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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romer's engaging chronicle of an ancient desert civilization is anything but dry, 14 Jun. 2012
This review is from: A History of Ancient Egypt: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid (Hardcover)
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John Romer has the rare skill of transforming a mass of historical detail gathered from years of scholarly analysis into lively, readable prose which can in no way be described as `dumbed down' or `populist' but is nevertheless readable and engaging, and the antithesis of dry academia. He's also an excellent documentary film presenter, including just the right amount of detail to hold the interest of the average intelligent viewer.

This first volume of a planned two-volume set covers the history of what we know as `Ancient Egypt' from recent archaeological evidence of the earliest hunter-gatherers settling into farming communities on the ancient lower Nile - the so-called `Neolithic revolution' - up until the "transformation of the pharaonic court from a progressive and inventive community into a culturally conservative society"; the history of pre-hieroglyphic Egypt up to the construction of the great pyramids of Giza at the end of the Fourth Dynasty around 2,500BC.

Romer does an excellent job in bringing this long period of history alive and showing the development of the early lower Nile civilization through measurable phases, often focussing on the everyday lives of `ordinary' folk and demonstrating for example how the repetitive labour of milling corn in a certain way impacted on the skeletons of the women of the period, visible in the surviving archaeological remains. The author points out that a detailed history such as this one could not have been written even 20 years ago, as much of the knowledge base has only recently been recovered and pieced together.

This substantial 400-page hardcover volume from Allen Lane (of Penguin Books) is smartly edited, illustrated throughout the text with helpful drawings, and has two separate 8-page sections of colour plates.

Romer plans a companion volume covering the later period from 2,500BC, during which long period Egypt increasingly interacted with its neighbours around the Mediterranean, some of whom were to ultimately engineer the demise of this greatest of all ancient civilizations.
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