Legend Quest host and explorer extraordinaire Ashley Cowie
For most of us, watching an Indiana Jones film is about as close as we will ever get to experiencing an around-the-world search for a famous (or infamous) ancient artifact.
There are, of course, exceptions, and Ashley Cowie is one of them. An archaeological explorer, historian, lecturer, published author, and expert in ancient symbols, he is also the youngest Knight Officer in the Scottish Knights Templar. Back home in his native Scotland, Cowie is currently the resident historian on Scottish television's The Hour Show where he presents information on the origins of Scottish traditions.
Beginning this month, you can watch Cowie as he travels the globe hunting for history’s greatest and most elusive artifacts in the new Syfy action/adventure reality TV series Legend Quest (premiering Wednesday, July 13 @ 10;00 p.m. EST/PST). In the first episode, “Ark of the Covenant/Mayan Talking Cross,” Cowie and his team travel to Ethiopia, Italy, and France in search of the famous Ark of the Covenant, believed to have the power to defeat any army and strike enemies with bolts of lightening. Then it is off to Mexico where they hope to find the legendary Talking Cross, which the Mayans believed gave them the power to speak directly to the gods, protect them from their enemies, and grant wishes.
Last week, the affable Cowie checked in with the press to speak at length about Legend Quest. So pack your backpack, check your compass and then read a few highlights from that Q & A. Enjoy!
How much input do you actually have in choosing where you’re going to go and what artifacts you’re going to look for?
One hundred percent input, actually. Basically since the network [Syfy] chose me to lead the show, I’ve come up with all the artifacts. I would go searching for the various clues and symbols that we find along the way and then the methods used to get from one place to the next are completely my own work and research. So it’s more or less a matter of me out there looking for artifacts that we’ve identified and the team recording it [the investigation] as it goes along. So again, it’s pretty much 100% input for myself and working with the development team at Syfy.
Since there are so many theories surrounding the Ark of the Covenant, can you talk about how you find the right road to follow in order to know that you have the best possible location?
Yes, and that’s a great observation. I mean, it’s been done so many times as far as people looking for the Ark. My methodology is to take everything that’s been written about it so far, research everything that it cannot be and then, like Sherlock Holmes says, “Hopefully end up with what can only be.”
I’ll be honest, when you watch the episode you’ll see that we’ve got number of dead ends along the way when searching for the Ark. However, when I find a clue, see a symbol or something that is absolutely indicative of where the Ark was taken next, we follow that, and if we hit a dead end, we’ll go back to the last stage and move forward again.
It’s really about following your nose as you go. Rather than making up history, if we find something that doesn’t work, we backtrack and try again, and there are a number of occasions where we do just that. It’s a nightmare production-wise because we only have half an hour to cover an artifact, but I insisted the whole way along that we cannot make anything up with this. It has to be there or else we go backwards and start from there.
Of all the places you’ve been so far what has been your favorite?
My favorite place must be Edinburgh, Scotland. No, I’m joking. My favorite place is the Philippines. We searched for this amazing artifact that Cintamani stole in the Philippines, and we didn’t just go to the tourist sections of the Philippines. We drove for 15 hours in a car, we spent four hours on a flight, we explored on volcanoes and amongst rainforests. At one stage we were a kilometer or so deep in a cave and diving. The Philippines blew me away. It’s definitely the biggest contrast from the North of Scotland, which is where I’m from.
Of the six episodes we’re going to see on Syfy, is there one that stands out for you as being the most fascinating?
Yes, the last one. It’s a one-hour special and a search for The Holy Grail. That was riveting for me in the sense of my being involved in the Knights Templar and having such a close association with these types of artifacts, especially Biblical ones. To go on a modern day quest for The Holy Grail, considering the success of Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code machines was pretty much everybody’s dream. We really went for it, and for me it was like being dropped off in a sweet [candy] shop.