As part of its Second Annual Expedition Week, National Geographic Channel explores the controversy surrounding a self-proclaimed messiah named Simon who died four years before Christ was born and who, at least one researcher says, provided a template for Jesus’ life and death.
As always seems to be the case in such ancient mysteries, the putative case rests upon the evidence of an elusive piece of text located on a shred of parchment or a worn-down tablet. And this case is no different, with the ink lettering strategically worn away on a three-foot-tall stone tablet from the first century B.C. that speaks of Simon. Purportedly describing Simon’s resurrection after three days, the illegible text is put through multiple examinations and testings to little result. But, the special, which airs Thursday, November 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, does raise interesting questions and gives the general public a great insight to the inner workings on the archaeological process.

“The First Jesus?” may be most germane to a Beliefnet blog, but the rest of the week is well worth noting. Sure, there’s no roguishly handsome Boyd Matson hosting, but there’s giant sharks, submarines and even headhunters. A few words about my favorite episodes:
Expedition Great White
Monday, November 16 at 9:00 pm ET/PT
Ever wonder what you would get if you mixed Jaws-size Great White Sharks with a Nascar pit crew? No, not a bloody mess, but an absolutely incredible tagging program that is part of a conservation initiative aimed at protecting the endangered species. The precision and patience, and cojones, it takes to reel in these SUV-sized aquatic predators is awe-inspiring. And don’t blink or you’ll miss a glimpse of actor Paul Walker working with the crew.

Hunt for the Samurai Subs
Tuesday, November 17 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT
I have to confess: I can’t pass up a good submarine feature. Whether it be a documentary or a movie, I’m under the U -boat spell. So this look at the hunt for long-lost scuttled Japanese WWII subs off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, could do no wrong. Having said that, this is really is A fascinating piece of work. Just prior to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the Japanese Imperial Navy sent a fleet of incredibly advanced combat subs to attack major U.S. assets. But when Japan surrendered, the U.S. Navy confiscated them, only to destroy them so that the Soviets couldn’t get their hands on the game-changing technology. Following the team of explorers as they plumb the dark and deep Pacific depths is truly riveting.

Search for the Amazon Headshrinkers
Repeat, Monday, November 16 at 9:00 p.m.
I missed posting on this before it originally aired, but that’s no reason to miss this episode. Exclusive U.S. access to a 45-year-old film that is purportedly the only footage of an actual human head being shrunk sends host Piers Gibbon deep into the Amazon jungle in attempt to find the people involved. Focusing more on the macabre, “otherness” of the practice of creating tsantas, or shrunken heads, at the beginning, viewers learn to appreciate, along with Gibbon, the cultural significance and symbolism that the objects still hold for the Shuar people today.
A full listing of all seven nights of programming–including Bob Ballard’s Gallipoli Expedition and “When Crocs ate Dinosaurs”–can be found at National Geographic website.

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