The History, People and Culture of the Nile Valley
Ancient Egypt Magazine -- Volume Eight Issue Three -- December 2007
Discovery: Unearthing the New Treasures of Archaeology
Editor, Brian M. Fagan
New and important archaeological discoveries are being made all around the world, and whilst some may get reported in the occasional magazine, quite often it is some time before they appear in books. This is a truly riveting read, even allowing for the fact that many of the chapters are not on ancient Egyptian subjects. Covering a time-span of two million years of history right up to more recent times, the chapters are written by some of the most eminent archaeologists, who describe their own discoveries. Each chapter is superbly illustrated with many excellent photographs, often taken at the very moment of discovery. Not surprisingly, ancient Egypt does figure greatly in this book. Chapters are included on discoveries at Giza, at Bahariya Oasis, and in the Valley of the Kings (KV63) by Dr. Zahi Hawass; and on KV 5 in the Valley of the Kings, by Kent Weeks. ‘Black Pharaohs’ by Charles Bonnet and Dominique Valbelle, looks at an impressive and important discovery of a cachette of magnificent statues at Kerma in Sudan; Mark Lehner describes some of the discoveries at the Workmen’s Village at Giza; Frank Goddio the underwater discoveries at Alexandria; and Toby Wilkinson the earliest hieroglyphs from Egypt found at Abydos. One discovery, which has not been over-publicised, is that of the world’s oldest boats, from Abydos, and the chapter by Matthew Douglas Adams and David O’Connor includes some of the clearest photographs I have seen of this important find. These articles alone make this book a worthwhile addition to anyone’s library, but I can guarantee that, for anyone with even a passing interest in the wider world of archaeology, the other chapters in this excellent book will be both an education and a pleasure to read.
Published by Thames & Hudson, 2007
ISBN 978 0 500 051498.
Hardback, price £24.95
by Frances Welsh
This is a revised and updated version, with many new colour photographs, of the excellent little Shire book on Tutankhamun, first published in1993. It puts the reign of Tutankhamun in its historical and cultural context, and looks at the significance of the tomb and its objects and what we can learn from them about life in Egypt in Tutankhamun’s time. All too often, the splendid objects from the tomb are viewed simply as works of art; it is important to know their historical, archaeological and artistic context. This excellent book does just that. If it is not already in your collection on ancient Egypt, then, with the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition currently showing in London, this would perhaps be a good time to buy a copy.
Lives of the Ancient Egyptians
by Toby Wilkinson
A number of books have been published in recent years looking at the lives of ancient Egyptians, but, with limited space, the main criticism has always been that they omit certain individuals that the reader might expect to have been included. Who to include and who to exclude will always be a problem, but here the author has included mini-biographies of one hundred ancient Egyptians. The list extends beyond Egypt’s great rulers, with entries for some perhaps lesser-known rulers such as Amenemhat I and Osorkon as well as many of the queens of Egypt.
The history of Egypt is always much more than that of its rulers, and here you will also find the story of the officials, the priests and the soldiers who helped defend Egypt’s borders and who built the great Empire. The entries are in chronological order, which makes the book easy to use. All the main rulers are included, but there are also entries for their officials. Their names will be familiar to visitors to Egypt: Mereruka from the Old Kingdom, for example, whose tomb is at Saqqara, is followed closely by an entry for Harkuf, another Old Kingdom official, whose tomb is in the south of Egypt at Aswan.
The entry for the New Kingdom official Rekhmira follows the entry for his king, Thutmose III and Akhenaten’s chief sculptor, Bak is followed by the entry for Mahu, Akhenaten’s Chief of Police. Of course there are entries for Akhenaten and Nefertiti too. Each entry is well written, clear and concise, and there is a specific bibliography for each entry, which will be useful for those who want to find out more about the individuals included.
The book is extremely well illustrated, with many familiar, but also many not-so-familiar images, which makes a refreshing change. All too often the same images appear in book after book. This is a book I know will be well used. It could prove especially useful when studying the earlier and later periods of ancient Egyptian history, when the personalities have in the past been allocated much less book-space than the sometimes over-exposed Egyptians of the New Kingdom.
Published by Shire Egyptology, 2007
ISBN 978 0 7478 0665 3.
Paperback, price £6.99
The Egyptian World
Edited by Toby Wilkinson
Few books examine the broader topics of ancient Egyptian culture, but that is exactly what this impressive volume does. Some thirty-two contributors from around the world, specialists in their field, have written original chapters for this book, which is organised thematically: (Many of the contributors will be known to AE readers and I will mention some of them specifically.)
‘Environments’ looks at ‘The Nile Valley’, ‘The Delta’ (Penelope Wilson) ‘The Deserts’, ‘The Oases’ (A. J. Mills), and ‘Urban life’.
Under ‘Institutions’, chapters look at ‘The Monarchy’ (Aidan Dodson), ‘The Administration’ (Karen Exell and Christopher Naunton), ‘The Temple Priesthood’ (Rosalie David), and ‘The Army’.
‘Economies’ looks at ‘Agriculture and Animal Husbandry’, ‘Craft Production and Technology’, ‘Labour’, ‘State and Private Enterprise’ and ‘Land Tenure and Taxation’.
‘Societies’ covers ‘Gender and Sexuality’, ‘Ethnicity and Culture’, ‘Local Identities’, ‘Morality and Ethics’ and ‘Law’.
‘Ideologies’, looks at ‘Kingship’, ‘Creation Myths’ and ‘Private Religion’ (Lucia Gahlin), ‘Temple Cults’, ‘Afterlife Beliefs and Burial Customs’ (Salima Ikram).
‘Aesthetics’ has chapters on ‘Art’ (Gay Robins), ‘Architecture’ (Kate Spence), and ‘Literature’.
Finally, ‘Interactions’ looks at ‘Egypt and Nubia’, ‘Egypt and the Levant’ (Manfred Bietak), ‘Egypt and Mesopotamia’ (Toby Wilkinson), ‘Egypt and the Mediterranean World’, and ‘Egypt and the Modern World’.
The book is illustrated with many previously-unpublished drawings and photographs, and, whilst one might like more images in a book of this size, it is the text that is all-important. Each contributor is an acknowledged expert in their chosen subject and the book contains the most up-to-date information and interpretation of the archaeological and written evidence and ideas. As such, despite the high price, it should be a be a must-have and must-read volume for anyone studying ancient Egypt, for there are important subjects covered and explored here, that you will not find easily elsewhere.
Published by Routledge, 2007
ISBN 978 0 415 42726 5
Hardback, price £135
The Rough Guide to Egypt
by Dan Richardson, Daniel Jacobs and others
Of all the guide books on Egypt, the Rough Guide has always been one of the most popular and this is the seventh edition, revised and updated. In here you will find virtually everything you will need to know about visiting Egypt, from how to find good places to eat, opening times and locations of places to visit, to modern culture and etiquette (which I think should be compulsory reading for every traveller to Egypt, as it advises on acceptable forms of dress, etc.). In addition there are excellent, albeit brief, descriptions of all the main and many of the more obscure places to visit, accompanied by clear and accurate plans and maps. If you are wondering which guide book to take with you on your next trip, then you could do far worse than to buy this one.
Published by Rough Guides, 2007
ISBN 978 1 84353 782 3
Paperback, price £15.99
The Great Mysteries of Archaeology: Tutankhamun
by Renzo Rossi
The title of this book is a little misleading, for it is mostly a general view of Egyptian history and culture, with perhaps just a little more on Tutankhamun than usual. It is well produced and illustrated and the author studied history at the University of Pisa and in France. It is, however, all too apparent that the text has been translated into English, and by someone who is unfamiliar with ancient Egypt. The result is a text that is often cumbersome and difficult to read, with sentences not constructed the way one might expect and using words that might be comprehensible, but are not the ones a writer in English would use. Canopic jars, for example, are described as ‘Canopus vases’ and ‘The Texts of the Sarcophagi’, is used for what an English-speaking Egyptologist would call ‘Coffin Texts’. There are also some errors, including a photo on page 16, supposedly of Lord Carnarvon, which is actually of Arthur Mace; and Tutankhamun’s funerary mask is curiously described as being ‘painted with gold’. I especially loved the statement that the Tomb of Rameses II in the Valley of the Kings has “partially sunk into the sand”. As a general introduction to Egypt, this book has some merit, but if you really want to find out more about Tutankhamun and the discovery of his tomb, then there are many other books on the subject that cover it in much more depth and with greater accuracy.
Published by David & Charles, 2007
ISBN 978 0 7153 2763 0
Paperback, price £9.99
Growing Up and Getting Old in Ancient Egypt
by Rosalind M. and Jac. J. Janssen
If the title of this book seems familiar, it is because it combines two previous volumes, Growing Up in Ancient Egypt published in 1989, and Getting Old in Ancient Egypt published in 1990. Growing Up was the first book in English to be written on childhood in ancient Egypt and similarly Getting Old was also a first. Little more has been written on both subjects since. This new combined volume means that these books are now available again, revised and updated. Both books were valuable contributions to the limited published material on the subject and the same can be said of the combined volume whose new availability is most welcome. Growing Up covers the time from birth, through adolescence, to marriage, and Getting Old looks at the real and ideal life and the care of the elderly. In an artistic tradition in which most of the representations we have of people show them in the prime of life, it is refreshing so see the rarer representations of children and old people. Through these images (many of which are little-known but are included in this volume) and in particular by reading surviving texts, a much more realistic view of life in ancient Egypt emerges. It is a fascinating story and an enlightening, rewarding and enjoyable read, which ends in a novel postscript describing the life of Egyptologist Margaret Murray, who lived to celebrate her one hundredth birthday. Her career, far from declining, seemed to take on a new lease of life as she ‘got older’, for she was still writing books and lecturing throughout her nineties and into her hundredth year.
Published by Golden House Publications, 2007
ISBN 978 0 9550256 9 3
Paperback, price £25
OTHER BOOKS RECEIVED
Antony & Cleopatra
by Patricia Southern Published by Tempus Publishing, 2007
This is two biographies in one volume – the story of the famous lovers, which is well-known from books and plays, mostly written long after their deaths. The author searches for the truth behind the myths and tells the story of politics, sex and the ultimate ruin of the couple. Don’t be put off by the cover, which you and I know shows Sety I and the goddess Hathor!
ISBN 978 0 7524 4383 6. Hardback, price £18.99
Cleopatra: Queen, Lover, Legend
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Another book on Cleopatra, but whilst this is also a biography, it looks as well in some detail at the ways in which successive generations have regarded the Queen. Over the succeeding centuries she has been seen in the light of prevailing female fashions and male attitudes. Separating the real Cleopatra from the myth is never easy, and this book seeks to strip away many of the myths, whist explaining how they first arose.
Published by Pimlico, 2007
ISBN 978 1 844 13937 8
Paperback, price £8.99
by David Pickering
This is a tiny book – literally (just 8 x 12 cm) – but surprisingly packed full of accurate and useful information in its 256 pages.
Chapters cover all aspects of ancient Egypt, right through to the modern archaeological discoveries. This is a book that will literally fit into a pocket or handbag and if anyone wants a cheap but good little book, then this is the one to get. It could be of real interest to children studying the subject who want a little more than the usual picture-book introduction. There are two companion volumes too, equally packed with information, on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
Published by Collins, 2007
ISBN 978 0 00 723163 8
Paperback, price £4.99
Art & Architecture: Egypt
by Matthias Seidel, Regine Schutz and others
This is an excellent introduction to the art and architecture of ancient Egypt. Its 608 pages are packed with information and some splendid photographs of objects and buildings, along with detailed maps and plans. The chapters deal with the subject geographically, working from Alexandria in the north to the Nubian temples in the south, and also including Sinai. Sections also cover Coptic and Islamic art and architecture.
Published by Konemann, 2007
ISBN 3 8331 1424 X
Hardback, price unknown
The Old Kingdom Art and Archaeology
Edited by Miroslav Barta
This impressive volume is a collection of papers, given at a conference on Old Kingdom Art and Archaeology, held in Prague in 2004. Some thirty-three papers are included, covering a wide range of subjects, and all are written by internationally known experts. The whole is well illustrated with photographs, line drawings and plans, many of which will be new to readers as they come from the very latest archaeological discoveries. There is not space to list all the contributors here, but the papers all make fascinating reading, and although the theme of the conference was the Old Kingdom, the subjects will be of great interest to anyone studying ancient Egyptian art in general, as new finds can and do impact the way we interpret the art of later periods.
Published by the Czech Institute of Egyptology, 2006
ISBN 80 200 1465 9
Hardback, price £50
Karl Ludwig Libay:
Edited by Dusan Magdolen and Lucie Storchová
Early images of Egypt made before the introduction of photography can be important records of the ancient sites as first seen by European travellers. All too often, these sites have changed dramatically, not always for the better, and some have even been completely lost. This is a modern edition of the richly illustrated travelogue of Austrian painter, Karl Ludwig Libay. He visited Egypt in the 1850s and there completed a remarkable set of aquarelle paintings, later transposed into lithographs. The lithographs are accompanied by a text by a prominent Austrian scholar of that time, Alfred von Kremer, later the Austrian deputy in the powers’ committee governing the Egyptian state debt in the late 1870s. The ninety-five images are a fascinating and an important archive. The text is printed in five languages: English, Czech, Slovak, French and German.
Published by Set Out books, 2006
ISBN 80 86277 50 X
Hardback, price £30
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