21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2001
Many people are fascinated by the history of Egypt, however there are a vast array of titles available. This book stands head and shoulders above the rest as an ideal introduction. It covers all the main aspects of ancient Egypt such as mythology, gods, ceremony and architecture. The text itself is clear and well organised and is supplemented well by diagrams and beautiful photographs. The index is large, enabling easy referencing and the book is organised into well defined areas meaning you can simply dip into it. Overall it is simply a superb introduction to the subject.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2008
This is a very thorough book, delving deep into the entire histoy of Egypt, starting with their earliest history as a nation, and going through all of the aspects of their history up through the Roman conquest.
It covers all the various dynasties, has an overview of the entire history (4000+ years of it) and sections on religious belief, the importance of the belief in the afterlife, their language, written (hieroglyphs and demotic (demotic is more like short hand and almost looks like our cursive writing...much easier and simpler than hieroglyphs!) Mathematics, astronomy, medicine, the building of the pyramids--- every aspect is thoroughly discussed by an expert in the field of Egyptology.
Each chapter (there are 15) is written by a different specialist in the field of Egyptology. Their credentials are listed in the dust jacket cover. They hold many different titles, are professors, university and museum curators, and all are experts in their given field. (Such as Dr Ian Shaw, editor of the Oxford History of Ancint Egypt who wrote the chapter called "The Settled World".) Or Dr Zahi Hawass, the head of the Cairo Museum and of Egyptian antiquities in Egypt, who wrote the chapter on the Pyramids.
The chapter headings include "The Celestial Realm", "Egyptian Art", "Women in Egypt", "Egypt and the World Beyond", and many more. Aside from the wealth of written knowledge, every single page has two or more lovely illustrations and photographs of the best of the artwork, tomb painting, statuary, jewelry, etc to illustrate what is being discussed.
This may be the one book on ancient Egypt to have if you can only have just one.
This book is NOT just a pretty coffee table book of the typical type, with more photographs than writing, and litle or no explanation of what you're seeing.
Professor Silverman as well as being the editor is also one of contributors, and wrote the chapters on "Belief and Ritual" and "Signs, Symbols and Language".
I can't recommend this book more highly. Highly accessable and readable. There is a glossary at the end and a good index. Useful for the interested amateur like myself, or someone already involved in the study of ancient Egypt.
Also see other books written or edited by Prof. Silverman, including "Akhenaten and Tutankhamun: Revolution and Restoration", and book on Pharoah Tutankhamun.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This book took me back to 7-10th grade, a period during which I developed an intense dislike of history. In books like this, facts were dished up without much context, there was no narrative (stories, personalities, evolution of war, architecture, etc.), and the prose while clear was as interesting as lead. It was not until I got to college that I realized more sophisticated histories could make the subject really live.
I suppose I should have expected this from so basic an introduction. It covers thousands of years in a few paragraphs. Indeed, each page is formulaic with a single subject (e.g. Houses of the Gods) and two inserts to break up two or three paragraphs of crude description. That makes for an exceptionally dull and elementary read, really about the 9th grade level.
You get a description of the grand outlines. There were 3 kingdoms in Ancient Egypt, with 2 in-between periods during which authority broke down due to the centrifugal forces of strong local governors. Art was not aesthetic, but an expression of religious belief and ritual, incorporated into every object. Their mythology was similar to that of the Greeks, some would say they influenced each other; the sky was seen as water because it was blue. In addition to maintaining security, Pharoahs acted as priests to maintain balance in the universe; mummified, they went to the next life as rich men. The language was "related" to Arabic and Hebrew, though further explanation is frustratingly omitted. Much of the space in the book is taken up by listings of names of people and places, which are meaningless.
While the basics are there, as a reading experience this is worse than dull. It can kill the reader's interest in a subject. Not recommended, except as a dictionary. While I have not yet found a good history of Egypt, there must be better ones out there somewhere.