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Women in Ancient Egypt Paperback – 26 Apr 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: British Museum Press (26 April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714109568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714109565
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 504,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Beautiful as they are, Egypt's ladies barely make it into the historical record. We have no firsthand accounts, and their thoughts will eternally remain a mystery...This makes Gay Robins' authoritative Women in Ancient Egypt doubly welcome. Ms. Robins, who teaches Egyptology at Emory University in Atlanta, knows her stuff. In astonishingly few pages, she covers 3,000 years of politics, economics, family, society, religion and art. She backs every statement with the hard evidence of artifacts and texts, and if she offers a theory she marks it as such. Her book stands head and shoulders above sensationalist popularizations...[It] is a book you can trust...Ms. Robins writes clearly and well...[and] provides rewarding fare. Her discussion of lively with examples and rich in detail. -- Elizabeth J. Sherman Washington Times This book relies on artistic, archaeological, and written evidence to reconstruct the private and public lives of women in Egypt from approximately 3000 to 300 BCE...Robins analyzes particularly skillfully the challenges and problems inherent in her study, including the familiar problem of trying to reconstruct women's lives when scholars have maintained a persistent silence about them; evidence that may be fragmentary or derived from biased sources; evidence that often excludes entire classes of women; and modern prejudices that encourages errors in interpreting the evidence. Choice --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Using primary sources, this book provides a review of the lives of Egyptian women between about 3000 BC and 332 AD. It deals chiefly with the elite class since the peasants left little mark, and shows how, despite restrictions, some women wielded great power in Ancient Egypt.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Dancing Queen on 23 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Only gave four as I still have to finish the book, but so far it is good and easy to read and very informative.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
useful contribution on women in Ancient Egypt 16 Jun. 2000
By Francesca Jourdan - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a detailed account of domestic, economic, social and legal lives of ancient Egyptian women. The author describes queenship, marriage, childbirth, family, religion, and death; she also discusses women in Ancient Egyptian literature and art; and she provides excellent information to back up her study. An excellent bibliography is included, as well as good black and white illustrations. This is a recommended book for those interested in the lives and roles of women.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Excellent for Assignments 10 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very detailed book that I found invaluable when doing a research task on Women in New Kingdom Egypt. The information is organised into the Old, Middle and New Kingdom periods, and is backed up with numerous pictures and references to tombs.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Questionable evidence 14 Feb. 2008
By S. Patterson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author is obviously very learned and has every right to draw conclusions from evidence witnessed first-hand; however, she too often mentions that the evidence is weak or strong without discussing why the evidence seems to suggest (either weakly or strongly) what has been asserted. This simply happens too often and leaves the reader wondering whether or not she has "learned" something that is not exactly true.
Overall, the portraits of the lives and interactions of the historical characters are very compelling and vivid, among them many pharaohs and their various wives and lovers.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
absolutely fantastic! 5 July 2012
By doc peterson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robins' history of women in ancient Egypt is fantastic for Egyptologists and those interested in women's history especially, but even for the lay reader it is a veritable treasure trove of information. What initially impressed me was how Robins is very clear and upfront about the challenges facing scholars examining the role of women: Egyptians were a conservative society seeking to maintain ma'at - the natural balance in the world - a balance that was largely male-dominated, and therefore the historical record is not very rich in terms of explicit evidence. Further, "ancient Egypt" covers a time span of some 3000 years; in any historical discussion there are changes in society, even one as reluctant and slow to change as ancient Egypt's was, which complicates matters. Added to this, the lives of only the elite were celebrated and preserved in tombs, giving us a very one-sided view of what life was like. Even when the common people were portrayed, it was idealized, so the place of the majority of women (working-class women) is left largerly to inference.

What continued to impress was the fact that Robins is intellectually honest enough to point out "grey areas" of our understanding of ancient Egypt and clearly delinate when she is making historical inferences - for example, in her chapter on "Women in Temple Ritual," she states that we never find any female lector priests (priests who would read prayers from papyri scrolls), pointing out that this may be that female priests were illiterate, but it is also feasable that their literacy may not have been "officially acknowledged" (ie., it would have been contrary to ma'at, even as we know that women of the elite classes were taught to read.) I found this both professionally courageous and refreshing.

In spite of working with such limited evidence, Robins provides a wealth of information about women - not only about women and power (the pharoh Hatshepsut as perhaps the best known - but not the only - example of a woman as pharoh), but about marriage, their legal status within society and, what was most fascinating to me, their place as economic beings. Her bibliography is extensive, providing a wealth of other books on the subject that I am anxious to read as well. It is outstanding scholarship, well written for the non-expert (her transliteration of heiroglyphs, for example, do not follow MdC) on a very challenging topic. I give it my highest recommendation.
Excellent 19 Jan. 2015
By christina hotalen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A must have for anyone studying gender in the ancient world, and for those going into Egyptology. This is an excellent book, filled with resources and primary passages, as well as images. I have used this book on numerous occasions and has always proven to be helpful on my research. I am glad a book like this exists; there needs to be more said about women in the ancient world and this book does Egyptian women justice.
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