Egyptian sarcophagus to be opened on live TV

An ancient Egyptian sarcophagus will be opened live in a two-hour television special to air simultaneously at 8:00 PM Sunday on the Discovery, Travel and Science channels. Expedition Unkown: Egypt Live will be hosted by one Josh Gates who is described as an “explorer,” and who in his capacity as a certified SCUBA diver assisted in an archaeological excavation once in the 1990s. Other than that, it seems his bailiwick is hosting TV shows and traveling places. The actual opening of the sarcophagus will be done by archaeologists under the ever-watchful (and promotion-keen) eyes of Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt.

The limestone sarcophagus was found in the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel in Minya province, about 210 miles south of Cairo. More than 50 Ptolemaic era mummies were found there earlier this year. The sarcophagus is likely older than that, however, as it was discovered in deeper chamber.

Viewers will have the rare opportunity to see the inner chambers of an excavation site, where archeologists recently uncovered a network of vertical shafts leading to an underground network of tunnels and tombs with 40 mummies believed to be part of the noble elite.

The massive underground complex of chambers is a treasure trove of antiquities – all laying undisturbed for thousands of years. But there are several chambers yet to be explored – and many more discoveries to be revealed, including a mysterious limestone sarcophagus found buried deep within the complex. The identity of the mummy inside has been a mystery for 3,000 years… Possibly until now.

Or even more likely there will be no identifying inscriptions. For that matter, there may not be any mummified remains to speak of remaining inside. There’s a very strong possibility of an Al Capone’s vault situation here, but the live broadcast works as a marketing tool either way since viewers will get two hours worth of the “come see the ancient wonders of mysterious Egypt” pitch.

This is the first time an Egyptian sarcophagus will be opened on live TV, but it’s only the technology that’s been updated. Making a spectacle of the dead of ancient Egypt is part of a long tradition of mummy voyeurism and exploitation going back centuries. Dr. Augustus Granville garbed it in a loincloth of science when he performed an autopsy of the mummy of Irtyersenu before a large crowd in 1825, the surgical theater lit by candles made from what he thought was beeswax he scraped off her mummy but turned out to be Irtyersenu’s own body fat in the form of adipocere. Dr. Thomas Pettigrew became known as “Mummy” Pettigrew for the hugely popular mummy unravelling parties he threw for Victorian Britain’s moneyed elite.