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  • 'At the dawn of the 20th century, a unique discovery was made.

  • 'It redefined how we understand life and death in Ancient Egypt.'

  • How wonderful to have been in that team of archaeologists

  • who came down that day in February 1906...

  • ..a procession of men eager to know what lay at the end

  • of this really atmospheric series of tunnels and chambers.

  • 'What they'd found was an intact tomb,

  • 'undisturbed for over 3,000 years.

  • 'And inside were not the treasures of pharaohs

  • 'but a unique window on the world of ordinary Egyptians...

  • '..the mummies and possessions of a working man called Kha

  • 'and his wife Meryt.

  • 'I'm Egyptologist Dr Joann Fletcher,

  • 'and I'm exploring the world of Kha and Meryt...

  • '..to find out about their lives and their deaths.

  • 'Last time, we looked at how they lived in their tiny desert village.

  • 'We've seen where Kha worked...'

  • What a treat, to be able to see this kind of working surface.

  • '..what they ate...'

  • It's a direct link back into their world,

  • the smell of this wonderful stuff. the way it was made.

  • '..and how they relaxed.'

  • And this is where the gentleman of the house would sit of an evening,

  • drinking beer, having a chat.

  • 'In many ways, their lives were quite similar to ours.

  • 'But their relationship with death was completely different...

  • '..because to Ancient Egyptians,

  • 'life was really just a dress rehearsal

  • 'for the perfect afterlife that they were trying to reach.

  • 'I want to travel back into this strange and mysterious world.'

  • This isn't a funerary building, this is a building to keep life going.

  • 'To reach the afterlife,

  • 'they spent fortunes on funerary equipment, buildings and rituals...'

  • Kha's Book of the Dead would have been incredibly costly.

  • '..and expected to face numerous trials along the way.'

  • This is the great devourer.

  • All evil souls, their hearts were fed to this creature, consumed,

  • and that was it, finished for ever.

  • 'So with Kha and Meryt as our guides,

  • 'we'll journey back into the world of death in Ancient Egypt.'

  • 'The Ancient Egyptians held a fundamental belief...

  • '..your death was in many ways the most important moment in your life.

  • 'If you'd prepared for it, you would enter the perfect afterlife...

  • '..an idealised eternity based on life in Egypt.

  • 'So for any Ancient Egyptian, be they farmer or pharaoh,

  • 'the biggest investment they made was for death and the world beyond.

  • 'And here in Ancient Thebes, death was the biggest business in town.'

  • Now, in this part of Egypt, death was THE major employer.

  • From the men who built

  • these wonderful funerary temples and the rock-cut tombs

  • to the people who embalmed the dead,

  • who provided all the funerary equipment they would need,

  • the little funerary figures,

  • the artists who composed the funerary text,

  • even the florists who put together

  • the huge bouquets of flowers offered to the dead in their tombs,

  • this was THE major industry.

  • 'Our couple, Kha and Meryt, lived at the very heart of this industry,

  • 'in the desert village now known as Deir el-Medina.

  • 'It's close to the spectacular Valley of the Kings,

  • 'where Kha designed and built tombs for the mighty pharaohs.

  • 'And although he spent his working hours creating the tombs of kings,

  • 'he spent much of his spare time preparing for his own death.

  • 'But in order to be ready for the journey into the afterlife,

  • 'Kha needed to plan his route carefully.

  • 'This was where his investment started, with a guidebook.

  • 'This scroll is known as the Book of the Dead.

  • 'Kha's was found in his tomb, and this is a facsimile.'

  • The Book of the Dead is a collection

  • of funerary spells and texts and incantations,

  • a kind of road map of the afterlife,

  • and it was designed to allow the deceased,

  • with the help of these spells,

  • to navigate his or her way through into the next world.

  • 'Its words seem mysterious and strange,

  • 'but they had a definite purpose.'

  • If you were going to meet

  • some dangerous demons or monsters in the underworld,

  • you had to have powerful spells to counteract them,

  • to diffuse their magic

  • and to negotiate your way past them to achieve eternity.

  • 'Most Books of the Dead were simply off-the-shelf versions,

  • 'mass-produced by local artists.

  • 'But Kha's copy was specially commissioned.

  • 'It was the deluxe version,

  • 'featuring personal references and grandiose claims.'

  • Words spoken by the great chief Kha:

  • 'While plain rolls of papyrus were relatively cheap,

  • 'at around a fifth of a worker's monthly salary,

  • 'one inscribed with funerary texts like this

  • 'could cost the equivalent of six months' wages at least.'

  • So many hours of work have gone into its almost 14 metres of texts.

  • The ink's had to be prepared, the colours ground up and mixed

  • and then applied so carefully and with such a lot of thought.

  • 'It's rare to find a Book of the Dead so intact.

  • 'Yet somehow, Kha and Meryt's had remained safe

  • 'in their undiscovered tomb for over 3,000 years.

  • 'The only evidence that they had existed at all was this.

  • 'I've come to see the small chapel

  • 'that Kha built on the outskirts of their village.

  • 'And although another major expense on Kha and Meryt's death bill,

  • 'it was the vital link between the living and the dead.'

  • It's like a little jewel box of colour.

  • You come in from the glare and heat of the desert and the cliffs

  • and you enter this little oasis of calm and quiet.

  • 'The chapel is situated close to their house,

  • 'because when these Ancient Egyptians died,

  • 'they simply moved across the street.

  • 'And as the living and the dead existed side by side,

  • 'this was the place that families could pay their respects.'

  • And looking around, the colours used are sumptuous.

  • You've got the gold background,

  • and then, as the vaulted ceiling rises up,

  • the artist's done something very clever.

  • They've changed the palette

  • to these blues and greens of the Egyptian landscape.

  • The Nile is suggested, the sky is suggested.

  • Very cooling, refreshing

  • and a wonderful juxtaposition of the gold, the blues and the greens.

  • 'Blues and greens were among the most costly colours to produce,

  • 'so Kha had clearly spared no expense.

  • 'The walls depict all the things he and Meryt loved in life

  • 'and hoped to enjoy in the afterlife.'

  • It is like walking into Kha and Meryt's sitting room.

  • They're all here. They're all around us.

  • This isn't a funerary building, this is a building to keep life going,

  • kind of like a giant generator

  • with everything that life meant to Kha and Meryt

  • encapsulated in this tiny little room.

  • 'This chapel was the first clue

  • 'in a trail that would ultimately lead archaeologists

  • 'to Kha and Meryt's tomb...

  • 'because after three millennia, the chapel was discovered

  • 'by an Italian diplomat, Bernardino Drovetti.

  • 'Appointed French consul to Egypt by Napoleon in 1803,

  • 'Drovetti's main interest was amassing antiquities.'

  • I think it's safe to say

  • that Drovetti's methods were very, very unscrupulous.

  • He used a range of agents

  • to basically ransack their way through Ancient Egypt.

  • And in doing so, he managed to acquire

  • a stupendous series of collections of Egyptian antiquities,

  • many of which he then sold on to sufficiently wealthy individuals.

  • 'Drovetti sold his personal collection

  • 'to the King of Sardinia, who put it here...

  • 'in what is now the superb Egyptian museum in Turin.

  • One of the most important items in this collection

  • 'was taken from Kha and Meryt's chapel.

  • 'This costly painted funerary stele was a kind of memorial stone

  • 'made to ensure that their names would live on,

  • 'and its presence in Turin

  • 'would eventually lead to the discovery of their tomb.'

  • It shows Kha twice, both left and right,

  • worshipping the archetypal gods of the dead,

  • Osiris and then the black jackal-headed god Anubis.

  • And you can see he's praying to them for a long and successful afterlife.

  • And then in the register below,

  • it's kind of like a family snapshot, if you like.

  • You have Kha and Meryt

  • seated in front of a huge table full of food, drink, flowers.

  • And then on the right-hand side, with the arm raised,

  • is their eldest son, Amenopet,

  • and he's kind of saying his prayers to his parents.

  • So in effect,

  • the next generation is wishing a long and happy afterlife

  • full of good things.

  • It's likely that this funerary stele was actually made

  • during the lifetime of Kha.

  • He would have almost certainly commissioned it

  • and would have selected which deities he wanted,

  • the kind of whole layout, the scenario, the colours.

  • And this was a typical thing for the Ancient Egyptians to do,

  • to commission their funerary monuments in their lifetime

  • so they could get things just right.

  • And then, of course, after death,

  • the images represented would magically continue to be effective

  • throughout eternity, so it was kind of like good insurance

  • for what was going to happen to them in the next world.

  • 'The elaborate Book of the Dead, their chapel and its funerary stele

  • 'were just the beginning of Kha and Meryt's preparations

  • 'for eternal life.

  • 'The main investment would be their tomb.

  • 'So I'm travelling to the Valley of the Kings,

  • 'where Kha supervised the building of royal tombs.

  • 'It's the best place to find out

  • 'how he might have organised and paid for

  • 'the construction of his own.

  • I'm meeting geologist Steve Cross

  • 'to see an unfinished tomb, a work in progress.'

  • The way they cut the tombs was they started with the slot of the ceiling.

  • And then worked outwards, right? And then excavated downwards.

  • 'Slowly chiselling away at the bedrock, a tomb of this size

  • 'would have taken around 40 men years to complete.

  • 'And although a tomb like this

  • 'was way beyond the means of most ordinary Egyptians,

  • 'Kha had both the skills and the inspiration

  • 'to create such a tomb for himself.'

  • Now, this of course is a royal tomb,

  • but in terms of Kha's own personal tomb,

  • how on earth would he have persuaded anyone on their time off

  • to have given him a hand excavating his tomb?

  • Well, what they did was they all helped each other, and it was barter.

  • "You do work in my tomb, I'll do work in your tomb."

  • Right? So Kha, being the architect,

  • might have designed tombs for other people

  • in trade-off for them coming to work on his tomb.

  • So he got the better part of the deal, really. Probably he did, yes!

  • Don't forget, these tomb makers are THE experts.

  • That's why the tombs in Deir el-Medina

  • are amongst the best in the world.

  • 'With the help of his colleagues,

  • 'Kha clearly invested a huge amount of time, effort and resources

  • 'into building his tomb.

  • 'So security was critical.

  • 'Tomb robbing had already been a big problem for 2,000 years,

  • 'and this explains why he did something highly unusual.

  • 'Ordinary Egyptians who could afford a tomb

  • 'built it directly beneath their chapel complex,

  • 'which of course made it easier to find and rob.

  • 'But Kha had learnt from the pharaohs.

  • 'He decided to hide his elsewhere.

  • 'It remained secret for over 3,000 years.

  • 'But in 1906, another Italian began explorations

  • 'in Kha and Meryt's village.

  • 'Egyptologist Ernesto Schiaparelli

  • 'was director of the Egyptian museum in Turin.

  • 'He was very familiar with the stele of Kha and Meryt

  • 'and also knew their tomb had never been found.'

  • He could read the hieroglyphs.

  • He knew there was an important individual called Kha,

  • had a wife called Meryt,

  • and he knew they had to be buried

  • somewhere in the vicinity where the stele was discovered.

  • 'Schiaparelli was determined to find the tomb.

  • 'But where to look?'

  • Look at that instrument there.

  • 'Eleni Vassilika,

  • 'the present-day director of the Egyptian museum in Turin,

  • 'has accompanied me to Egypt to follow in his footsteps.'

  • They must have looked around and said, "The tomb is here, somewhere.

  • "Is it that trench there or... Where can it be?"

  • But Kha was clever, wasn't he? Kha was... He was sly!

  • He knew what was going to go into the tomb so he wanted to hide it.

  • I think as Schiaparelli must have stood here,

  • scratched his head and said -

  • knowing the stele was already in the museum, since 1824 -

  • he must've said, "Where the hell is the tomb?

  • "It's got to be near here,"