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The Vanished Capital of the Pharaoh 

Piramesse (Pi-Ramesses) was built to be the new capital city of pharaoh Ramesses II. The remains of the city were thought to be at Tanis, but the painstaking work of archaeologist Manfred Bietak uncovered a remarkable story.





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Episode credited cast:
Mark Halliley ...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Malcolm Scates ...
Pierre Montet
Ben Homewood ...
Montet's Assistant
Aziz Habibi
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Manfred Bietak ...
Himself - Vienna Institute of Archaeological Sciences (as Prof Manfred Bietak)
Aidan Dodson ...
Himself - Egyptologist, Bristol University (as Dr. Aidan Dodson)
Edgar Pusch ...
Himself - Archaeologist, Pelizaeus-Museum (as Dr Edgar Pusch)


Excavations by Flinders Petrie in 1884 and Pierre Montet in the 1930s at Tanis in Northern Egypt led archaeologists to identify the site as Piramesse or Pi-Ramesses. Pi-Ramesses was built to be the new capital city of the pharaoh Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great, 1279-1213 B.C.) upon the Easternmost branch of the River Nile, but its location was unknown. Eventually it was realized that none of the monuments and inscriptions from the Ramesside period originated at Tanis. This program tells of the extraordinary work of archaeologists Manfred Bietak and Edgar Pusch who painstakingly mapped all of the branches of the ancient Nile delta and discovered that during Ramesses reign the Tanitic branch did not exist at all and that the Easternmost branch of the Nile ran some 30km South of Tanis. Their excavations at Qantir uncovered a remarkable story. Written by Mark_a_Wood <markawood@hotmail.co.uk>

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Release Date:

4 September 2006 (UK)  »

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User Reviews

Reenactment of the Rise, Fall and Rediscovery of Rameses' Lost City
22 November 2014 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Another in the seemingly endless store of historical re-enactments of the ancient world. This episode concentrates on the vanished city of Emperor Rameses that grew up beside the Nile and subsequently fell into disrepair as the course of the river moved away from it. Like other ancient cities still standing - at Karnak, for example - this city was both populous and distinguished, with several huge statues erected in the Pharaoh's honor. By all accounts it was a sight to behold, even if the rich could only really enjoy its treasures.

What this episode is really interested in, however, is the two archaeological searches for the remains of the city, one by Pierre Montet in the early part of the last century, the other by Manfred Bietak and Edgar Pusch in more recent years. They discovered the remains of the city in two separate locations; by comparing the two, Bietat discovered precisely what happened to the city and why it was destroyed.

What the program does not acknowledge, however, is the neocolonialist nature of the excavations. Headed by a French and a German academic, they lead viewers to question precisely why the source of the city was of such interest. Were the archaeologists interested in rewriting history, or were they out to enhance their reputations, or both? Whatever the motives were, they both achieved their aim: by contrast, the Egyptian contribution to both digs was completely overlooked.

Sometimes the re-enactments of both the ancient world and Montet's expedition become a little irritating, especially when the French Montet (played by Malcolm Scales) speaks English rather than his native language. Nonetheless "The Lost City of the Pharaohs" has an entertaining story to tell and does so competently.

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