there aren't any great temples

or royal tombs to admire

but high in the cliffs you can see real

signs

of ancient life here

[Music]

thousands of years before the pyramids

and this is where our story begins

welcome to kurta joanne thank you so

much for letting me come here it's

incredibly exciting it's the first time

you're here i suppose

nothing escapes the sharp eye of dr dirk

hoyger

and he's got something very special to

show me

not many people have been here before

you because it's it's a quite recent

discovery

these carvings in the rock reveal an

amazing story

about the beginnings of egyptian life

it's a nineteen thousand year old

picture gallery

[Music]

complete with its own hippo

back line very short tail fine legs

belly line front legs and

the mouth is shown you're probably

smiling but then again a nipple is

always smiling

but another type of animal is by far the

most common here

that's that's cattle not just cattle

there's the mighty aurochs the wild

profit wild cattle

and the extremely powerful images that

seem to be in movement

they are the charging down to orders

aren't they

these wild aurochs were ancestors of the

domestic cow

and nearly twenty thousand years ago

beef was the main thing on the menu

about maybe fifty percent of their diet

was composed of all rocks

so they were experts and masters in

representing this animal

[Music]

it's always high on the cliff very

prominent positions that give an

excellent panorama

over what must have been in the

paleolithic the hunting grounds of the

people

it's easy to picture these early hunters

here as they tracked their prey

[Music]

but the landscape would have looked very

different from today

because back then this was savannah

grassland

a green and fertile region

[Music]

do we have any idea why these creatures

were engraved on these rocks here we can

guess joanne but we don't know

maybe they wanted to influence the

hunting

maybe this is some sort of hunting magic

it really is magical to sit here and

imagine

egypt's earliest nomadic people passing

right through this spot

and portraying on these very rocks the

animals that they saw all around them

human figures and boats joined the

animals as the carvings became stranger

and stranger

but these carvings are also the earliest

glimpse of the amazing things to come

these are the first signs of what makes

ancient egypt

well ancient egypt

as for its ancient landscape this

evolved under dramatic circumstances

ten thousand years ago gravity tilted

the entire earth of its axis

by about half a degree and this had a

profound effect on climate

and as the world began to change egypt

would never be the same again

these early people were nomads

seasonally

mobile pastoralists who moved around

following the summer reigns

and these rains really were the vital

life-bringing force which created the

greenery

on which wild animals depended but of

course with climate change

these rains began to dry up okay you can

cut the rain

the diminishing rainfall forced both

animals and people

towards large lakes which formed during

the rainy season

one such area is nabta playa 100

kilometers southwest of a swamp

and here these nomadic hunters began to

settle into communities

but still reliant on the annual summer

reigns they needed to predict

exactly when these would return and so

they

turned to the night sky welcome to the

beginning of time

quite literally because this is egypt's

oldest calendar

at around 7 000 years old this stone

circle from nabta playa

is the earliest evidence of how egyptian

weather forecasters

became astronomers

they aligned its central stones to the

circumpolar stars

visible in the night sky all year round

when the sun appeared directly overhead

the stones cast no shadow

the mid-summer rains were approaching

this meant that the animals would drink

the plants would grow

and the world would survive for another

year

so in many ways this circle represents

the solution

to the very real problem of survival

but the egyptians would take this a step

further

i think the really great thing about

these mini monumental markers

is that this is the earliest example we

have of the way in which the egyptians

are aligning their monuments to various

things to the sky

to the cardinal points and from now on

every tomb

every temple every monument will be

aligned to the heavens

to the very gods themselves

[Music]

if the stars in the rain were this

closely linked

then this world and the next must be won

and the same

[Music]

and this has been described as egypt's

earliest

sculpted stone monument and dates from

around 5000 bc

[Music]

this chunk of sandstone was quarried

over a mile away from where it was

eventually discovered

this certainly suggests a kind of sense

of community

where people were already working

together to achieve a desired aim

in this case the stone was hauled into

place

and then there are clear signs that it's

been sculpted

into a specific shape now you might have

to go with me on this

but some believe that this is in fact a

cow

with its large hindquarters

and this sculpted head

now the cow was a vital part of everyday

life for these people it was a source of

meat

of milk and of blood key sources of

protein they needed to keep them healthy

and yet so important was the cow they

chose to take it

through into the afterlife with them to

sustain them

on a spiritual level and this is the

very beginnings

of the great cow goddess hathor

hathor may have started off as a source

of milk and meat

but eventually she would be loved and

idolized by

millions of egyptians since she

represented love

joy beauty and motherhood

and although her image develops from a

lifelike animal

to a female face with cow's ears

this may be hathor's very earliest

incarnation

[Music]

yet hathor is only one of a multitude of

gods and goddesses

the egyptians just couldn't get enough

of them

over the centuries emerged hundreds if

not thousands of deities

each with a specific purpose and

appearance

some came in human form some had animal

heads

they could be male female

even androgynous

it seems that there were few aspects of

life that didn't have their own gods

we know that in the very earliest times

their gods

resembled familiar things the world

around them

elements of nature and certainly animals

and over time the animals their forms

their shapes their characteristics

distilled down into this sort of divine

figure

each one worshiped for a different

quality in the case of the ram

they were worshiped for their

procreative powers

in the case of the cow for their

nurturing motherly

instincts then of course you've got

rather different creatures the dangerous

creatures the ones that lived

on the edges of the egyptian world the

lions the crocodiles the jackals

but it wasn't just about finding the

appropriate divinity

it was about gaining power over them

the goddess sekhmet was a ferocious

lioness

and the bringer of death to humans

so the egyptians transformed her into a

deity

as a way of controlling her destructive

powers

by a worshipping segment it was believed

that she could be placated

and transformed into a more benign deity

on so many levels the egyptians were

trying to tap into nature

to affect the way that nature then in

turn

affected them

in many ways egypt's unique religion was

the glue

that held society together uniting the

population

and underpinning almost every aspect of

life

it's everywhere in tombs in temples in

everyday life

and yet there is another even more

fundamental element

without which ancient egypt would never

have existed

at all

[Music]

later greek historians famously observed

that

egypt was the gift of the nile and how

right they were

because as the climate continued to

change the desert lakes

eventually dried up leaving the

egyptians

with just one source of water

this is an incredibly special place

located in modern sudan

it nonetheless forms the very source of

egypt

but it's the place where two great

rivers meet

the white nile and the blue nile which

combine

here to form the world's longest river

flowing from the heart of africa

and out into the mediterranean sea

for much of the year the wide lazy white

nile is the main source of water

until annual rainfall in the ethiopian

highlands

swells the fast-flowing blue nile

today the modern aswan dams hold back

these floodwaters

but until the 20th century huge volumes

of water

and fertile silt surged down river

to flood the entire nile valley

bringing life and fertility to the

desert that is egypt this annual nile

flood

was the single most important event in

the lives of every ancient egyptian

for its life-giving waters brought the

nutrients

and minerals which enriched the soil all

along its banks

and this allowed agriculture to flourish

egypt is blessed with some of the most

fertile land in the world

where farmers can grow everything from

sweet corn and garlic

to bananas sugarcane and cotton

bad away it's quite intensive farming

isn't it the land gives

the people a lot doesn't it yes but we

need to give the land also rest

we grow one time and we leave it for

one month then after we use the land

again

to grow again that's amazing that it

only needs one month

rest time and then it can be planted

again yeah sometimes 15 days sometime

one month yeah but it really does

emphasize that

this land of egypt has always been so

rich and so giving to the people it's

always given

the people everything they need

and it's the nile that turned this

desert land into a paradise

[Music]

and seven thousand years ago the people

who could no longer survive in an

increasingly desert landscape were

forced to migrate towards it

as their only source of water so ancient

egypt

took shape as these people came together

along the banks of the nile

in the north settlements clustered

around the delta

and the fiom and in the south

around the kenner bend

this was the beginning of egypt's

so-called two lands

upper and lower egypt which developed

into two

distinct cultures

[Music]

but what they both had in common was the

astonishing fertility

replenished every year by the miracle of

the nile

[Music]

el cab located to the south of the

kennebend

is one of upper egypt's earliest

settlements

[Music]

and while it may lack the wow factor of

the pyramids

it's actually far more revealing to see

traces of this amazing evolution

because here we can see how a nomadic

lifestyle

was soon replaced by a settled social

structure

and although it was a slow and gradual

process

archaeologist elizabeth hart can

identify

each stage of this transformation

wow you do work in an enclave but it's

much cooler down here

it's lovely actually

so down at this level we have sterile

soil where nobody lived

and then starting around 4 200 bc are

layers of

silt from the nile flood followed by

wind accumulated sand

and then another layer of silt and then

more sand and here you can see it really

well

a thin silt layer from the nile coming

up and flooding and then the sand

and over here we have a hearth feature

so this tells us that humans were

actually living

on these and coming into the nile valley

and then moving back out

and we also found lots of pot shards and

stone tools

in these layers you know it might be a

small space but you've got people's real

lives unfolding within it aren't you and

we have

thousands of years of it here when we

started people were just moving into the

nile valley they were just starting to

farm

and by the end here we have pharaohs and

a whole

united egypt it's really impressive when

you think about all the change that

happened

over this chunk of sand

although we are still centuries away

from the grand pharonic monuments

you can still find traces of the lives

these ancient people lived

if you look hard enough for very little

has survived

except for tons of pottery

yeah this one is uh yeah so it's five

thousand years old

five thousand years old

these pots help us to identify when this

early society

began to produce a food surplus a

pivotal transition

which required robust pottery for the

storage of large-scale food and drink

production

these bread molds from slightly later

are one of the most common finds

so you heat the mold then the dog gets

into into it

and by the heat of the mold the the bake

the bread will be

will be baked but this comes in massive

amounts

these are the beer jars ah bread and

beer egyptian staples

oh nice nicer beer jar this is the nuts

and bolts of how egyptian chronology all

came together in the early days isn't it

yes

the pottery is especially fundamental to

understand

how people were living

yet in egypt living was only half the

story

because what really sets the ancient

egyptians apart

is their view of death

to them death wasn't the end of life but

a new beginning

a transformation from the world of the

living into an everlasting

afterlife and such a belief

would shape egypt's most mysterious

practice

and my favorite subject

[Music]

mummification

although the origins of this enigmatic

tradition

are only now becoming clearer the burial

of their dead

had a strong significance from the very

earliest times

this is a typical burial from around

3400 bc

the body is curled into the fetal

position and here placed within a

reconstructed pit grave

surrounded by the belongings he might

have had in his earthly life

like pottery jewelry and a palette for

preparing cosmetics

everything that was important to him in

life accompanied

him into death and i think that's quite

significant because it shows that

already five and a half thousand years

ago the egyptians

wanted to take it all with them they

clearly believed that something happened

beyond death death was simply a

transition

into another state of existence when you

continued to live

and it was assumed you would need

everything you'd needed

in your life on earth his body was

naturally mummified in the hot desert

sand

but its placement here may not have been

accidental

because even when dead the body had to

be preserved

in order to house the soul for eternity

a skeleton simply wasn't good enough

skeletons bones

they are very very anonymous and yet

when the soft tissue the skin the hair

is all present

we are ourselves and that's exactly what

this individual represents

being face to face with one of the very

earliest egyptians

gives us insight into the development of

their ideas about the afterlife

it started off as a practical thing

burying

the dead in a relatively small space

bundled up

and then it developed these layers of

kind of like the symbolism

the fetal position this idea in rebirth

into the next world

it's almost like the seed from which the

egyptian funerary belief system evolved

this is the very beginning of a process

which would be repeated

a million fold throughout egyptian

history

this is combination of the esoteric

underpinned by the practical which

really does sum up

the egyptians in a nutshell

from the very beginning the egyptians

were masters

of making sense of their world no matter

how complex and mystifying it might seem

to us

and this same ability to bring order is

also found in the way they structured

their early society

adopting levels of bureaucracy that

border on the obsessive

in the ancient city of abidos the site

of egypt's first royal burial ground

archaeologists found the origins of a

system

that we still have to put up with today

[Music]

it's most fitting that this city of

death

was the fine spot of the earliest means

of calculating that other great

certainty

taxes

the evidence comes from small bone and

ivory labels like these

which have been dated to around 3250 bc

the originals are probably the size of a

postage stamp

and you can see that each one is

engraved with images of

animals of birds of plants and so forth

and each one is pierced for suspension

to a chest or pottery vessel

which would have contained oil linen

grain and it's thought that these

symbols represent

the regions that produce these

commodities which were then brought here

to abide us

thought to have been sent as tax

payments these tiny labels

show how these early people were already

capable of collecting duties

from a vast geographical area

some experts even believe these symbols

can be vocalized

by turning the simple drawings into

sounds makes this the world's earliest

known

writing

now isn't it interesting that the

world's earliest writing

wasn't developed to express some great

outpouring of emotion

or expressed grand passion it was simply

a means

of calculating taxes

these symbols soon became a

sophisticated

writing system of elegant signs we call

hieroglyphs

which means sacred carvings

and these signs represented every aspect

of the egyptian world

which were only translated in 1822 with

the discovery

of the rosetta stone

[Music]

and a common language was needed as

goods were transported between the two

lands of

upper and lower egypt the people of

lower egypt had also developed trade

links with the rest of the ancient world

but as more warlike regions began to

emerge in upper egypt

it soon became clear that the nile had

spawned

two very different and distinctive

cultures

and in many ways the only thing they

really had in common

was this great river

[Music]

the inevitable clash between these

cultures is recorded on what many

consider to be

ancient egypt's founding document

taking the form of a giant ceremonial

cosmetic palette

this is an exact copy of the original

nama palette

and however idealized and embellished it

depicts the pivotal moment

when the southern king nama defeated his

northern enemy

a split second after this mace comes

down onto this

northern enemy's head and he's executed

he's killed he is no more

nama himself remains the first king

of a united egypt and what this means is

that the whole of the country is now

united

under one man's rule he is setting

himself

up quite literally as the god king as

the one

central figure at the very pinnacle of

the pyramid that forms

egyptian society and from him everything

else

flows egypt is now

the world's first nation state

[Music]

what made ancient egypt ancient egypt is

all here

the art forms the reforms of religion

and even the world's first writing

hieroglyphic script

this is the name of nama the catfish

no and the chisel no no

no striking catfish as the first king of

egypt

narma is protected by the cow goddess

hathor

stands beside horus the falcon god of

kingship

and is dressed in all the same

paraphernalia as every king who succeeds

him

he has the tie on false beard to

emphasize

his virility and his strength and this

is matched of course by the time bull's

tail it's a wonderful feature

this idea you could just tie a little

tail onto the back of the belt

and then take into yourself the power of

a bull

this pallet is egypt's earliest

historical document

it's the blueprint of how every future

pharaoh will be portrayed

in the company of the gods

[Music]

yet perhaps most significant is nurma's

smiting pose

this powerful image with the mace held

high

will be endlessly repeated throughout

egypt's long

history

this is a horrible way to die to have

your brains bludgeoned out

and yet even this the egyptian artist

can show in an almost

ballet-like pose it's been sanitized

it's been

elevated to a piece of art and yet the

message still gets through

for the next three thousand years every

one of egypt's subsequent rulers

would try and link themselves to egypt's

first pharaoh

to rule legitimately and successfully

they had to be absorbed into the

complexities of the egyptian hierarchy

both in this world and the next so their

names were recorded on a series of king

lists

a kind of royal family tree and the best

preserved of these

is here in the temple of seti the first

at tabaidos

it lists himself and 75 of his

royal predecessors going right back to

the very dawn of egyptian history

with the very first king up there king

nama and the other important detail

about this

is that it's essentially emphasizing

that royal continuity because

seti has his own young son ramses the

crown prince

actually reading out these names on a

piece of papyrus paper

so it's as if seti is saying to the gods

look

i'm now pharaoh and this is my son

who'll succeed me

to become yet another name on this

remarkable list

in all egypt had over 300 pharaohs

organized into 30 dynasties

but in the case of egypt's earliest

kings being male immortal

was not enough they needed to prove

their divinity

by exercising absolute control over

their subjects

and the evidence for this was found in

the desolate desert

surrounding the ancient city of abados

[Music]

this was egypt's first royal burial

ground

the original version of the valley of

the kings

now being here you get a real sense of

the importance of this place for the

ancient egyptians

for as the wind funnels down this valley

and swirls around the sand

if you listen very carefully you can

hear a whispering sound

a whispering ones thought to be the

voices of the very dead themselves

and here egypt's earliest kings were

laid to rest

within huge subterranean burial chambers

like this the location of the final

resting place

of egypt's third pharaoh king ger

one of the largest and most complex

tombs of the first dynasty

and although it's been recovered in sand

it clearly demonstrates

the power that juror still wielded

even in death

jer himself was buried here in the

central chamber

but all around a 318 subsidiary graves

of his courtiers

not only that a little way beyond

many others were also buried in total

587 individuals accompanied this man

into the next world which is incredible

enough

but there is evidence of a more sinister

twist

the fact that this tomb was all sealed

over at the same time

suggests these people may have been

victims of ritual sacrifice

perhaps even ritual stabbing as

portrayed in art of the time

and certainly that power over life and

death would give any king

a godlike status

[Music]

now later kings seem to have realized

that killing all their courtiers in one

go

was not the best use of people who were

a precious state resource

after all he'll be around to make the

next king's cup of tea

although this cruel and short-sighted

practice of ritual killing

soon died out it had nonetheless

demonstrated that egypt's rulers

had complete control over their subjects

an essential step along the route

towards building the pyramids

and indeed egypt itself

yet the egyptian people were not slaves

by this time

egypt was a land of plenty where all

could enjoy its bounty

both in life and in death

this is the later tomb of an official

called eru qatar

and here he is greeting us he's coming

to the door of his own tomb

emerging from the walls captured in all

his splendor with his finery on his

jewel belt and his white linen and kilt

even details down to his little sort of

pencil mustache looks a little bit like

clark gable to be honest

the scenes in his colorful tomb depict a

refined life

that's a world away from egypt's

earliest farmers

we have iroquatar seated in front of a

table of food offerings there's fruit

vegetables

wine and so forth the berries are coming

forward with offerings to sustain his

soul

irukata was the royal butcher an

important member of court

and with royal courtiers no longer

sacrifice for burial with their king

they could now make their own elaborate

preparations for the afterlife

there are a couple of scenes up here of

the household servants making

the beds of iroquota and his family

they're stretching

out the linen sheets they're bringing

even a little fly whisk and the ancient

egyptian pillow the

headrest there so even in the afterlife

heru qatar

will be comfortable

hirokita's tomb is in saqqara a

sprawling city of the dead

for egypt's first capital memphis

yet zakara wasn't just the burial site

of courtiers

but of kings and the site of a

revolution in royal tomb building

[Music]

and whereas previously the dead had

tended to be buried away in the desert

hidden away almost here at sacara high

on the desert escarpment

the dead were literally placed on

display

up to this point the egyptians attended

to build their tombs and temples

like their houses from organic materials

from the mud break wood and reeds which

rarely survive

but in the third dynasty the great

innovator king jose

built his legacy in something far more

permanent

for he built in stone which could

potentially last forever

jose built this huge stone wall to

surround his tomb complex

although his architects and workmen

still drew their inspiration

from the natural world you can see that

the masons are just trying to get their

head around

how to actually work with this stuff

what forms to put it in

so we have egypt's first hyper style

hall of columns sure

but it's taking the form of reeds bound

together

to make the kind of columns that would

have been in joseph's palace

down by the nile

but this of course is a house for death

this is a palace of eternity

and must be built in something as solid

as stone

[Music]

at the rear of his complex is an

intriguing stone shrine

where i can come face to face with king

jose himself

the shrine looks like it's suffering a

severe case of subsidence

and yet the egyptians purposefully built

it on this very

definite tilt

it has these two holes here where modern

tourists can see jose

but jose can see them you can actually

see beyond them

because this face is true north it faces

the northern stars

which the egyptians called the

imperishable ones

and so at death jose's soul could rise

up

and merge with these stars so he too

would be imperishable and he too would

never die

in order to ensure that his soul could

live on jose's body

needed somewhere safe to rest within a

tomb

truly fit for a king most burials were

topped by a simple

single-story building called a mastaba

meaning bench

but jose did something radical

josem really wanted to impress with his

funerary monument

so another step was built on top

i think jose must have quite liked the

effect that this gave

and so built a third step

fourth step a fifth step

sixth step when they stood back and

looked

they realized they'd built egypt's first

pyramid

pretty impressive

the step pyramid stands over 60 metres

tall

and still dominates the sacara landscape

at the time it was the largest building

on earth

reinforcing jose's status as a living

god

in the grandest of ways

it certainly secured his place in

egyptian history

with ancient visitors flocking here to

marvel at his achievements

now jose had created a true landmark but

it also created egypt's first tourist

attraction

if you come with me i'll show you the

evidence

because in here we have what many

tourists still leave today

appreciative graffiti and this is the

original

handwriting of a couple of ancient

visitors from around 1300 bc

who were so impressed by what they saw

they described jose's pyramid

as if heaven were in it and they credit

jose

with being the inventor of stone

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but why did jose build this was it just

an ego trip

or an exercise in personal vanity or was

it designed to show the world

just how far egypt had come because in

only a few centuries

these disparate people had come together

to create the world's

first nation state

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egypt was now an unstoppable powerhouse

a nation unified both politically and

culturally

under a single ruler whose authority was

limitless

yet it wasn't just the king who could

achieve immortality

for the man who designed and built

jose's pyramid was destined to become

even more famous than the pharaoh he had

served

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this statue base once held a full-sized

figure of king jose

but carved into its base is also the

name

of his architect and here we can see it

with this reed the owl and then the

little

mat with a little bread loaf on which

reads

and here is the man himself

although most likely a commoner by birth

imhotep

rose through the ranks to become one of

egypt's most powerful officials

he was made the royal chancellor the

prime minister

he was even made high priest of the sun

god

he was the ultimate local boy made good

because he then gained a reputation

as an academic as a great healer and he

was famous the length and breadth of

egypt

he was ultimately worshipped as a god

imhotep represents the ultimate in

social mobility

a kind which was certainly possible

within egypt's unique society

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this was a society in which ideas were

often taken to extremes

with one and a half million people

united by an absolute belief in the

power of their king

and in the certainty of the afterlife

egypt enters

its most ambitious era so far

the pyramid age

over 130 pyramids would be built across

egypt

and they represent the zenith in royal

tomb building

huge state-sponsored civil engineering

projects

that used vast resources of materials

manpower and time

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the largest of all the great pyramid of

king khufu

which took over 20 years to build

and in order to build something so

ambitious

an entire city was created specifically

to house the construction workers

just beyond this monumental wall it's

known as the wall of the crow

and it separated the silent sacred space

of the dead

from the busy bustling city of the

pyramid builders

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this five-hectare site once housed

workshops

bakeries a tool-making facility and a

fish processing area

for this was an integrated

self-sufficient community

of over 8 000 people who even had their

own medical care

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anthropological archaeologist dr richard

reading

has been excavating the site since 1991.

where we are now this is kind of a big

workshop a big industrial park

where there's lots of activity going on

out here

they're probably using granite statue

maybe granite

column we find tools out here for

polishing

the granite we find tools out here for

chipping at the granite

it's very well planned we have three

streets we have north street

main street we're on and we have south

street down there so we're walking down

man you're walking down main street

the pyramid workers live cheek by jowl

in two-story barracks

you would have walked in you would have

been in a very quiet dark

long narrow room this is where they

would have slept

there would have been a a higher bed for

the overseer at each end

and then everybody would have laid down

probably with their head

in this direction or the other direction

exactly like this you would be lying

here like this and this would be your

your nighttime position very comfortable

can i can i try out the obviously

sure you want to try the overseer's bed

there delusions of grandeur

is it this one or that one yeah it's

that's the that's the wall you're the

way right where you are

oh so this is all right so if i if i sat

down here yeah the overseer's bed is

actually buried under a few centimeters

of sand

and the floor here is probably under

about a half a meter of sand

so this is nice yeah i'm keeping my eye

on you now that's right you can see me

if i got up in the night and i tried to

sneak out to go someplace you would see

me

everything the workers needed was here

on site

the team have recovered data that shows

that workers consumed 74

cattle and 257 sheep and goats each week

this coral area could hold a weak supply

of cattle

before more were shipped in from egypt's

grasslands

you could have almost just in time

delivery coming down another small herd

coming down from como hissing or the

delta

coming down and in it's a really

well-oiled machine you can see

now how efficient the egyptians were

obtaining their food

bringing it to the right place at the

right time for the right people it's

brilliant absolutely it was

it wasn't just simply the food it was

everything there was the

copper to make tools there was the stone

being brought in here from

osmond and other areas so a lot of

things were coming into here

these were government workers they got

everything from the government

in many ways this settlement is egypt in

microcosm

a highly ordered social structure with

job specialization

and mass cooperation it's hard to

believe

that in a relatively short period of

time egypt had been transformed

from simple subsistence into a united

state

which could provide for everyone who

worked on its behalf

what we're seeing here is the final

building block

in egyptian culture but not just for the

pyramid age

for once this infrastructure was in

place it would never

change so whether they're building a

pyramid or setting up a colossal statue

the level of organization and

cooperation would remain the same

but this was the foundation stone of

egypt

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the pyramids are eternal testament to

just how powerful

egypt had now become and in many ways

they

are egypt at this time dominating

everything around them on a gigantic

scale

and towering above the giza landscape is

the great pyramid

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it took around 20 000 people to set in

place the 2.3 million blocks of

limestone

it remained the tallest structure

anywhere in the world for 3

800 years until the building of lincoln

cathedral spire in 1300 a.d

it's a phenomenal achievement for any

civilization at any time

but for me its exterior can't compare

to the sense of wonder once you venture

inside

the roof of the grand gallery passageway

is built of multiple layers of enormous

limestone slabs

rising over eight meters high

massive massive blocks of masonry built

on a god-like scale

that's surely what kufu wanted

i sincerely hope kufu's eternal resting

place was rather

less congested than it is today but it

still gives a real atmosphere of the

busyness that must have been

here on a daily basis

these guys were hauling massive massive

blocks hundreds of feet up literally

into the air these guys were magicians

just look how brilliantly these courses

have been laid

these are perfect and if i any modern

architect to be able to replicate this

using the tools that the ancients had at

their disposal

wow here we are at the zenith we're at

the heart of the pyramid now

king kufu's burial chamber and we've hit

it at exactly the right moment

because the pyramid is closed for lunch

so we've got

the whole place to ourselves and you

really get a sense of the sanctity

of this divine mausoleum

the walls and roof of the burial chamber

are lined entirely in granite

and it was within here that the body of

the great king khufu was sealed

ready for his final journey into the

afterlife

at the heart of the pyramid in terms of

its architecture

but we're literally in the heart of

ancient egypt

i feel like i should be speaking in a

whisper because the acoustics are so

extraordinary

it's a sterile

plain stark room it's pretty much like a

bank vault

and when you think about it that's

exactly what it is because it once

contained

egypt's greatest treasure the mummified

body of the god king

which contained the soul not only of

kufu

but of all the generations of pharaohs

stretching

way back to king narma

forget the jewels forget the gold its

real treasure

was in here and it's the first time i've

ever been in here

without crowds and crowds of other

people

and speaking now the sound of the voice

reverberating around

immediately takes you back four and a

half thousand years to the day

of the funeral to the sacred words the

priests would have chanted

to revive the soul of the god king

it's miraculous it's a wonderful

spectacular place that affects every

sense

visually audibly

in every sense it it's it's beyond words

really

i think i probably better stop talking

now

so now all the elements that made a

patient egypt

were in place a well-fed highly

organized population

that unswervingly followed their god

king and

all of whom shed this fervent belief

in an afterlife life in egypt

was good

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now of course none of this could last

economic disaster and famine plunged

egypt into chaos

this is ancient egypt beginning to

suffer

with the pharaoh's power melting away

local warlords ransacked its most sacred

sites

egypt's dark age was coming make no

mistake

this is the home of the dead

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you