A History of Ancient Egypt Hardcover – 19 Nov 1992
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"Very up–to–date . . . The index, the illustrations, the bibliography and the tables make this book an excellent reference tool." La Croix.
"The range of recent revisions, particularly chronological, and the ever increasing amount of archaeological material demanded a new synthesis. Here it is, both lively and well written." Le Quotidien de Paris.--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
This is an account of the rise and fall of the civilization in the Nile Valley, covering the first human settlement (c. 120,000 BC) to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. It is the first reign–by–reign history of ancient Egypt to be published since Sir Alan Gardiner′s Egypt of the Pharaohs (1961) and takes full account of the many archaeological, scientific and linguistic discoveries of the last three decades. The author blends archaeological and textual evidence into a lucid and vivid narrative and, by quoting extensively from contemporary sources, such as the funerary autobiographies of individuals and the official accounts of military campaigns, adds a strong sense of atmosphere to the unfolding of events.
Nicolas Grimal recounts the political, cultural and economic history of the Egyptians within the framework of an intricate and well–argued chronology. At a time when the vast accumulation of information from ancient Egypt is becoming almost too diverse for a single mind to encompass, he has managed to transform – without disguising current gaps in knowledge – disparate sources of evidence and the findings of many different disciplines into a coherent historical sequence. This is in itself a considerable achievement: it has also provided the means of presenting one of the most scholarly and at the same time most readable histories ever written of a civilization whose mysteries and achievements have fascinated the West for well over two millennia.
For the paperback edition a section of further reading in English has been prepared by Kent R. Weekes, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product Description
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The book's great strength is its readability and continuity. While other histories of Egypt often get bogged down in archeological details, Grimal's work connects the dots in a smooth and engaging narrative style. It may be that he occasionally glosses the fine points to provide continuity, but having read more detailed texts (Oxford History of Ancient Egypt), I believe his book provides a clearer picture for the beginner.
This is not to say that the book lacks accuracy but scholars of Egyptian history will no doubt have their difficulties with some of Grimal's details. The book was first published in 1988 and, as such, is slightly out of date. Grimal also tends to use Greek names for most pharaohs as well many place names ie. Cheops instead of Khufu for the builder of the great pyramid. This can be a little confusing to the inexperienced reader if they have previously encountered other variants.
While the book covers the major political events in ancient Egypt, the inclusion of chapters explaining the Egyptian system of religious beliefs, funerary practices and a long description of the temple complexes at Karnak provide much needed background. The plates (all black and white) in the book are adequate, although often the maps lack detail. For the interested reader I would recommend "Le Description de L'Egypte", put out by Benedikt Taschen Verlag. This book, a beautiful collection of paintings, architectural drawings and maps, produced by a team commissioned by Napoleon, fills in many of the visual details missing in Grimal's work.
I would strongly recommend "A History of Ancient Egypt" to the casual reader, interested in Egyptian history, who does not want to be swamped with details. For the more scholarly it includes a brief glossary, a chronology of dynasties, an extensive bibliography, annotated suggestions for further reading and a fairly detailed index. Because of this it might also be useful as an introductory text in Egyptology, but given its age and narrative style, it will likely not be the first choice of experienced Egyptologists.
Since 1988, a new Dynasty 22 Tanite king--Sheshonq IV who intervened between Sheshonq III and Pami--has been discovered. Pami's Highest date is now his 7th and Final Year, rather than his 6th Year, as an Annal document from Heliopolis which records his Yearly donations to the local Gods of this city, attests. (Source: 1998 BIFAO article by M. Gabolde) Most Egyptologists today accept the evidence from David Aston's seminal JEA 75 (1989) pp.139-153 paper that Takelot II ruled Egypt concurrently with two Tanite Dynasty 22 kings--Osorkon II and Sheshonq III. Takelot II controlled Upper Egypt where he and his son, the High Priest Osorkon B, are well attested while the 22nd Dynasty Pharaohs held Lower Egypt. Takelot II did not succeed Osorkon II at Tanis (Sheshonq III did), and is now believed to have died around the 22nd Year of Sheshonq III as the Chronicle of Prince Osorkon implies. (ie: Year 25 of Takelot II=Year 22 of Sheshonq III) Aston's hypothesis has now been accepted by most Egyptologists such as Aidan Dodson, MA Leahy, Jansen-Winkeln, Rolf Krauss and J. Von Beckerath--the latter in his 1997 German language book, Chronology of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The tomb of a certain Hedjkheperre Setepenre Takelot in the Tanite Royal Necropolis and a Year 9 Bubastis stela have now been attributed to Takelot I, rather than Takelot II by all Egyptologists, including K.A. Kitchen himself in his 3rd edition (1996) book on the Third Intermediate Period. The confusion in establishing the identities of these 2 distinct kings was caused by the fact that both rulers employed the same prenomen--Hedjkheperre Setepenre. Finally, a stela dating to Takelot III's Year 13 was found in February 2005 at Dakhla by American archaeologists.
Grimal notes the Libyan chaos of the final years of the 22nd Dynasty which occured in Lower Egypt. By the time of the Nubian king Piye's Year 20 conquest of Egypt, both Takelot III and his poorly known brother Rudamun (at 2-3 Years) were dead, as Piye's Victory stela shows since their Kingdom had fragmented into several city states headed by local kings such as Nimlot of Hermopolis and Peftjaubast of Herakleopolis. Meanwhile, the death of Shoshenq V led to the collapse of the 22nd Dyansty in Lower Egypt as numerous local kings appeared in its wake from Osorkon IV at Tanis and Bubastis, Iuput II at Leontopolis and Tefnakht of Sais--the most powerful Egyptian ruler who posed a threat to Nubian control over Egypt.
All in all, Grimal's book is a worthy successor to Alan Gardiner's invaluable 1961 'Egypt of the Pharaohs' work, and makes an important contribution to our understanding of the many different eras of Ancient Egypt. There are few other Egyptological works that have the breath, depth and quality of Nicolas Grimal's study which takes up more than 400 pages before you even reach the Bibliography. Professor Grimal is a master in his field at the elite University of Paris, Sorbonne. You definitely cannot go wrong with this book.
Other aspects of ancient Egyptian society, such as the organisation of the economy, administration, law, the military, the hieroglyphs or religious beliefs and worldviews are not even mentioned in this book. All topics involving the ordinary people of Egypt have been ignored.
As a result, this book takes a very narrow look at ancient Egypt when it focuses exlusively on dynastic politics and archeological monuments. There's nothing wrong with that, but in my opinion a more suitable title for this book would have been 'A history of Egyptian pharaohs and their buildings'
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