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A bit of a slog,
This review is from: A History of Ancient Egypt: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid (Paperback)
I've been a fan of John Romer's down-to-earth television programs and books, but I found this one a bit of a slog. He is concerned that many people have over-interpreted the archaeological evidence, projecting onto it later Egyptian, Christian and Western traditions to give a false picture of ancient history. This book is intended to look at the evidence without any preconceptions. He is therefore continually arguing that we should draw the minimum of conclusions from the evidence, which has the rather depressing effect of concluding from each find that it doesn't really tell us much about what ancient Egypt was actually like.
The drive to avoid imposing preconceptions gets a bit silly in places. Reviewing the great disparity in the richness of burials between different groups of people, he agonises over whether using the word 'elite' might make us think the political arrangements that led to the disparity were the same as in modern societies.
After quoting a tomb inscription that describes Imhotep as 'The chancellor of the king of Lower Egypt, the first after the king of Upper Egypt, administrator of the great palace, hereditary lord, greatest of seers', he describes the inscription as 'somewhat oblique'. What?? It might possibly, as Romer suggests, be a collection of courtesy titles, but oblique it ain't.
I found it rather odd, in a book intended to be scholarly, and presumably to be international, that he has translated all of the measurements that archaeologists have made in metric units since the middle of the last century into British Imperial units.
No doubt Romer is right that a corrective is needed to books that build fantasies on little evidence. But for me, the repeated arguing against what others have said before was a distraction - I would rather just have had the evidence presented and explained.