Chasing Mummies Episode 2: In Which the Pyramids Were Not Built by Slaves

The Five Chambers of the Great Pyramid
Today I watched the second episode of the archaeology "reality" series Chasing Mummies, starring Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who was reinstated as head of antiquities on Wednesday.

In this heavily scripted show, Hawass has been saddled with three interns/"fellows" (read: actors who've dabbled in history). In this episode, he wants you to know one thing in particular: the pyramids were not built by slaves. He says it in almost every scene.

Actually, this is a noble goal, and I'm glad he decided to focus on this issue. If he sounds like a broken record, it's only because some people need this concept pounded into their heads. I'm a Christian as well as an Egyptophile, and if I had a dollar for every time I've had to gently correct some of my co-religionists on this issue...

Anyway, Hawass is remarkably patient when his interns repeatedly ask if the pyramids were built by slaves, and points out that the Jewish slaves lived at least a thousand years after the pyramids were built.

Today, Dr. Hawass took Our Young Heroes into the five chambers of the Great Pyramid. The five chambers are little rooms built above the king's burial chamber to help distribute the weight of the massive stones.

Tourists aren't allowed in the chambers because they're small and potentially dangerous, so seeing this on TV is the closest most of us, even many Egyptologists, will ever get to them.

The chambers in the pyramid are pretty cool, so I enjoyed watching this episode. Until the show's producer apparently decided things weren't exciting enough and wedged himself through narrow tunnels in the pyramid before having a panic attack.

Also until Zoe decided that the Fourth Chamber was an excellent place to pee.

Dr. Hawass, considerably put out by this, scolded Zoe. I can't say that I blame him. The ancient tomb of a god-king is not the ideal place to take care of your business, even if you have an accident like Zoe did.

Hawass took the other two interns, Lindsay and Derek, up to the Fifth Chamber, leaving the disgraced Zoe to sit and snivel in her own urine.

The Sphinx disapproves of your stupid alien theories.
In this chamber, as in the others, Hawass pointed out the graffiti left on the stones by the ancient workmen. This is solid proof, he explained to his interns, that aliens did not build the pyramids. Some people, however, insist aliens did it because of the size and weight of the massive stones.

Derek thought this was an excellent time to pipe up about his opinion on the matter. "That's what I'm thinking," he said, excited and blissfully unaware that the Fifth Chamber would be an excellent place to store the dead body of an intern who's watched too much Stargate. "I'm thinking that this chamber might have been built by aliens."

Dr. Hawass managed not to throttle him, which just goes to show how much more patient he is than I am about such things. After a well-deserved lecture, Hawass lead Derek and company back down through the Five Chambers and out of the pyramid.

Sure, it stuck to a script like glue, but this episode was entertaining and educational. I only wish they'd also addressed the issue of ancient Atlanteans and the apocryphal Hall of Records supposedly hidden under the Great Sphinx. Perhaps in a future episode...


  1. Interesting. I haven't watched this show and I have mixed feelings about Hawass. But the peeing in one of the chambers? Acck!

  2. I know! I was thinking, what the heck, girl, you're old enough to hold it. I wouldn't be surprised if it was staged and she didn't actually pee at all but just poured some water to make it look like that. She's not an Egyptology student, she's an actress with a background in art, or history, or something.

    I've been an Egyptology student in the past, and none of these three can possibly have any ambitions to be Egyptologists. I knew more about Egypt when I was 13 than they do now. "What's this? What does that mean?" Egyptology students don't ask questions like that, because we already know. Instead, we talk about this or that obscure statue and get very, very excited about mud brick walls half a foot high.