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Timewatch: Explore The Pharaoh's Lost City: Rebuilding the city

Updated Tuesday, 18th December 2007

 The Timewatch team had a challenge: how do you show a city that has been destroyed for centuries?

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John Hayes-Fisher: My name is John Hayes Fisher and I’m the Producer/Director of Timewatch, The Pharaohs’ Lost City. In January 2007, Barry Kemp, who is Professor of Egyptology at Cambridge, invited us to join him in Egypt to see the remains of the 3,300 year old city of Amarna he’s been working on for the past three decades. The current archaeological work was exciting because the cemeteries are revealing the recently discovered skulls and bones of the people who actually lived and worked at Amarna. But what excited me as a filmmaker were not just the people but the huge city itself that they’d built from nothing in just two decades. Time and the environment had taken its toll on Amarna. The desert sand had covered much of the city, preserving parts of it, but unlike other places, such as Karnak, with its massive temples, here there’s not a single original building which was over five feet tall. How were we to show the City to a television audience? It was here that I turned to Colin Thornton.

Colin Thornton: My name’s Colin Thornton. I’m one of the Timewatch graphic designers. I’m going to show you a bit of how we made the graphics for Timewatch’s The Pharaohs’ Lost City.

Obviously, when the story centres around this city that Akhenaten has created, we knew straightaway that we were going to need to see it, we were going to need to see this city in its former glory. And that was really when the first problem came around because John Hayes Fisher came up to me and said there really isn’t a great deal there, and he wasn’t kidding.

And, from the ground level, you couldn’t see anything at all. I mean it literally was just desert.

Fortunately, one of the experts who was actually featured in the film, Gwill, was able to take images of the landscape from above. And, all of a sudden, we had the City; we had the blueprint for the City.

We were able to get a hold of these and scan them into the computer. From these blueprints, I was able to block out each individual house and each individual road so we knew exactly where it all was. And, from there, I was able to begin to shape the blocks in a 3D environment.

People, like Barry Kemp and Suresh, they were able to point me in the right direction with the finer details. Okay, so I had the blueprints but, you know, what were the trees, what were the plants, what were the walls, how high were these buildings, you know. Were they two stories, were they one storey, and what colours did they use, what were the designs of the buildings and the pillars and things like this. And so, from working closely with the experts on hand in Armana, I was able to create a proper visual representation of the City.

Explore the Pharaoh's lost city





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