Sunday, August 15, 2010

Local man finds 'Mummies'

Have you seen the History Channel show "Chasing Mummies," about explorers opening Egyptian tombs that have been sealed for centuries?

You know the guy who's always getting yelled at by the expedition leader?

That's Spotsylvania County's own Allan Morton, a world traveler who has conducted research on five continents.

And he's thrilled to work with Dr. Zahi Hawass, even though "the pharaoh," as Hawass is called, threatens to give Morton the dusty boot in almost every episode.

Morton can't recount how many times he heard "This is all your fault, Allan. You're fired" during the five months he was in Egypt.

Morton wouldn't have missed it for the world, because he considered himself well-suited to the part he played.

"I think that's why they chose me, they wanted somebody for him to yell at," said Morton, a 49-year-old who admits he avoids confrontation. "Some reviewer called me mild-mannered and hapless. Mild-mannered, yes, but hapless means I'm without luck, and I was very lucky to be there."

Morton is an associate partner at Paciulli Simmons & Associates of Fairfax, an engineering firm whose history goes back to the time of George Washington. He's the firm's director of cultural resources, and he helps researchers at Fort A.P. Hill determine what impact government projects will have on the environment.

His job keeps him tied to the desk for the most part. "But every once in a while I go out and get poison ivy and covered in ticks," he joked.

Morton is married and has a 6-year-old son.

History Channel producers found Morton through the Register of Professional Archaeologists. He has a doctorate in prehistoric archaeology from Cambridge University in England, and has worked with the biggest names in the business.

Think Leakey and Goodall.

"Yeah, I dealt with these big egos in archaeology," he said offhandedly, as if studying in northern Kenya for eight years wasn't the slightest bit unusual.

Morton and Hawass did a two-week pilot episode in December 2008. In the beginning, Morton was a bit apprehensive about having a camera inches from his face--and Hawass "on the verge of shrieking at every moment"--but he got used to both.

He came to see Hawass' outbursts as a personal quirk, the same way some people clear their throats a little too often.

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