Review: Riddles of the Sphinx DVD

RELEASE DATE: 4/13/2010 | PRICE: DVD $24.99
SPECS: NR | 60 min. | Documentary | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Program | Audio | Video | Overall

I’ll just come right out and admit it: I’ve always been a fan of educational programming. I used to set my VCR to record the Cable in the Classroom series on A&E long after the years when I was actually in a classroom on a regular basis. I loathe the recent trend — promulgated by the History Channel — of hiring Z-list actors to dress up in cheesy costumes and reenact historical events via even cheesier acting and sets. Just give me some intelligent talking heads, some on-site footage of the region being discussed, and I’m a happy camper.

Which is why I love the NOVA documentary series, produced by and aired on PBS. In Riddles of the Sphinx, a particularly entertaining and informative examination of the ancient world’s most famous riddle (and riddler!), NOVA’s expert team of explorers and archaeologists (including Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Secretary General of The Supreme Council of Antiquities, and renowned American Egyptologist Mark Lehner) examine new theories as to how and why the Sphinx was built.

They even go so far as to recreate the tools that might have been used to build the original and then experiment with those tools on small model Sphinxes to see how much time and manpower were required to carve out of solid rock — by hand — a statue taller than the White House and longer than a football field. Computer graphics used to recreate the splendor of the Sphinx in its heyday, before time and the elements took their toll, round out a compelling hour of Egyptology.

Some of us will make it to the Giza plateau in our lifetimes to visit the Sphinx in person. Some of us won’t. Thanks to NOVA (which is now in it’s 36th season!), however, all of us can stay current with one of humanity’s most awe-inspiring creations without having to wade through a third-rate costume drama to get there.


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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).