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on 30 April 2001
This book is really for your student of the ancient egyptian language. Filled as it is with detailed linguistic notes and comments, this book does not read as a book of egyptian 'stories' as such. Indeed, the literature is largely confined to material of an autobiographical nature. But if you enjoy reading the works of different cultures throughout history, then there is no better window than the simple letters and life stories which appear in this work. I cannot comment on the quality of the translation, I am merely an interested layperson, but I felt a closer connection to the lives of the people who lived 3000-5000 years ago. Most touching of all is the letter to Harkhuf from his eight year old pharoah, the boy king eager to see the dancing pygmy found on a trip to the south.
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on 25 April 2016
It is an essential book, There is very much effort necesary to gather all this material. Egypt is a fascinating experience for anybody and can not be told, you must see it and just one travel is not enough.
Who developed this civilization is unclear, some civilization from Sudan and East Africa are older.
The writing is the oldest, older than the Babylonian.
But this is not the oldest civilization, but the most complex from the oldest. Including art and literature, amazing organization and architecture.
The oldest is the south Danube civilization, with a proto-writing from 5300 BC and metallurgy 4500 BC. More than a millenium before the Babylon and Egypt. But this civilization had no real writing, no cities and no centralized statal structures. There were only large settlements with no or only primitive hierarchic structures.
The discussion about eurocentrism is absurd. The truth is that humans developed civilizations when they found durable ( more than one century )
life conditions, and could organize big enough settlements to allow specialization, from China to Peru.
The development of the egyptian civilization can be followed from the beginning to its apogee, from 4500 BC to the beginning of last millenium, under roman rule. Knowing their spiritual world allows us to understand better another civilizations which did not left written testimonies.
Therefore I can only recommend this work as indispensable for anybody who is interested in the history of the civilization.
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Volume 1 : The Old and Middle Kingdom

For what it is this is an excellent introduction I believe. Clearly written with large tracts of original (translated into English, unfortunately I am not in a position to vouch for the accuracy of the translations) material.

Of necessity there are far more examples of Middle Kingdom texts compared to Old Kingdom, but all the important ones are there as far as I can tell. The work starts with an introduction covering Literary genres and styles, it moves on to the Old Kingdom material, starting with monumental inscriptions from private tombs. Followed by royal decree's and the pyramid texts as well as some examples of didactic literature (e.g. the instruction of Prince Hardjedef). This is followed with a chapter headed `the transition to the Middle Kingdom' which contains The first part of the autobiography of Ankhtifi (a cracking read) among other, transitional texts.

The Middle Kingdom section follows the same steps, though it includes a chapter on songs and hymns and finishes with one covering prose tales, i.e. the tale of the shipwrecked sailor, the story of Sinuhe and three tales of wonder.

The linking narrative is useful though quite personal to the author in some of her conclusions.

The book is some 9"x6" and just under an inch thick, some 240 pages long, there are no illustrations or photographs.
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on 30 August 2003
If you are intending to study ancient Egypt at any level, then this book is one of the few necessities! It will be of use again, and again, and again....along with her other 2 volumes, it is definitely worth its weight (and more!) in gold!
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on 31 January 2008
There is no better way to understand a people than to read their own writings. The Egyptians have left us a vast amount of written material of different types - autobiographies, myths, royal records - and to read them is to come close to the ancient mind.

Lichtheim's collections of translations of Egyptian texts, in three connected volumes, are some of the most accessible, with their helpful commentary and notes. They are an essential part of a library of anyone genuinely interested in ancient Egypt.
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on 15 October 2011
While still useful, Miriam Lichtheim's three volume work suffers from the dogmas, biases and ideologies of Miriam Lichtheim .
The sad fact is that Lichtheim was educated and drenched in perhaps the grossest form of arrogant German Eurocentrism.
Lichtheim seemed to cling to the old Hegelian worldview, which placed black African peoples outside of human history. For Lichtheim all signs of civilizations found in ancient Africa "proper" was the result of either Asian, Semitic or even European "invaders" or immigrants "filtering in" from the "East". For Lichtheim, Hegel was right. Civilization and humanity originated in Asia. Asia was the Mother of All.
In his Introduction to the 2006 Edition of Volume 1, Loprieno writes that Lichtheim placed "...Egypt within a literary tradition shared with the world of Western Asia...."
We hasten to add that this failed attempt by L:ichtheim to force ancient black African(ancient Egyptian) literature into the "Western Asia" "literary tradition" is indeed an intellectual fraud.
Especially since we know that "ancient Egyptian"(ancient Negro African) literature is the oldest writings on earth!
Lichtheim's translations and commentaries reflect her dogmas and her ideologies.

Today we know that dogma is false. Civilization and humanity originated in Africa. Africa is the Mother of All!

Ancient Egyptian art depicts numerous examples of the king dancing in religious ceremonies.
The ancient Negro Africans (ancient Egyptians) used dance in much the same way dance is still used almost everywhere in Black Africa today.

On page 27, Lichtheim translates the well-known part of Harkhuf's mission to Yam. King Neferkare is anxious to have the dwarf at court to dance the dance of the God.
This seems to indicate profound religious and cultural connections between "ancient Egypt" and the heart of Africa. Especially since we know that the king had many priestly duties and that he was a God /priest on earth with a celestial mandate.
In most African cultures today a God or Goddess has certain specific dances. For example, the Yoruba God Shango has special dances.
Lichtheim's translation and commentary ignores the undeniable Black African religious and cultural realities reflected in those passages. Here we have the virtual triumph of ideology, racial chauvinism and dogma over scholarship.

In her translation of the Mereneptah Stela (p.75 Volume 2 Lichtheim writes, "Seth turned his back upon their chief"(the Libyans). In her notes on this passage (p78) she writes:"The god Seth was viewed as the protector of the foreign peoples to the east and west of Egypt....". There is a lot of information packed into that short sentence. Set was the God of foreigners: Europeans and Semites!
Remember Seth was usually associated with evil and instability by the "ancient Egyptians.
The God of both the Egyptians and the Nubians was Horus.
If Lichtheim's aim was to educate and spread knowledge to her least sophisticated readers we wonder why she said nothing about the texts from the Tomb of Seti 1st, Merenptah and Ramses 3rd (Book of Gates) where it is clearly written that both the ancient Egyptians and the Nubian-Sudanese(nehasu) were to be have the God Horus
protect their souls in Tuat. While both the Europeans (tamaho) and the Semites(amou) were to have their souls beaten or hammered by the Lion head goddess Sekhmet.

Here again we see the "ancient Egyptians" never confused themselves with Semites or Europeans.

Anyone who can read the text in the original or even a good translation can begin to understand that "ancient Egypt" was as African as Nubia or Yam or Wa wat, Punt or Kush.. Remember that the mythologies and religious thinking of the Egyptians and the Nubians form one long continuum over time and space.
While the Egyptians and the Nubians often fought each other they never forgot their common origins in the heart of Africa.
Again the ancient Negro African peoples we call "ancient Egyptians" tell us who they were. We know that the ancient Egyptians did not eat with the Hebrews-it was considered a great sin. Gen. 43:32.
Herodotus tells us that neither an Egyptian woman nor man would kiss a Greek on the mouth.
If a Greek touched a knife the Egyptian would consider the knife "unclean" and would never use it again. Incidentally we find this same way of thinking among many traditional African cultures.

Throughout her 3 volumes Lichtheim does everything possible to obscure deny or ignore the Black Negro African reality of "ancient Egypt" and its cultural and ethnic origins.

In volume 3 Lichtheim continues to sing the same old song. The "egyptianized kings of Nubia restored the royal power of a single dynasty over most of the country'.
To the dismay of Ms. Lichtheim, her "ancient Egypt" and her "Nubia" were part of the same Nile Valley cultural complex-the same black African cultural universe.
Until the very end Miriam Lichtheim remained locked in her eurocentric intellectual prison.
The three volumes must be read with caution and an appreciation of the strong cultural, ethnic and racial biases of the late Ms. Lichtheim
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