Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city

BBC News (John Hayes-Fisher)

A review of last night's programme on UK's BBC 2 television channel, which I saw and enjoyed very much. There is also a video on the above page.

Evidence of the brutal lives endured by some ancient Egyptians to build the monuments of the Pharaohs has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Skeletal remains from a lost city in the middle of Egypt suggest many ordinary people died in their teenage years and lived a punishing lifestyle.

Many suffered from spinal injuries, poor nutrition and stunted growth.

The remains were found at Amarna, a new capital built on the orders of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, 3,500 years ago.

Hieroglyphs written at the time record that the Pharaoh, who was father of Tutankhamun, was driven to create a new city in honour of his favoured god, the Aten, with elaborate temples, palaces and tombs.

Along with his wife Nefertiti, he abandoned the capital Thebes, leaving the old gods and their priests behind and marched his people 200 miles (320km) north to an inhospitable desert plain beside the River Nile.

The city, housing up to 50,000 people, was built in 15 years; but within a few years of the Pharaoh's death, the city was abandoned, left to the wind and the sand.

For more than a century archaeologists looked in vain for any trace of Amarna's dead.

See the above page for the full story. I'm rushed off my feet today but I'll try to post some additional comments later or tomorrow.


rymerster said...

The programme gave a very different perspective on Amarna for me and provided an opportunity to see some sites I have never seen before (e.g. the quarry). I watched the programme on BBCi and then went to the OU forum via a link on the BBC site - beware - the place has been overrun with people sharing some very "interesting" theories.

Anonymous said...

The programme said the Amarna team has recovered skeletal remains from 59 individuals. Is that a large enough sample to generalise about working conditions?

Anonymous said...

To my knowledge, the average life expectancy in ancient Egypt was around the age of 35-40. If we consider a daily life of hard labour lifting heavy blocks of stone, and in the desert heat, surely the average life expectancy will be lower?