[In Our Time] Tutankhamun


26/12/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: https://podplayer.net/?id=91045267
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p07yh02j.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun’s 3000 year old tomb and its impact on the understanding of ancient Egypt, both academic and popular. The riches, such as the death mask above, were spectacular and made the reputation of Howard Carter who led the excavation. And if the astonishing contents of the tomb were not enough, the drama of the find and the control of how it was reported led to a craze for ‘King Tut’ that has rarely subsided and has enthused and sometimes confused people around the world, seeking to understand the reality of Tutankhamun’s life and times.


Elizabeth Frood
Associate Professor of Egyptology, Director of the Griffith Institute and Fellow of St Cross at the University of Oxford

Christina Riggs
Professor of the History of Visual Culture at Durham University and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford


John Taylor
Curator at the Department of Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen date: approximately February 2020


  • It’s been so long between listening and annotating that I don’t know if I remember anything correctly. Plus, I may be getting confused with the Our Fake History episodes on the pyramids. That said, let’s go.
  • One of the standout things was the nature of press coverage – and how the Tutankhamun tomb opening represented one of the earliest press hype things – because particular newspapers in London had been promised exclusives. So people in Cairo were seeing photos after receiving two week old newspapers from London.
  • Another point made – that the actual Egyptian archaeologists on the dig were named only as “assistants” despite having knowledge as good as the white guys on the dig.
  • The Tutankhamun tomb was apparently built into a cliff face – I don’t think I knew that, or at least if I came across it, I had forgotten it entirely.
  • This episode also ties in with Sea People and its discussion of how early twentieth century millionaires would finance archaeological digs as the hip thing to do. And of course, Rastapopolous in Cigars of the Pharoah.
  • Some discussion on Tut’s wet nurse and powerful women in the Egyptian monarchy which links up to the episode about Melisende.
  • Wait, one of the panelists was named Frood? Like Ford Prefect?


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