September 4, 2018  (Web Review)

Scanning the Pyramids

(2017) 55 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video (www.teacher.shop.pbs.org). SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0146-8.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

The Great Pyramid at Giza was the final resting place of Khufu, a ruler during Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty some 4,500 years ago. Khufu was known to venerate knowledge and magic, and over the centuries various explorers and treasure hunters have had visions of vast riches, which they sought to extract by dynamite or robots. Filmmaker Florence Tran’s PBS-aired documentary from the Secrets of the Dead series reviews modern non-invasive efforts to search cavities and anomalies within the massive structure. What is known is that the pyramid contains two large rooms, termed the King and Queen’s chambers, plus a connecting corridor known as the Grand Gallery. Unfortunately, the rooms are empty and the King’s chamber contains only the partial remains of Khufu’s tomb, with no mummy. An expensive multi-year international team of researchers has been formed to search the pyramid using 3D technology and thermal imaging to look for temperature variations that could indicate empty spaces—no easy feat since the cold and intense heat of this arid region can disrupt cameras and other equipment. At one point, the team conducts a hair-raising climb to a mysterious notch they feel might conceal another corridor (openings are often only a few inches in diameter). Along the way, the documentary speculates about how this ancient culture—using only primitive tools—was able to erect such a sophisticated structure. The epic research effort—which is reviewed at every step by a demanding board of Egyptologists and the Minister of Antiquities—has discovered large spaces, but only time will tell if they contain Khufu’s mummy, papyrus scrolls, religious or ceremonial artifacts, or nothing at all. Recommended. Aud: H, C, P. (S. Rees)