“Where are the tombs of Alexander the Great or Cleopatra? Both rulers were buried in Egypt, but their tombs have never been found despite years of intensive research and excavation. Yet we have tantalizing clues. Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt describes the quest for these and other great ‘missing’ tombs – those we know existed, but which have not yet been identified. It also discusses key moments of discovery that have yielded astonishing finds and created the archetypal image of the archaeologist poised at the threshold of a tomb left untouched for millennia.
Tombs, mummies, and funerary items make up a significant portion of the archaeological remains that survive ancient Egypt and have come to define the popular perception of Egyptology. Despite the many sensational discoveries in the last century, such as the tomb of Tutankhamun, the tombs of some of the most famous individuals in the ancient world―Imhotep, Nefertiti, Alexander the Great, and Cleopatra―have not yet been found.”
― Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt, by Chris Naunton
Settle into some Sunday reading with a selection of five books curated by Elizabeth Frood, a lecturer in Egyptology at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. Here are her five book recommendations that take us away from the elite context of Egyptian history and focus on the ‘normal’ live of Egyptians.
“Female rulers are a rare phenomenon–but thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, women reigned supreme. Regularly, repeatedly, and with impunity, queens like Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra controlled the totalitarian state as power-brokers and rulers. But throughout human history, women in positions of power were more often used as political pawns in a male-dominated society. What was so special about ancient Egypt that provided women this kind of access to the highest political office? What was it about these women that allowed them to transcend patriarchal obstacles? What did Egypt gain from its liberal reliance on female leadership, and could today’s world learn from its example?”
“There is nothing to be gained by idealizing Egypt. It was a tightly controlled, centralised bureaucracy and the king held the ultimate power assisted, or sometimes opposed, by a strong ruling elite. There will have been nepotism and corruption at the highest levels and fraud and abuse of power will have occurred alongside the everyday criminal activities. Some rulers and some periods will have been more unjust than others. The fact that the Egyptians had a legal system which was, in theory, available to anyone showed that they knew what was right and what ought to be and tried their best, with varying results, to achieve this. The poor will have found it harder to obtain justice and many crimes and injustices will have gone unpunished. In the periods of social disorder there are complaints about the breakdown of society and of law and order. At the end of the Old Kingdom they bemoaned that fact that Maat had been “cast out and iniquity to sit in the council chamber. The plans of the gods are destroyed and their ordinances transgressed. The land is in misery, mourning is in every place, towns and villages lament”.”
“The crowded halls of columns also held symbolic meanings. In Egyptian mythology the celestial realm of the sky was supported above the earth on columns – which are often shown as a framing device at the sides of temple representations. The columns of the hypostyle hall can thus be seen as types of these cosmic pillars, so that statements such as that made by Amenhotep III regarding the temple of Karnak, ‘It’s pillars reach heaven like the four pillars of heaven’, contain a symbolic truth beyond the obvious hyperbole.”
“From about 2000 BCE onward, Egypt served as an important nexus for cultural exchange in the eastern Mediterranean, importing and exporting not just wares but also new artistic techniques and styles. Egyptian, Greek, and Roman craftsmen imitated one another’s work, creating cultural and artistic hybrids that transcended a single tradition. Yet in spite of the remarkable artistic production that resulted from these interchanges, the complex vicissitudes of exchange between Egypt and the Classical world over the course of nearly 2500 years have not been comprehensively explored in a major exhibition or publication in the United States. It is precisely this aspect of Egypt’s history, however, that Beyond the Nile uncovers.”
“Historians have found that valuable knowledge about long-ago civilizations can be derived from examining the simple routines of daily life. This fascinating study presents a collection of everyday objects and artifacts from ancient Egypt, shedding light on the social life and culture of ancient Egyptians. The work starts with a popular notion of ancient Egyptian beauty and gradually moves on to address various aspects of life, including home, work, communication, and transition and afterlife. Organized by topics, the work contains the following sections: beauty, adornment, and clothing; household items, furniture, and games; food and drink; tools and weapons; literacy and writing; death and funerary equipment; and religion, ritual, and magic. Each object holds equal importance and dates from the Predynastic era to the Graeco-Roman period of ancient Egypt (5000 BCE to 300 CE).”
“Caroline Louise Ransom Williams (1872-1952) is remembered as the first American university-trained female Egyptologist, but she is not widely-known in the history of science. Her mentor was James Henry Breasted, well-known as the first American Egyptologist and founder of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. As long as they worked together and as much as they depended on each other professionally, Ransom Williams is little more than a footnote in the published history of archaeology. She was a successful scholar, instructor, author, and museum curator. She also had personal struggles with her mother and her husband that affected the choices she could make about her career. This book presents the correspondence between Ransom Williams and Breasted because the letters are crucial in piecing together and allowing an in-depth analysis of her life and career.”
― My dear Miss Ransom: Letters between Caroline Ransom Williams and James Henry Breasted, 1898-1935, by Kathleen L. Sheppard
“Papyrus Leiden I 343 + 345 is one of the most extraordinary manuscripts providing a deeper insight into magic and medicine in Ancient Egypt. The main part of the papyrus deals with the ancient Near Eastern disease demon Sāmānu, who is well known from Sumerian and Akkadian incantations and medical texts. In addition, a broad range of other conjurations and spells against any pain and feet swelling are included. The papyrus also contains two curious spells dealing with ‘falling water from the sky’. Eight out of fourteen incantations against the demon Sāmānu were incorporated twice in this papyrus. The texts are not only presented as parallel text edition but also with photographs of the papyrus. This re-edition of papyrus Leiden I 343 + 345 is a revised transliteration, transcription, translation and up-to-date commentary.”