Egypts Unexplained Files (2019) s01e01 Episode Script

Mystery of the Cannibal Crypt

1 Pyramids, temples, tombs these ancient wonders promise even greater secrets still to be found under the sands of Egypt.
Now cutting-edge science decodes the mysterious land of the Pharaohs.
With modern technology, we are gaining an insight into the way ancient Egyptians lived and the manner in which they died.
This time, mysteries of villainy and vice at the heart of ancient Egypt.
Can cutting-edge science reveal evidence of a 5,000-year-old homicide? So like a forensic scientist, we were able to reconstruct a probable weapon.
Does the discovery of this mass cemetery prove ancient Egyptians broke the ultimate taboo? People are eating people.
And can modern pharmacology reveal the surprising antics involved in ancient Egyptian worship? The aim of the game is to get as drunk as you can.
Ancient Egyptians were getting high.
Ancient clues unearthed.
Long-lost evidence reexamined.
Precious artifacts brought into the light of the 21st century.
These are "Egypt's unexplained files.
" The British Museum, London among the star exhibits, two mysterious mummies.
They've been on display for over 100 years, but Egyptologists know very little about them.
What secrets are held by one of the most famous mummies in the world today? Modern science, at last, reveals some extraordinary and unexpected clues.
We started to examine them like a forensic scientist today, like a cold case investigator.
It's right there in front of your nose, and you had no idea it was there the whole time.
Now, five millennia later, scientists in the 21st century make a shocking discovery.
It is quite astonishing that he would appear to have been the victim of murder.
Could experts have uncovered evidence of a 5,000-year-old murder? Gebelein, in upper Egypt, 25 miles south of modern-day Luxor.
It's here in 1896 that a British archaeologist discovered six bodies in the sand.
They appeared to have been carefully buried.
These bodies were found in the fetal position, and the fetal position is very important for the ancient Egyptians because essentially it's returning a dead person back to a rebirth context, so they can be reborn again in the afterlife.
The bodies discovered at Gebelein are unlike other mummies found preserved in Egypt.
They are not embalmed, nor are they wrapped in linens.
Instead, they were buried directly into the sand.
They weren't intentionally mummified, as far as we can determine.
These were preserved, if you want, by accident.
A hot desert environment has led to the natural drying out of the body.
So when we discover these bodies, they're preserved.
The sand desiccates the body, draws the moisture out.
The male is better preserved of the pair.
He still has ginger hair.
Within the museum community, because he has these little strands of ginger hair, he has been known for many years as "ginger.
" In 1901, two of the bodies, Gebelein man and woman, are brought to the British museum.
He is better preserved and put on display.
But Egyptologists at that time can decipher very little about either of them.
They remain a mystery for over a century.
Then, in 2012, new scientific techniques give forensic archaeologists Daniel Antoine And Renée Friedman the chance to finally unlock the story of the Gebelein mummies.
We did a lot of research on how old he was, so we did carbon dating.
Probably lived between 3,000 because and 3,300 because.
Incredibly, that makes Gebelein man and woman among the oldest mummies ever found in Egypt.
They died before the invention of mummification, which explains why they were buried directly into the sand.
This was a time before even the earliest pharaohs.
The period in which this person lived was right before Egypt becomes a state.
It wasn't like the pharaonic Egypt that happens a little bit later in time.
As we're dealing with some of the very earliest periods of Egyptian history, we're dealing with a period where life is fairly savage.
It was a period we know was very much filled with violence because we have famous Egyptian pieces of art that depict violence.
"this violent world is the first clue when piecing together" the Gebelein mummies' ancient story.
Daniel Antoine now hopes science will reveal even more detail and turns first to the man.
Daniel uses the latest C.
Scanning techniques to study ginger in detail, unimaginable in the 19th century when the bodies were first found.
So what's extraordinary about this individual is that he'd been on this on and off for over 100 years, and we knew relatively nothing about him.
I was very keen on getting new insights into him as a person, and this is why we took him to get C.
That's really revealed so much new information.
So it's wonderful that science is now stepping in to tell us about these individuals.
The C.
Scan produces a 3-d image not just of the surface of the mummy.
It captures detail deep inside to reveal brand new information about ginger, the Gebelein man.
We were keen to find out how old he was, and one way to do that is to actually look at his skeleton.
So you can see the head of the humerus is in the process of fusing here, suggesting he was a young man when he died, probably between the ages of 18 and 21.
Egyptologists now know Gebelein man lived during a turbulent and violent era of Egyptian history, and that he died as a young man.
But the C.
Scan reveals these two facts may be more than just coincidence.
What puzzled us is that there was damage to his left shoulder blade.
If we look closely, we can see there's damage when you compare it to the right over here.
You can see that the underlying bone is shattered.
You can see the fourth rib is also broken.
The C.
Scan has uncovered startling evidence Gebelein man suffered a brutal injury.
Daniel and Renée study the wounds for clues to what could have caused them and arrive at a chilling conclusion.
This appears to be a single, violent blow to his left shoulder blade.
He may have never seen it coming.
So like a forensic scientist today, like a cold case investigator, we were able to reconstruct the probably weapon, which was probably a thin, metal stiletto dagger that went all the way into the hilt.
Gebelein man "a" had been stabbed in the back, and that's almost certainly the cause of his death.
It's a remarkable discovery.
100 years after gebelein man was first discovered and put on public display, modern science has revealed he is, in fact, the young victim of a 5,500-year-old murder.
It is quite astonishing this individual has been on display in the British museum for over 100 years, but it's only now that we discover that he was the victim of murder.
Modern science has at last illuminated one of the darkest eras of ancient Egypt.
It reveals a violent world where life was dangerous and could be cut brutally short.
But the gebelein mummies have even more secrets to share from this ancient time, and science is now ready to unlock them.
In 2012, it was discovered that gebelein man "a" had been murdered.
In 2018, something quite different is discovered.
We had no idea that there was some kind of richer evidence to their cultural origins.
Armed with new technology, experts uncover another clue hidden for millennia.
You're just looking through the view finder and you go, "oh, my goodness.
" The Egyptian couple have what we can identify as pictures on their skin.
Experts ask what this ancient body art could mean? Could these marking be ancient Egypt’s oldest tattoos? Egyptologists Daniel Antoine and Renée Friedman have used the latest science to reveal gebelein man was murdered.
Then, in 2018, they turned to the woman he was found buried beside, to ask what secrets her body could reveal.
Acting on a hunch, Renée studies gebelein woman with a handheld infrared camera.
I got myself a little pre-converted infrared camera, which is generally used for wildlife photography.
I hadn't really expected there to be anything, but you're just kind of looking through the viewfinder and you go, "oh, my goodness!" Renée's infrared camera revealed clear markings on the woman's shoulder, invisible to the naked eye a series of "s" shapes and a stick or stave.
To see that it was an area that was very well visible, but we just you just can't see it without infrared.
The only evidence of tattooing in ancient Egypt had come from figurines and wall paintings.
This is the first example of an actual tattoo.
We had known from figurines that there was a likelihood that they did tattoo in predynastic Egypt, but I really never thought that I'd actually find a tattoo.
Until now, evidence has only shown that women were tattooed.
With the power of infrared technology, Renée is able to test that theory.
Could gebelein man have similar markings? Renée examines his body under infrared light and is astonished by what she discovers.
The man's arm appears to be tattooed with a bull and a sheep.
You've got two horned animals.
The nuances of the meanings of these animals is something we're still trying to work out from this preliterate age.
They didn't tell us exactly what everything meant.
It's an extraordinary discovery.
The first actual evidence of an ancient Egyptian tattoo and the first proof that both men and women were tattooed.
Not only that, gebelein man and woman are over 5,000 years old.
The tattoos on these mummies appear to be the oldest known tattoos on the African continent.
The art on the Egyptian male is the clearest, earliest example of actual body art on any individual in the world.
Renée now explores what significance these ancient markings may once have had.
She starts by trying to understand how they were made.
These were definitely permanent tattoos because they're subcutaneous, which is why we can't see it without infrared.
If they were just topical, we would have been able to see them painted onto the skin.
Additional scientific analysis showed that the tattoos were applied to the individuals during life, probably using soot directly into the dermis.
These tattoos are carbon tattoos, so it seems that people are scraping soot out of the hearth fire, collecting that black substance, making it into a paste, and then with a needle applying it into the skin.
For Renée, this is a sign that tattoos were of enormous significance to gebelein man and woman, something they considered worth risking their lives over.
I don't think the tattooing was just decorative.
In ancient times, before antibiotics, cutting the skin, introducing a foreign substance into your body, even into the skin, could be a death sentence.
Experts now ask why gebelein man and woman took the risk of being tattooed.
They studied the markings further, looking for clues to their cultural significance.
Tattoos are of a wild bull and a Barbary sheep, both of them important figures of power in early Egyptian history, which suggests that this young man was an important figure.
He had a fairly good position.
Snot necessarily the highest upper ranks of society, but someone who had some importance, perhaps as a warrior class in the society.
With gebelein woman, the "s" shapes are known from Egyptian pottery of a similar period whereas the stave seems to be some form of a ritual implement.
Again, this marks the woman out as being a woman of high status within the society.
Egyptologists conclude the tattoos offer an insight into the status held by gebelein man and woman within their tribe in predynastic Egypt.
It seems that we have animal markings on the man, but on the woman, it's more linear features.
Perhaps there's a kind of sexual distinction between male activities and power symbols.
Women would have specific types of tattoos, men would have other types of tattoos.
They are a clear indication of the groups that you belong to.
It's almost like I guess you could say gang symbols.
The gebelein mummies were on display for 100 years, yet no one knew their story.
Now modern science has at last uncovered their secrets to reveal a murdered warrior and a woman of high status, each bearing Egypt's oldest tattoos, the mark of their ancient tribe.
The science has really allowed us to unlock these new insights and get a better understanding of who gebelein man was, so that the public won't see him as a mummy, but to see him as a person from the distant past.
A dark and distressing discovery is made during a routine archaeological excavation.
A tightly packed cemetery of 9,000 bodies.
There is evidence to suggest grotesque and disturbing activity.
People eating people Cannibalism.
It's like something out of a horror movie.
Experts now investigate if something could have happened that forced ancient Egyptians to break the ultimate taboo.
1999, northern Egypt excavations at the ancient city of Mendes reveal thousands of bodies.
One was almost tripping over corpses.
Initial investigations suggest all these deaths came from a single moment in ancient Egypt's history dating from around 2,200 bce.
It seems that everyone died at the same time, and that this coincides with the end of the old kingdom.
The old kingdom is the most illustrious age in ancient Egyptian history, a time when vast monuments were built.
The old kingdom is the period of great building projects like the pyramids and the sphinx.
But in the final years, construction of these great works abruptly stopped.
What happened that brought the old kingdom to a sudden end? Investigators look for any correlating events in the ancient texts and discover a time of significant social unrest.
A period of about 150 years or so of political chaos, of economic distress.
You could not be sure to be able to come back alive if you leave your house.
Egyptologists search for more clues to better understand this key period in Egyptian history.
They reexamine other sites that date from this time.
In the 1920s, around 20 miles south of Luxor, laborers in the village of Mo'alla stumbled across an ancient tomb dug into the side of a hill.
This tomb belongs to a man called Ankhtifi, who was an important governor in his local area.
This tomb dates to the same time as the graves in Mendes.
It bears inscriptions that paint a vivid picture of the time.
It records for us this period of distress, of really bad agricultural production where there's probably very limited food.
The texts hold a dark secret a distressing account of cannibalism.
The text goes on in rather sinister terms to say that all of upper Egypt was dying of hunger, to such a degree that people had come to eating their children.
These words still send a chill down your spine today.
What could have sent Egypt into such a dire famine, possibly even driving men and women to turn on each other in such inhuman fashion? Scientists are looking for answers from Egypt's life blood, the Nile.
Professor Fekri Hassan of the French university of Egypt is a geoarchaeologist.
For decades, he has studied the ancient cycles of the river Nile.
The Nile valley, of course, is the lifeline of Egypt, characterized by the Nile, which has annual floods that come in the summer, which render the flood plain as a fertile, green, lush environment.
The floodwaters would deposit fertile sit on the fields, replenishing the soil's nutrients to produce a healthy crop.
Egypt gets lucky because the flood of the river that hits Egypt hits it at exactly the right time for growing barley and for growing wheat.
The Nile's annual floods provided extreme bounty.
If they should stop, Egypt might starve.
we know that grain storage was sufficient for a couple of years, but if you don't have good flooding for three years, you're out of food.
Then what do you do? Any upset to this annual cycle would spell disaster for the ancient Egyptians.
The disturbing hieroglyphs at Mo'alla in the south and the condition of the thousands of bodies at Mendes in the north all point to a widespread and deadly famine.
The clues to the cause of this tragic disaster lie in the Nile.
The Nile valley and the channel and different deposits that come every year have been changing almost annually.
That is something that many people realize, but it's extremely dynamic, and it's only by understanding this dynamism that we begin to understand Egyptian civilization.
Professor Hassan has a theory that the Nile stopped flooding, causing a mass famine, which led to the end of the old kingdom.
To investigate his theory, he uses a geological technique called drill coring.
Drill coring allows archaeologists essentially to lift a column out of the ground.
Layers accumulate as time goes on, and when the geologists, archaeologists are looking at these layers, it's almost like sort of a diary of events, natural and human, which occurred over this time.
You begin to see the mud layers and sometimes you have indications of very violent floods, so you get sand, and when the floods were gentle, you get finer clay deposits.
As he studies the cores, once sample catches his attention.
In the middle of this sequence of mud was a layer of carbonated deposits and iron deposits, and that was quite exciting because it meant that water has stopped flowing, evidence that for some time there was no floods.
Radiocarbon dating of the sediments allows professor Hassan to pinpoint the exact time the Nile stopped flooding.
Extraordinarily, it correlates with the date of the bodies at Mendes and the accounts of cannibalism.
When there is no flood, the people in the villages would have famine with pillaging and violence and et cetera, and, of course, enough to destroy the state.
This was a time of extreme hardship.
The widespread famine caused mass deaths and possibly even cannibalism, as ancient Egyptian society fell apart.
A collapse of the old kingdom was due to low floods that led to famine.
People are reduced to eating anything, attacking each other.
Horrific things happen in famine.
People are driven to extremes.
When the floods failed, Egypt starved.
Faced with a choice between life and death, some may have broken humankind's ultimate taboo as Egypt's old kingdom collapsed around them.
An unidentified mummy and a funerary box stamped with a royal seal.
Could this be the mortal remains of Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh they tried to wipe from history? There is a campaign of destruction against her names and images.
Now could 21st century technology finally solve the case of Egypt's missing monarch? It's detective work and then, ultimately, science helping us solve this mystery.
2007, the museum of Cairo.
Scientists use state-of-the-art DNA analysis on an unidentified mummy.
They believe the body could be the remains of the long-lost female pharaoh Hatshepsut.
The female king.
A very capable, very smart, and a very powerful woman.
She really is one-of-a-kind.
1479 bce.
Hatshepsut's husband, pharaoh Thutmose ii, dies.
She takes on the role of ruling Egypt until her infant stepson is old enough to take the phone.
She initially makes herself regent, but then gradually decides to make herself the queen and ruler of all of Egypt.
She rules a peaceful and prosperous Egypt for two decades and builds some of its finest monuments.
Her crowning accomplishment was her mortuary temple at Deir El-bahari.
But in a cave high above it, ancient graffiti shows this female ruler was not respected by all of her subjects.
There are graffitos showing her having sex, so maybe it was a bit unnerving that a woman could be so powerful.
There were people who wanted her to fail.
Ancient Egypt was a man's world in which Hatshepsut had to appear strong.
That's why her statues show her face with the body and beard of a man.
She morphs herself into a masculine-type form buff muscles, biceps, pecs, a strong chest.
Declaring herself a male gave her a sort of legitimacy that she wouldn't have otherwise had.
But after her death, her stepson Thutmose iii feared her rule would be a blight on the male line of succession and tried to erase Hatshepsut from history.
There is a campaign of destruction against her names and images.
Her memory is suppressed, and she's written out of ancient Egyptian history.
Although the whereabouts of Hatshepsut's tomb is known, her body has never been identified, and the hunt to find this queen's remains has been unfolding for over a century.
1881 the valley of the kings.
A tomb is opened, revealing 50 members of Egyptian royalty, but Hatshepsut is not among them.
She hasn't been preserved with those other kings, which is puzzling.
But archaeologists do discover an intriguing piece of evidence.
There's a box with the name of Hatshepsut inscribed on it.
The box is thought to contain funerary remains, but over time has become sealed shut.
19th century archaeologists are unable to open it, so can't identify its contents.
The box is stored away in the vaults of the Cairo museum.
20 years later in 1903, Howard carter uncovers another tomb in the valley of the kings.
He finds it has bits of bandages, broken pots, food mummies slightly ripped apart, lying all over, and it contains the bodies of two women.
One body was found on the ground, but the other lay in a sarcophagus with an inscription that identified the mummy inside as one of Hatshepsut's staff.
The coffin is inscribed for a woman called Sitre-in, who was the wet nurse of queen Hatshepsut.
Carter could find no clues to identify the second mummy.
With no exciting treasures, he deemed the tomb of little significance and had it resealed.
The burial chamber and its unidentified mummy lay forgotten for nearly a century, until 1989.
American archaeologist don Ryan rediscovers the tomb and reexamines the unidentified mummy found on the ground.
Don Ryan goes to reinvestigate this tomb, KV60, and documents and clears and excavates it very carefully and speculates that maybe the body is queen Hatshepsut.
He concluded the mystery body was a female who had died in her 50s.
Could these be the remains of the long-lost pharaoh queen? In 2007, a team of archaeologists from the Egyptian museum try to crack the case employing new advances in technology.
The unidentified mummy is taken to a hospital in Aswan for C.
Meanwhile the ancient box marked with Hatshepsut's name is retrieved from the vaults of the Cairo museum.
It, too, undergoes a C.
Scan to finally reveal its contents a human liver and something archaeologists never suspected.
It contains, amongst other stuff, a molar.
Experts now analyze the C.
Scan of the unidentified mummy.
Incredibly, the imaging shows that it is missing a molar tooth.
It seems a remarkable coincidence.
Using a digital model, the investigators attempt to fit the tooth into the mummy's tooth and are astounded by the result.
The molar found in the box fit into the mouth of the mummy within a fraction of a millimeter.
So she probably is Hatshepsut.
But not everyone is ready to accept this conclusion.
Further investigation is required to confirm the theory.
So far, the evidence for identifying this body using this tooth is quite circumstantial.
Mummy's missing a tooth? Oh, look, here's a tooth in a box connected to Hatshepsut.
I need to see more detailed forensic evidence.
Scientists turn to the very latest advances in DNA testing and analysis.
They want to compare the DNA of the mystery mummy with the DNA from the known relatives of queen Hatshepsut.
Initial DNA studies were done using tissue from the body of the mummy and comparing it to what we believe was Hatshepsut's grandmother, and the results are intriguing.
The team find a positive match.
The mummy has a genetic link to the royal line.
The DNA evidence, together with the molar, does indicate that this body belongs to Hatshepsut.
Lost for thousands of years, overlooked by several imminent archaeologists, 21st century technology now finally identifies the long-lost body of queen Hatshepsut a queen whose reputation, life, and even death was very nearly erased from history.
beside the remains of a king's temple the discovery of a mass grave.
Who are these people? Is this a brutal act of genocide or victims of a plague outbreak? Were they strangled? Were they poisoned? How were they killed? Or were these people devoted subjects ready to serve their king in the afterlife? Why are servants being buried with kings and queens? Abydos, southern Egypt a team from the university of Pennsylvania are excavating a temple complex within a vast ancient burial site.
It dates to the time of the first dynasty of Egyptian kings.
This is the burial ground of the earliest rulers of Egypt.
The temple complex was built to mark the death of the pharaoh Hor-aha.
The pharaoh Hor-aha is generally considered to be the first pharaoh of dynasty I, which marks the beginning of the history of the unification of Egypt as a united country.
Around the temple, the archaeologists make a disturbing discovery bodies upon bodies of young men.
All of the individuals are male, all between the age of 20 and 25 years.
Why would there be a mass grave in ancient Egypt, a place where mass graves are not expected to be found? Experts examine the skeletal remains of the dead.
Strangely, the bones show no evidence of wounds or any signs of disease.
There has been a great deal of speculation about the means of death.
Were they strangled? Were they poisoned? The team search for clues in the landscape itself by using magnetic survey technology.
They find something curious in the dirt.
There are continuous roofing areas over their graves, which indicates that everything was sealed at the same time.
This leads to one conclusion everyone died together.
Excavations have revealed what at first glance seems to be a rather macabre practice, namely a number of individuals who seem to have been purposely, ritually murdered.
The discovery reignites an argument that has raged for decades in the archaeological world.
Is it possible that human beings were sacrificed in the very earliest periods of ancient Egypt? If this was sacrifice, who were the victims and did they willingly give up their lives? The careful way the graves are laid out and the presence of grave goods suggests the people were well known to the pharaoh.
There is a series of smaller graves that contain what we think are individuals who would have served the king or queen in life.
These young men who were buried alongside the king would have continued to serve him in the afterlife, fulfilling the roles that they had fulfilled in this life.
On the death of the pharaoh, it's possible that his friends and servants willingly gave up their lives to be with him for eternity.
These servants, who would have spent a lot of their time with the king, with the pharaoh, during his life, their thought process and their religious beliefs may have compelled them to accept sacrifice.
One knows that that's what the luxury of your life will eventually entail, then I suppose it goes with the territory.
There is no evidence that any of these people were killed by violence.
They all align perfectly peacefully in their tombs with no signs of physical injuries.
Therefore one must assume that they willingly accompanied their king to the next world.
Such devoted service, both in life and death, has been found with a number of the early kings.
But history reveals that the practice of human sacrifice only lasted a short while.
The only evidence of human sacrifice is from the first dynasty, at the beginning of pharaonic times.
After dynasty I, the practice seems to cease, so it is a phenomenon that's restricted in time and place.
So very quickly, the ancient Egyptians think, "this is lovely for the deceased king," but actually, it's not very good for those of us "who are continuing to live in this world.
" so the ancient Egyptians very quickly decide that retainer sacrifice should come to an end.
Instead of sacrificing people to attend the pharaoh's needs in the afterlife, they created avatars.
There are small figurines called Shawabti, usually glazed blue, and Shawabti means "answers," so these were servant figures.
These are little figurines that look like a mummy, and on the front of them, they have hieroglyphs, and if you read the hieroglyphs, it says essentially, "I am here to work on behalf of the deceased.
" Ancient Egyptians believed these figurines would come to life and act as the pharaoh's assistants in the afterlife, replacing the role of sacrificial victims.
What we see is different magical practices substitutes, statues, figures later become common in tombs.
Egypt's first dynasty rulers had the power of life over death, but as Egyptian religion developed, the barbaric practice of human sacrifice was left to the past.
a new discovery at a famous temple suggests ancient Egyptians held drunken celebrations at sacred sites.
The aim of the game is to get as drunk as you can.
What went on at these festivals? And why were they held in temples? Now, experts seek answers using modern pharmacology.
Ancient Egyptians were partying on a Friday night.
People were getting high.
A team from johns Hopkins university excavate a section of the Karnak temple complex, one of Egypt's holiest sites.
They're amazed when they uncover a new set of hieroglyphs, which describe a festival of drunkenness, and find an area of the site dedicated to getting drunk.
Finding a scene or description of drunkenness in what amounts to be the Vatican of ancient Egypt is very unexpected.
The team widen their search for clues.
They study tombs and wall paintings from the same time as the hieroglyphs and discover evidence of heavy drinking.
So we have numerous banqueting scenes, scenes of people drinking, heavily in some cases.
We have a painted example of someone actually being sick because they are too drunk.
We see people having banquets and the servants are bringing out huge jugs of booze.
And the captions to these scenes have the butlers sometimes saying to the ladies, "drink up, drink up.
" To put it bluntly, the depiction looks like Egyptians partying on a Friday night.
Everyone is having just an absolute great time.
So what was the drink of choice at one of these festivals? Archaeologists find evidence all the time of breweries being located in big cities.
Beer was fundamental to their diet.
Beer was common throughout ancient Egypt for good reason.
Beer is actually cleaner than Nile water.
The fermentation process acts in a limited way as a disinfectant.
Experts trying to understand the festival of drunkenness study evidence from ancient tombs.
Intriguingly, these reveal beer also had a spiritual purpose.
We have actual models made of wood that were placed in tombs which show baking and brewing taking place, and the point of those models is presumably to ensure that in the afterlife you have servants doing your baking and brewing for you.
Experts even find evidence of people being buried with flasks of beer.
Ancient Egyptians don't want to just party in this life.
They also want to carry that over into the next life, and therefore burying someone with beer is a great way to ensure that.
The role of beer in rituals begins to explain the significance of the festival of drunkenness, but there was more to the debauchery than just alcohol.
We have evidence that the blue lotus was used by ancient Egyptians.
Modern day pharmacology has revealed that the flower and seeds of the blue lotus contains psychoactive compounds.
Eating the plant can give people feelings of euphoria.
There are wall paintings and contemporary references which tell us that people did use the blue lotus flower as a means of getting high.
We see that on the tomb walls.
People wear it as a kind of garland on their heads.
They're sometimes shown sniffing it and sometimes you see the head of the flower being held above a cup, possibly full of wine or some other alcohol.
Today, modern medicine uses compounds extracted from the blue lotus in anti-anxiety drugs and sleep aids, but when, as at the festival of drunkenness, it is mixed with alcohol, the effects are even more potent.
You can actually steep this flower in alcohol and psychoactive chemicals will then dissolve into the alcohol, and then you can take it through drink.
Mixing a psychoactive drug and a depressant like alcohol can cause you to become even more drunk and inebriated.
These wild celebrations were not just about personal indulgence.
They were religious ceremonies in which participants became intoxicated in order to commune with their gods.
These weren't simply drunken, brawling events.
These were highly ordered ritual events where the consumption of alcohol was intended to induce a sort of transcendent state.
They'd get totally blind drunk, pass out.
If they were lucky, they'd have a dream and they'd see the goddess they were worshipping.
Experts turn to religious texts to understand the origins of this crazed celebration and discover a myth about an angry goddess defeated by the power of beer.
The festival of drunkenness is almost certainly connected with the goddess Hathor.
She is sent to wipe human beings out, to massacre them.
They manage to trick the goddess by mixing beer with a red pigment called ochre and making a giant pool of what looks like blood.
And the goddess drinks up this beer infused with red pigment, gets drunk, passes out, and the gods are able to trap her, and, hey, presto.
Humanity is saved.
It's the final clue to explain a hedonistic phenomenon.
At the festival of drunkenness, the aim of the game is to get as drunk as you can as an act of worship.
It was really a way for people to commune with the gods.
It appears the ancient Egyptians used alcohol and drugs to get out of their minds, so they can celebrate in this world and ensure eternal happiness in the next.