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Handbook to life in ancient Egypt /

Main Author: David, A. Rosalie
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Facts On File, 2003
Edition: Rev. ed.
Series: Facts on File library of world history
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Review by Booklist Review

This is an ambitious book--a summary of a civilization that lasted more than 5,000 years. For the most part it succeeds. In 11 chapters, David, a respected Egyptologist, surveys Egypt from predynastic times through the arrival of Islam, although the work concentrates on the period before the establishment of the Greek Ptolomies as the royal line. Arrangement is thematic. The first chapter surveys the history of Egypt, historiography, and the various dynasties. The second chapter covers geography, the Nile and its inundations, and agriculture. The third chapter covers society and government and describes the nature of kingship, local government, and the substantial bureaucracy that kept Egypt running. Religion and funerary beliefs and customs are covered in the fourth and fifth chapters. Egypt had a rich and complex religious life, both public and private, and the chapter on "Religion of the Living" samples it generously. The next chapter explores the changes in the cult of the dead over time and gives a graphic description of the mummification process and the status of those who did the work. The chapter on architecture describes how the pyramids were built, including a description of how the workforce was recruited, organized, and paid. There are also sections on the building of palaces and temples and town planning. The chapter on "Written Evidence" begins with a cursory description of how Egyptian writing was deciphered. The art and technique of writing, writing materials, and the education of the professional scribes are summarized. There is a brief glance at religious and secular literature, but none is quoted. Although Egypt was a peaceable and self-contained place, in time the kingdom grew to an empire. To do that, and to secure building materials and trade in what Egypt did not mine or grow itself, it needed an army and a navy. Chapter 8 describes the Egyptian military and includes a short section on the Medjay, nomads from the Nubian desert who were enrolled in the police force. "Foreign Trade and Transport" and "Economy and Industry" could probably have been one chapter, as they overlap extensively. Transport problems are discussed as are foreign sources of materials, and the various domestic industries including glassmaking, jewelry, and food production. "Everyday Life" looks at the Egyptians outside the royal family, what they ate, who they were, and what they did for amusement. Each chapter cites relevant sources from the bibliography. Many of the citations are to academic journals or books which may not be available in public libraries. Besides the bibliography, the volume concludes with a chronological table, a list of museums with Egyptian collections, and a detailed index, essential given the book's arrangement. Black-and-white photographs, drawings, and maps complement the text. Because of the attempt to survey 5,000 years of history in about 400 pages, chapters and sections tend to be cursory. The chapter on daily life will not be much help to a student with a homework assignment, but in conjunction with something like John Romer's Ancient Lives: Daily Life in Egypt of the Pharaohs (Holt, 1984) it can be useful. Some topics overlap chapters, including descriptions of the Medjay, construction practices, and the donkey. One curious omission is cats, which were first domesticated in Egypt and were pets and rat-catchers throughout Egyptian history. This volume is a companion to Handbook to Life in Ancient Greece [RBB Ag 97] and Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (Facts On File, 1994). Recommended for high-school and public libraries, especially those serving students who get that annual ancient Egypt assignment. Lower-division undergraduates should find it useful as well. (Reviewed October 1, 1998)

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by School Library Journal Review

YA-From the predynastic times to the Old and New Kingdoms to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, this concise overview is written in thematic chapters that result in a complete picture of the civilization. Topics include history, geography, society and government, religion, funerary beliefs and customs, architecture and building, hieroglyphs, the army and navy, foreign trade and transport, economy and industry, and everyday life. The book ends with a chronology and a list of museums with Egyptian collections. Not quite as easy to read or as simply organized as a general encyclopedia, the title does provide useful material not found in standard resources for reports and projects.-Linda A. Vretos, West Springfield High School, Springfield, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.