Romer's Roamings

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2005082120050827

3/3.

There are many different versions of ancient Egyptian history, as written by many different archaeologists.

But which of these histories is closest to the way it really was?

Egyptologist John Romer freely admits to being the first television presenter to be filmed climbing a pyramid in sweltering heat and to wipe the sweat from his brow at the top.

It all went downhill from there.

TV, John says, is the ideal medium for Ancient Egypt, with its ability to dwell lovingly on the most delicate and intricate of objects.

So why have so many modern day archaeology programmes shifted the focus on to a vulgarised version of the ancient past, where there are clues to be found and problems to be solved, all in the space of an hour or two? Reflecting on his own early days in Egypt, when the Valley of the Kings was still a lonely and undeveloped desert wilderness, John Romer bemoans the loss of respect for the intimate everyday reality of Ancient Egyptian lives.

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Egyptologist John Romer reminisces about his early years as an archaeological artist in the Middle East in the 1960s.

Arriving in Luxor in the days before Egypt was a popular tourist destination, John and his wife Beth were astonished by the sheer scale of the ancient monuments, and the beauty of the artefacts strewn on the desert floor, untouched for millennia.

Aided by his Egyptian assistant, Abdellahi, John slowly began to learn new ways of seeing the ancient past in the ruins which lay before him.

But having fallen in love with Ancient Egypt, could he and Beth find a way of staying there, or would they have to return to an academic life back in England?

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There are many different versions of ancient Egyptian history, as written by many different archaeologists.

But which of these histories is closest to the way it really was?

Egyptologist and broadcaster John Romer has had a passion for the glories of Ancient Egypt for over 40 years, ever since he visited the British Museum as a child.

He first went to Egypt in the 1960s, not long before the Six Day War, and there he worked with archaeologists from many different nations, all of whom had a different take on the mysteries of that ancient world.

The Egyptians, meanwhile, looked on bemusedly as generations of westerners attempted to explain, rebuild and recreate the glories of their ancient civilisation.

0103 LAST2005082120050827

Egyptologist John Romer freely admits to being the first television presenter to be filmed climbing a pyramid in sweltering heat and to wipe the sweat from his brow at the top.

It all went downhill from there.

TV, John says, is the ideal medium for Ancient Egypt, with its ability to dwell lovingly on the most delicate and intricate of objects.

So why have so many modern day archaeology programmes shifted the focus on to a vulgarised version of the ancient past, where there are clues to be found and problems to be solved, all in the space of an hour or two? Reflecting on his own early days in Egypt, when the Valley of the Kings was still a lonely and undeveloped desert wilderness, John Romer bemoans the loss of respect for the intimate everyday reality of Ancient Egyptian lives.