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Multimedia: Pyramidology Volume 55 Number 4, July/August 2002
by Mark Rose and Colleen P. Popson

[image] Bob Brier studies the cranium of a sacrificial victim in front of a skull rack at Tenochtitlan's Templo Mayor in Mexico. (The Learning Channel) [LARGER IMAGE]

Want to travel to remote sites and clamber up famous pyramids? That's exactly what archaeologist Bob Brier got to do for Pyramids, Mummies, and Tombs (airing on The Learning Channel July 7, 8-11 p.m. EST). An energetic guide, Brier leads a circuitous worldwide tour over three hour-long episodes that, we're told, will show us why so many cultures built pyramids.

Unfortunately, the definition of pyramid is stretched a little too far (Angkor Wat is a pyramid?). By the first episode's end, Brier must answer his initial question: "What do all the pyramids have in common?" with a disappointing, "nothing." Turns out the program's premise is a trick question: they're all different, built in different ways for different purposes.

This brings up a major problem: the films try to cover everything, but the pace is uneven, reflecting a heavy bias toward Egypt, where Brier is clearly most comfortable. His visits to temples and royal burial mounds in Asia are often cut short just as they're getting interesting; he spends a little more time in Mexico, Central America, and Peru, where "when they weren't sacrificing they were building pyramids" and where people were "trapped in a spiral of human sacrifice and pyramid building."

Despite its shortcomings, there's enough nice photography and interesting, sometimes quirky, commentary to make Pyramids, Mummies, and Tombs worth a look.

Click here for ARCHAEOLOGY's list of multimedia reviews.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America