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Secrets of Lost Empires II—Pharaoh's Obelisk

Program Overview


Uncover the Latest Secrets from NOVA
Magnificent structures—symbols of faith, power, commerce, or comfort—are the intriguing legacies of the civilizations featured in this five-part miniseries, Secrets of Lost Empires. Without modern technology, these ancient builders achieved construction feats that still impress today.

NOVA travels to the sites of these once-mighty empires to answer the question, "How did they do that?" Expert teams of engineers, archeologists, and master builders attempt to recreate the structures, using the materials, tools, and techniques thought to have been available to their ancient counterparts. The researchers draw on tantalizing clues found in ruins, paintings, and documents to guide them. But in this real-world laboratory, things don't always go as planned. The teams demonstrate science inquiry in action, refining their hypotheses through trial and error. In the process, they gain a deeper understanding of the ancient builders and their worlds.


Pharaoh's Obelisk
How did ancient Egyptians transport and erect towering granite obelisks that weighed as much as 400 tons (360 metric tonnes)? NOVA's experts scour wall paintings, ancient ruins, and texts for clues about the Egyptians' methods. The first challenge is to load a model obelisk onto a barge for a trip down the Nile. Then, two teams with different strategies for erecting obelisks try their methods in a desert showdown.

Teacher's Guide
Secrets of Lost Empires II—Pharaoh's Obelisk
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