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Mummies Unwrapped exclusive interview: Ramy Romany on ‘rewriting history’

Ramy investigates the tombs and burial sites of civilizations across the globe. Pic credit: Discovery
Ramy investigates the tombs and burial sites of civilizations across the globe on Mummies Unwrapped. Pic credit: Discovery

In the field of Egyptology and archaeology, explorer Ramy Romany is a youngster. However, his youthful and sincere enthusiasm is coupled with an intense CV that also reveals his leg up, so to speak, in diving into the world of filming artifacts, archaeological sites and narrating televised specials on all things antiquities of the old world of Egypt and beyond.

Discovery has tapped into Romany’s wide expanse of knowledge in this arena, and now he is the star of the all-new Discovery Channel series, Mummies Unwrapped.

In this compelling series we see Ramy travel far and wide in an exploration of ancient burial sites and vastly different cultures from the past. Of his new series, Romany says: “I go across the globe to investigate secrets and myths of the most fascinating burial sites, mass graves and ancient tombs on Earth.”

Romany expertly narrates and guides viewers on a journey few would ever get a chance to see as he investigates cryptic clues and well-hidden secrets across the globe while attempting to get to what happened and why.

Romany is known as a world-renowned Egyptologist. Sharp-eyed fans also know he is featured on the series Ancient Aliens as an expert as well:

 

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This season of ancient aliens is finally here. @history

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Ramy was born into a family of documentarians in Cairo, Egypt. By the time he was 20, he had many notable excavations in Egypt under his belt and his formal education lead him to earn a degree in Ancient Egyptian History and Archaeology from the University of Cairo. He can read and write in ancient Hieroglyphs and has appeared on numerous networks as an Egyptology expert and has also authored a book.

Many fans remember him serving as a knowledgeable guide to Scottish acting great Ewan McGregor as they toured the great pyramids of Giza on the epic adventure series Long Way Down for National Geographic.

Now Discovery’s exciting Mummies Unwrapped follows Romany on his relentless pursuit of digging up the truth.

He sifts through “legends, myths, curses and cover-ups, and seeks to unravel the fascinating origin of each mummy and the life that once was.”

We spoke to him last week about this addictive series, which satisfies both adventure seekers and history buffs alike:

Monsters and Critics: From what I’ve seen in the research I’ve done on you, is that before you were 20 you had accomplished so much. How did you know?

Ramy Romany: Well, I was a lucky spoiled brat growing up. My father did all the documentaries for Ancient Egypt, for Discovery Channel, National Geographic and BBC and all these networks.

I remember probably the first time I ever worked with The Discovery Channel was when I was 12. If you look deep in there you might find my name on the credits as a local producer when I was 12.

I grew up doing the same thing as my father does, which led me to always be there at every new tomb opening, at every new discovery before anyone else, because I needed to go there and scout it first. Growing up doing this just made me so passionate about everything I’m seeing, everything I’m looking at and that’s when I decided to keep that path and study Ancient Egyptian history and archaeology.

M&C: Now, is Egypt home? Is that where you’re based?

Ramy Romany: Egypt is where I grew up. I lived in Egypt most of my life and I moved to Los Angeles, California in 2011.

M&C: Big change, isn’t it? 

Ramy Romany: Same weather actually. If you look anywhere around the world, Los Angeles, California, has nearly the same weather as Egypt.

M&C: How many languages do you have under your belt? I know your bio says that you can read ancient hieroglyphics.

Ramy Romany: Yes. Correct. I don’t speak many languages. One dead language, hieroglyphs and I do English, Egyptian, Arabic and German. That’s about it.

M&C: That’s a lot. The show is not going to be Egypt-centric though. Can you talk about that? The other locations. Also, in the premiere where you’re rappelling down into an underwater grave site where there’s bones everywhere and a skull and you’re diving. Where was that?

Ramy Romany: Let’s start with the first one. Most people think that mummies are only found in Egypt and that’s because of the big Hollywood movies that make mummies feel like toilet-paper-wrapped zombie-walking humans, and that’s obviously not true.

Egypt is not the only place where you can find mummies. In this season of Mummies Unwrapped I go to Mexico, Peru, Argentina, of course Egypt, Denmark, Ireland and even Oklahoma and Washington, D.C.. All these are places where there are mummies that have mysteries that I try to solve.

Secondly, that clip [you reference] from episode one, that’s in the Yucatan Peninsula in Merida in Mexico.

Ramy is in the Yucatan here in the still from the premiere. Pic credit: Discovery
Ramy in the Yucatan in a still from the Mummies Unwrapped premiere. Pic credit: Discovery

There’s a recent discovery in a cenote [a natural sinkhole] under the ground, under the water, in the Yucatan Peninsula that belongs to the Mayans.

A cenote is the fresh water source for all the Mayan empire, there’s cenotes all around. Recently they found hundreds and hundreds of human remains inside a cenote right next to the walls of the ancient Mayan city Mayapan, the last great city that the Mayans had. Right after that the Mayan Empire completely collapsed and never existed again.

The mystery is that no one knows how these bones ended up there. No one knows how these human remains ended up there or why.

I go around and I try to figure it out, and I think I end up getting close to knowing why the ancient Mayan empire collapsed, which no one knows why for a fact. I think those human remains play a big role in that.

That clip that you watched was a new discovery that is also in the Yucatan Peninsula. That clip is me looking for other cenotes that possibly have the same phenomena which would prove a theory of possibly biological warfare that ended the Mayan empire.

M&C: What was that theory from?

Ramy Romany: It’s common in history where people try to poison the water source to destroy a city or destroy an empire and one of the ways they do it is by throwing humans in the fresh water source.

And there were hundreds and hundreds of them in that cenote right outside of the wall.

M&C: Were these Native Americans that wanted to preserve their dead?

Ramy Romany: No. There are Native Americans that wanted to preserve their dead and that’s what we’re going to have in Season 2, but the ones in Washington, D.C. …

A lot of people don’t know that back in the early 1900s and the late 1800s there was a mummy that toured this country in sideshows and dime museums and carnivals.

A mummy that was allegedly of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, of course. That mummy completely disappeared in the 1970s.

The problem is if it’s true and that mummy is actually John Wilkes Booth…the age of that mummy when it died was 35 years older than Booth when he was shot in the barn.

Which means if that mummy is actually John Wilkes Booth then there is a theory out there that John Wilkes Booth could have gotten away with murder.

M&C: Of all of the ancient cultures that you’ve studied and continue to study, if you yourself could go back in time and insert yourself as an observer to be part of one, which of the ancient cultures fascinates you the most, that you think would satisfy the academic in you to learn more?

Ramy Romany: Well, I am biased of course when it comes to that. My first response would definitely be Ancient Egypt.

One of the main reasons is because Ancient Egypt took place long before a lot of the other ancient civilizations did and it was so long. Ancient Egypt spanned over more than 3,000 years of time.

That’s a lot of time from the time of the first ancient Egyptian king to the last ancient Egyptian king…that’s more time than from now to the last ancient Egyptian king which means Ancient Egypt was even more ancient to itself than to us.

That being said, all the ancient Egyptian structures and tombs and mummies and everything you see today, and there’s a lot of it, is only about 15 percent of what is actually there. 85 percent of Ancient Egypt is still buried under the sands of Egypt.

If I could go back in time and learn the history, I’ll have an insider view of where to find all these places.

M&C: What’s your hope as this series continues into seasons two and three? I mean, first of all, how many episodes are in Season 1 that you cover?

Ramy Romany: Eight episodes. Season 1 will have eight episodes.

M&C: So you will be going to eight different locations and studying eight different cultures?

Ramy Romany: Yes, and it’s mostly, what I try to target is…it’s not the location, it’s a mystery that is surrounding a mummy.

My job is using my mummy expertise and the modern cutting edge technology that is out there. Today, more than ever, technology has advanced vastly. We can know so much more about mummies from the technology we have today. A tiny hair sample of a mummy can tell us exactly what the last meal that mummy had 3,000 years ago, which is mind-boggling.

With the technology we have today I can go around and basically get these mummies to tell me their stories, the stories that we don’t know that solves a part of our history. A story like the mummy of John Wilkes Booth could literally rewrite history as we know it.

If John Wilkes Booth got away with the most notorious crime in American history, that is ludicrous.

A story like the end of the Mayan civilization, till today we don’t…we have an amazing civilization, an amazing empire that we don’t know how it ended, we don’t know how it collapsed. Just knowing that through the ancient mummies is my quest.

M&C: I know that Josh Gates, when I interviewed him, had mentioned working with you. Will you be working at all with Josh on his project with his show or any further Egyptian live event? Will you be working or be part of his team and kind of co-mingling your expertise?

Ramy Romany: I am sure, not this season, but I’m sure in the next season Expedition Unknown or Mummies Unwrapped we will have some things to work together with. Josh is a good friend of mine.

We have met actually today, April 10 is our 10 year anniversary. I met Josh 10 years ago in the Cairo airport to help him with an episode of Destination Truth and we spent our first night together 10 years ago inside King Tut’s tomb. So Josh is really close to my heart. He introduced me to my wife back then 10 years ago.

And I hope that within the next season we find a way to work together to solve one of these mysteries.

Mummies Unwrapped airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET/PT following Expedition Unknown at 9pm ET/PT on Discovery.


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