November 4, 2019  (Web Review)

King Arthur’s Lost Kingdom

(2018) 60 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). ISBN: 978-1-5317-0996-9.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

The legend of King Arthur is deeply embedded in British mythology, depicting a golden age when a virtuous upright leader ruled with his Knights of the Round Table, dispensing justice and affording protection to citizens. But is the story of King Arthur at all grounded in fact? Filmmaker Kenny Scott’s PBS-aired Secrets of the Dead documentary examines new research regarding myths and misunderstandings about Britain’s Dark Age. Everything changed when the Romans exited the island in 410 AD, and while a few fragments of recorded history survived the aftermath, those texts are highly subjective and polemical. For years, historians believed that an invasion by pagans from Holland and northern Europe—people who became known as the Anglo-Saxons—resulted in bloody warfare, but surviving bones reveal little in the way of war-like wounds. In the West resided the native Britons, and particular interest has centered on land jutting out to sea that is known as Tintagel, long thought to be the seat of Arthur’s rule. Archaeological excavations have unearthed shards of high value pottery, suggesting active commerce and prosperity, as well as possible contact with Mediterranean traders. Experts now believe that the island was divided, with mostly peaceful farmers in the East, while those in the West pursued trade, not war. In time, the two peoples assimilated while facing—but often living separately from—one another. Tintagel’s importance was underscored by tin mines near Cornwall, making this a fitting place for an important ruler, although the existence of Arthur remains the stuff of well-loved myths. Highly recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)