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Arts & Culture

SECRETS OF THE DEAD: The Silver Pharaoh

Pharaoh Psusennes' silver coffin
Courtesy of Andy Webb
Pharaoh Psusennes' silver coffin

Airs Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Part detective story, part true-life drama, SECRETS OF THE DEAD explores some of the most iconic moments in history to debunk myths and shed new light on past events. Using the latest investigative techniques, forensic science and historical examination to unearth new evidence, the series shatters accepted wisdom, challenges prevailing ideas, overturns existing hypotheses, spotlights forgotten mysteries and ultimately rewrites history.

"The Silver Pharaoh" - The royal tomb of Pharaoh Psusennes I is one of the most spectacular of all the ancient Egyptian treasures - even more remarkable than that of Tutankhamen. So why hasn’t the world heard about it? What mysteries does it contain? And what does it reveal about ancient Egypt?

The tomb was discovered filled with lavish jewels and treasure almost by accident in 1939 by the French archaeologist Pierre Montet while he was excavating in northern Egypt. The royal burial chamber came as a complete surprise – no Egyptologist had anticipated a tomb of such grandeur in this area. Unfortunately, the tomb was found on the eve of World War II in Europe and attracted little attention.

One of the most startling discoveries inside the tomb was the sarcophagus in which the body was held: It was made of silver with exquisite detail and craftsmanship. No other silver sarcophagus has ever been found and it is now recognized by many Egyptologists as one of the most exquisite artifacts of ancient Egypt ever to be found.

The elaborate tribute within the tomb suggested it was the burial site of someone very important but as archaeologists, using the hieroglyphs inside the tomb, pieced together the identity of the pharaoh, they were left to wonder who Psusennes I was and why he received such grand treatment. The investigation reveals political intrigue, a lost city and a leader who united a country in turmoil and became the Silver Pharaoh.

This program originally aired in 2010.

SECRETS OF THE DEAD is on Facebook.

Preview: Secrets Of The Dead: The Silver Pharaoh