James Tovell’s documentary Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb takes us to Egypt where archeologists are carefully digging up the Saqqara necropolis, just 20km away from the more well-known Giza necropolis. Saqqara is the world’s first and oldest pyramid though, and it has many secrets yet to be unlocked.
Digging isn’t the only part of archeology, or indeed the bulk of it, but it is by far the most exciting, and Tovell wisely nestles us amongst a crew of Egyptian archeologists who have uncovered a tomb untouched for 4400 years and begin to pick it apart, revealing historical artifacts that will astonish their community, and a tribute to a family unit who celebrated each other in life and grieved each other in life.
News of this discovery has lit a flame around the world of archeology and is already heralded as one of the most significant finds in the past 50 years. The team hope to uncover coffins, mummies, and precious belongings buried with the family during the excavation, but what I find fascinating is what the tomb reveals about the family buried there, the family of Wahtye, a priest who served under King Neferirkare Kakai during the 5th Dynasty of Egypt, that is to say, around the 25th century BC or more than 4000 years ago.
The site team is composed of archaeologists, anthropologists, scientists, and diggers discovering unexplored passageways and shafts in a tomb that is remarkably well-preserved. Mummies are always exciting to find – their bones reveal so much about how the people lived, what they ate, what they did for work, and how old they were when they died. But this particular dig unearths more than just coffins and bodies; it contains possibly the world’s first ever case of malaria, a board game played by the elite millennia ago, and the mummified remains of a lion cub, the first ever of its kind.
I think archeology is immeasurably fascinating and this is the site with maximum bang for your buck. You won’t have to put up with the heat or the dust or the claustrophobia as you stream into Egypt via Netflix.