This particular documentary details the development of architecture in ancient Egypt. Because this ran on the history channel, it views wonderful acts of civil engineering through the lens of the personalities that commissioned the projects. Things in Egypt, it seems, did not simply appear organically. They appeared because great leaders wanted to show the world that Egypt had the power to create things that the world had never seen. Likewise, Egypt was responding, in many respects, to the physical challenges it faced, including flooding from large rivers.
It starts by discussing the different dam building techniques that the empire’s early engineers used to build some of the world’s most impressive structures. They started building dams to ensure that the empire was not overrun in areas like Memphis by rivers that raged through the area. The film details the human labor that was necessary to put together the great dams of the past, and those dams lasted for hundreds of years, protecting the city from potential flash floods.
The documentary also discusses the ways in which Egyptian engineers approached their world-changing challenges. These were not just people building great structures. In many cases, they were people conceiving of things that other people had never conceived before. They could be compared to the first person to think about the skyscraper. The difference, of course, is that they came up with many ideas that people never thought of before, including dams, the great pyramids, tunnels, and a host of other structures.
Likewise, the documentary discusses how Egyptian tradition shaped the various structures that were designed. For instance, great tombs were often developed because Egyptian law required there to be constant work on the king’s burial place. When those kings continue to live, people have to get creative in order to keep building. This is how the pyramids came about, and it is how many other Egyptian structures were built over time.