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Realm of the Dead cover image

Realm of the Dead 200?

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Parthenon Entertainment Ltd.
Director n/a
VHS, color, 50 min.

College - Adult
Anthropology, History, Middle Eastern Studies

Date Entered: 12/02/2005

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

Mummification was expensive and therefore considered primarily for the wealthy and ruling class of Egypt. However, a stunning temple to the Egyptian God Amun Ra, is currently being excavated by an international team of archaeologists in the remote region of the Western Desert. What surprises archaeologists are the images and hieroglyphs that portray Roman rulers in the regalia of the Pharaohs.

Egypt was controlled by Romans for seven centuries, starting in 70 B.C. Gerhart Rolfs discovered these temple remains in the middle of the desert in 1874. The Western Desert is the driest in the world. The first Persian ruler of Egypt lost 50,000 men here. So why would anyone build an elaborate temple complex in this region? History tells us that there is an aquifer underneath that created five oases in the Western Desert. Dakhla is the furthest one from Cairo. Before it became a desert, it was like Sub-Saharan grasslands. Archaeological evidence shows that Dakhla was involved in trading ivory, ostrich feathers and ebony. It served as a base for traveling caravans. And, in its midst stands the remains of a temple to Amun Ra which displays hieroglyphs of Roman emperors such as Titus Caesar and two of his predecessors, dressed like Egyptian Pharaohs. The first assumption is that Romans built this temple and created the hieroglyphs. Archaeologists believe that Egyptians created the temple and the hieroglyphs, since it was likely they mirrored the prevailing Roman culture of the time. The greater mystery is who built the civic buildings outside the temple, since Egyptians traditionally didn’t build such structures.

Perhaps the most astonishing discoveries are the Roman-age tombs in which hundreds of mummies are buried. Roman pictures decorate the walls, but, again, archaeologists believe this was a community of nouveau riche Egyptians. Rome traditionally occupied countries without adopting or stifling prevailing belief systems; exacting monetary tribute provided them with sufficient bureaucratic control. Egypt provided Rome with tremendous wealth, and over-produced until the Roman Empire collapsed. Shifting sands covered the temple complex at Dakhla.

Today, as archaeologists work to uncover this amazing site, they are working against environmental factors which are bleaching away the hieroglyphs on the walls and eroding the limestone underneath.

Technical aspects of this documentary are excellent. Sound quality is very good throughout. A Middle Eastern soundtrack accompanies the narration. Graphics are used to illustrate points throughout the video.

Highly recommended for all academic collections that specialize in Egypt or Middle Eastern studies. Larger public library collections would also benefit from this fascinating look at present day archaeological excavations.