It’s like the age of the pharaohs meets the era of reality TV. Indiana Jones meets "Deal or No Deal". Tutankhamun meets "The Bachelor".
On Sunday evening, a team of archeologists will crack open a sealed ancient Egyptian sarcophagus for the very first time on live television. What could possibly go wrong?
The 2-hour live show, “Expedition Unkown: Egypt Live,” will air on Sunday, April 7, at 8pm ET/5pm PT on Discovery, as well as the Travel and Science channels. Josh Gates will present the show alongside Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt.
Together, they will also explore the inner chambers of an excavation site on the outskirts of Minya, a city along the Nile River south of the Giza pyramid complex, that’s home to up to 40 ancient mummies. As part of the show's main event, the team will open a limestone sarcophagus containing a 3,000-year-old mummy.
So, who can we expect to find in the sarcophagus? Well, don’t anticipate any spirits of the undead or the curse of the pharaohs. The tomb is believed to be the final resting place of elite members of Egyptian society. However, even the presenters aren’t sure of what they may find.
“Kind of the beauty of this is, I don't know, and I think that's the fun of it," Gates told the NPR radio show Here & Now. “We know that there are a lot of mummies that are down there."
"A few years ago, [archaeologists] started making some really significant discoveries here: a series of burial shafts leading down to a network of chambers and tunnels," Gates added. "There's a lot of folks buried down in these chambers. A lot of noble elite, high priests, things like that."
Needless to say, not everyone is totally convinced by the show’s premise. While the extravaganza has the potential to educate and raise public interest, a few archeologists aren’t sold on the idea of opening up a grave on primetime TV.
Tourism from the country’s rich history is a major source of income for Egypt. However, tourism has suffered greatly in the wake of the nation's failed revolution, a number of aircraft disasters, and continued political stability in the region. Understandably, the Egyptian government is keen to draw back this important source of revenue to their coffers.
"It's a media spectacle in the end – but it could make people love antiquities and is a good promotional opportunity for tourism, if done right," an Egyptian archeologist, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP news agency.