Review: The First Jesus? Expedition Week, National Geographic Channel, Friday November 20 9 pm

In a word: Bollocks. From the blurb: He was called the King of the Jews, believed to be a Messiah.  Just before Passover, the Romans beheaded him and crucified many of his followers outside Jerusalem.  But his name was not Jesus … it was Simon, a self-proclaimed Messiah who died four years before Christ was born.  Now, new analysis of a three-foot-tall stone tablet from the first century B.C., being hailed by scholars as a “Dead Sea Scroll on stone,” speaks of an early Messiah and his resurrection.  Was Simon of Peraea real?  Did his life serve as the prototype … Continue reading Review: The First Jesus? Expedition Week, National Geographic Channel, Friday November 20 9 pm

Review: Expedition Great White, Monday November 16 9 PM EST National Geographic Channel

There are some for whom tv fishing shows are the height of reality tv. ‘Expedition Great White’ will appeal to these folks. The idea is to tag some Great White Sharks, to find out where they go, what they do, where they breed… all the regular questions. As a documentary, this was quite entertaining: will the Great White survive the capture and tagging? Will the crew? Apparently there is some eye-candy amongst the crew, in the form of some random actor fellow: will he get eaten? Hope springs eternal. From the official release info – A hundred sixty miles off … Continue reading Review: Expedition Great White, Monday November 16 9 PM EST National Geographic Channel

Review: EXPEDITION WEEK: ‘Search for the Amazon Head Shrinkers’, Sunday, November 15 at 9PM ET/PT

So I go home for lunch. There’s a package from National Geographic there – they’re doing their ‘Second Annual Expedition Week‘, and they’ve sent me pre-screening versions of the documentaries to review. My wife says, ‘let’s watch this one as we eat’. Sure! (We’re eating lasagna. This is important.) We slip it in, begin to watch. Ok, Rain forest – the Amazon, ok, cool, here comes the title: ‘In Search of the Shrunken Heads of the Amazon’. Footage continues. What’s that in the pot? Oh… a head. yep. Definitely a head being stewed woops – they’re holding it up… My … Continue reading Review: EXPEDITION WEEK: ‘Search for the Amazon Head Shrinkers’, Sunday, November 15 at 9PM ET/PT

Review: Waking the Baby Mammoth

Walking the Baby Mammoth: airs on the National Geographic Channel, Sunday, April 26 2009 Not exactly archaeological, so I’m not best placed to comment, but an interesting documentary nevertheless.  It tracks the recovery and study of a baby mammoth, found in northwestern Siberia in 2007.  As charismatic mega-fauna go, few things are more charismatic than a fuzzy baby mammoth, which the film makers instinctively know – indeed, they digitally insert her into a number of scenes. Not just where you’d expect, in recreations of the Siberian steppe from 40 000 years ago, but also into a museum and onto a … Continue reading Review: Waking the Baby Mammoth

Review: Herod’s Lost Tomb, National Geographic Channel, Sunday November 23 9 pm

There’s a point in this film where we see Herod with his architect, and the architect has a cut-away, 3d view of the palace-cum-fortress he’s going to build for the King. That’s a hell of an architect, in first century Judea… So: same question as for Alex’s Lost Tomb: Why does it matter where Herod’s tomb is? Why bother looking for it? We actually get at an answer when the film starts discussing the apparent destruction of what is probably indeed Herod’s sarcophagus (btw, the narrator’s pronounciation of the plural of that word constantly grated). That’s a step up on … Continue reading Review: Herod’s Lost Tomb, National Geographic Channel, Sunday November 23 9 pm

Review: The Mystery of the Screaming Man, National Geographic Channel Friday November 21 9 pm est

Ah mummies. Who doesn’t like mummies? This one has a contorted face, was covered in quicklime, wrapped in a sheepskin, and bound at the wrist and ankles. Not your standard operating procedure. Indeed, he seems to have had all of his organs, in contrast to standard practice. So off we go, in standard mystery-documentary, to explore some competing theories about the who what when where why. An autopsy done in the 1880s cleary saw internal organs, but the CT scan done in this documentary didn’t, the implication that the original investigators didn’t know what they were looking at. Seems to … Continue reading Review: The Mystery of the Screaming Man, National Geographic Channel Friday November 21 9 pm est

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

Review: Lost Cities of the Amazon National Geographic Channel November 20 9 pm

In the film Medicine Man, Sean Connery growls, ‘if you had the cure for the greatest plague of the 20th century, what would you do!’ – the Amazon has the world’s bio-pharmaceutical drug store. In this documentary, we’re presented with a new view – Amazon as fertilizer depot rather than pharmacy. We learn about ‘terra preta de indio’‘, an amazingly fecund man-made soil that is found throughout the Amazon basin, and could, if we could but figure it out, enable us to expand agricultural output the world over, without using chemicals! It was at this point that my wife turned … Continue reading Review: Lost Cities of the Amazon National Geographic Channel November 20 9 pm

Review: Shipwreck! Captain Kidd, National Geographic Channel Tuesday November 18 9 pm

My name is Captain Kidd as I sailed as I sailed My name is Captain Kidd as I sailed My name is Captain Kidd and God’s laws I did forbid And most wickedly I did as I sailed… Great Big Sea did a version of the old song not that long ago, and I couldn’t help but sing it – at volume – as I watched ‘Shipwreck!’. The extant of my knowledge of Captain Kidd really wasn’t much deeper than that provided by the song, either, so I came to this documentary ready to be entertained, informed, and not to … Continue reading Review: Shipwreck! Captain Kidd, National Geographic Channel Tuesday November 18 9 pm