Review: Egypt Unwrapped: Alexander the Great’s Lost Tomb, National Geographic Channel Friday November 21 8 pm

Alex the Great’s death unleashed a series of civil wars and conflict as his generals fought for the spoils of empire. Clever chap, that Ptolemy, to grab the body itself and use it to legitimize his new holdings in Egypt. The body eventually goes on display, becomes a central stop on the ancient tourist circuit, and disappears with the end of the ancient world in those parts.

More or less.

In this documentary, snippets of Alex’s biography are interwoven with the theories of the various experts regarding where, exactly, Alex was kept in Alexandria. Why exactly does it matter where Alex’s tomb was? This is the central question, and one never fully answered. The best answer, the documentary seems to imply, is that the tomb is worth searching for simply because it was Alex’s tomb. Lots of time is spent arguing ‘this corner!’ ‘no, this corner!’ of Alexandria is the most likely spot.

The importance of Alex’s body itself, as a talisman for legitimising rule is explored, and towards the end of the documentary, the action moves to the Valley of the Golden Mummies, where Alex might’ve been taken after the destruction of the tomb sometime at the end of the fourth century. At this point I perked up, as there is a structure there that suggests his body was a focus for worship (implying that earlier, in Alexandria, it had not been). So we catch a glimpse of a reaction to the spread of Christianity in Egypt, and personally I would’ve liked to have learned more about this aspect.

Alexander the Great’s Lost Tomb airs Friday, November 21st at 8 pm, on the National Geographic Channel.


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