Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister’s heart after mummy ‘mistake’

Sir Tony Robinson is a man with a plan. A cunning plan, you might say. Keep learning, find work that you love, stay out of the midday sun and avoid snake pits where possible.

Wise words that are certainly far too sensible to have come from Baldrick, the halfwit Blackadder character that actor Tony is renowned for playing.

It’s been nearly 25 years since Tony’s career veered in a surprising direction as he began hosting Time Team.

The hit archaeological show that ran for two decades paved the way for his historical documentaries, which leads us to why the 72-year-old recently found himself facing snake-infested chambers and a near-drowning.

While tomb hunting in Egypt for his latest series, Tony found himself stuck at the bottom of an ancient grave as it suddenly flooded with water.

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Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

In one bizarre moment while filming, Tony accidentally sat on a dismembered mummy
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

Tony says: “We had climbed down a rickety old ladder into an excavated tomb about 15m deep. For some reason, although we were in the desert, water kept pouring in. God knows why, perhaps it was from the Nile.

“We had two pumps and the water was just sloshing around our ankles, but then we found a second chamber. As we went into it, the second pump failed and the water started going up and up.

“We had a decision to make. Do we get out quick, wait until it’s filled up and then swim out – although that was going to be a problem with all the equipment we were carrying – or wait until the last possible moment and hope we’ve timed it right?

“You’ve got to decide if you want to risk drowning or just get out without seeing everything that you might possibly see. There was a lot of adrenaline pumping at that moment.”

“I suppose I am probably a bit too gung-ho,” he confesses. “In my private life I’m a real pussy but as soon as those cameras are rolling I just want the best programme to be made.”

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

In the new show Tony, 72, found himself facing snake-infested chambers and a near-drowning
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

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“Often it will be the others who are saying, ‘Come on that’s enough now Tony.’ As soon as I hear that tone of voice I know it’s sensible to get out.”

In another hairy moment, Tony crawled into a tomb and made an unsettling discovery.

He says: “I told the archaeologist, ‘This is interesting, I’ve found a number of parallel holes, all of which are about seven inches in diameter.’ He said, ‘Oh yes, they’ll be snake holes.’”

Fortunately Tony is not easily scared. He says: “The adrenaline of being somewhere no one has ever been before is, or at least not for thousands of years, is quite extraordinary and by and large that overwhelms the feeling of personal terror.”

Speaking from Japan where he is midway through yet another series, Tony is well used to globe-trotting in the name of history, a subject he fell in love with because of his father’s wartime stories. But his latest series to hit screens, Egyptian Tomb Hunting, starting on Channel 5 tomorrow led to some particularly extraordinary discoveries.

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

Tony holds the 4,000-year-old Egyptian Prime Minister’s heart
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

Tony learnt the name of the man whose heart he was holding because it was on the hieroglyphics
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

“It’s bloody good isn’t it!” he enthuses, before revealing how he at one point held the 4,000-year-old heart of an Egyptian Prime Minister.

He says: “You don’t normally find a mummy’s heart because it’s usually re-buried deep in the heart of the mummy but there appears to have been a mistake.

“Archaeologists were investigating about 40 great big jars full of the detritus that was used in making a mummy.

That’s all the guts, all the blood and gore and all the salt that was used to extract the blood.

“All this stuff was considered holy. Then they unwrapped what they thought would be a great big clog of salt, all glued together, and when they opened it up it was the heart which should have gone back inside.

“I even learnt the name of the man whose heart I was holding because it was on the hieroglyphics.”

In another bizarre moment while filming, Tony accidentally sat on a dismembered mummy.

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

Tony and his team thought the heart was a big clog of salt but were in for a surprise
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

He explains: “I was in the desert, about to interview an archaeologist. I was knackered so I sat down on this black rock. He said, ‘By the way do you realise you’ve just sat on a mummy?’

“It was hard, it had been burnt and its head had been chopped off to release any curse that might be associated with it. I was too amazed to leap up, I just made lots of noises, many of which contained four letter words.”

The actor, who spends weeks at a time away from home and his wife Louise Hobbs, 37, who he married in 2011, is grateful to have a job that he loves.

“The work that I do doesn’t make me feel uptight, It energises me,” he explains. “I’ve been doing it for so long that I know it works best when I’m enjoying myself. It’s the zen of having a nice time. So I don’t carry it back with me at night.

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

There were other challenges, such as convincing the Egyptians to let them have access, given the records that the British have for looting Egyptian tombs
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

“I often get very tired but I’ll just have a good sleep and a day off and then I’m fine to go again.”

There are challenges of course, such as the searing desert sun that he faced doing long hours in Egypt.

He says: “You have to respect the heat. It’s a case of mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. You dig until half past 11 and then you get out, and then you start again at 4.15pm. Otherwise you’ll be ok for a couple of days and then the heat stroke will get you. Then you’re no good to anybody.

“The cameraman is always nagging me, ‘Tony you haven’t drunk enough water’. Of course, the chances of me dying were slight, but you have to be disciplined and watch it all the time.”

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

In another hairy moment, Tony crawled into a tomb and made an unsettling discovery
(Image: Channel 5/Pic sellect)

There were other challenges, such as convincing the Egyptians to let them have access, given the records that the British have for looting Egyptian tombs. Tony and the team also have to work with archaeologists and diggers who likely don’t speak the same language, as well as digging a terrain that they aren’t used to.

“Digging sand is a bit like digging water,” says Tony. “You take your trowel out and it all fills back up again, so there are a whole lot of different techniques that are required. I’m not moaning but it is hard and it’s in 40 degrees.”

Far from complaining, Tony is genuinely still thrilled and excited that he gets to broadcast history documentaries.

“I was always into history,” he says. “My dad always used to tell me stories and I got the sense from very early on that there were great times, adventurous times when I hadn’t been alive.

“History to me has always been as central to me as walking, sleeping and all those kind of things. It’s just part of what defines me and what defines people.”

He adds: “I could never have predicted the twists and turns that my career took,” he says. “That’s why I called my autobiography ‘No Cunning Plan’.

Tony Robinson makes incredible 4,000-year-old discovery of Egyptian Prime Minister's heart after mummy 'mistake'

Tony played Baldrick in the Blackadder from 1983 to 1989, a cult hit that is hailed one of the greatest British comedies of all time
(Image: BBC Worldwide)

“I mean whoever thought I’d end up a knight for God’s sake? You can’t predict things like that. It was in 2013 and it was a real buzz. It’s quite a nice accolade in the autumn of your career.”

Tony played Baldrick in the Blackadder from 1983 to 1989, a cult hit that is hailed one of the greatest British comedies of all time. Fans still stop him to talk about Baldrick all the time.

He says: “I’m kind of used to fame because it’s been going on for so long. It happened very gradually so I sort of grew into it. It’s very gentle. Largely people tend to enjoy Time Team and like the character of Baldrick, so there’s nothing hostile or over-energised about the way people approach me.”

Tony is enormously proud that his documentaries have brought history to more people, and constantly hears from fans who say they or their children have studied the subject because of him.

He laughs: “I think a lot of people just don’t get the fact that they are a part of history, that history is under their feet. There could be Romans in your back garden!”

*Egyptian Tomb Hunting starts on Tuesday 27 November on Channel 5 at 9pm.

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