Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Pioneer to the Past

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

Pioneer to the Past. Story of James Henry Breasted, Archaeologist
The Story of archaeologist James Henry Breasted, by his son Charles Breasted, University of Chicago, 2009. (Reprint of Scribner's 1943 publication)

The photographs in this re-issue of the book have been added by the Oriental Institute's Publications Office. They were not present in the original publication and greatly enhance the text

The Story of James Henry Breasted (1865 -- 1935) told by his son Charles is a poignant story of one of the most brilliant scholars of all time. Charles, who died in 1980, first published the biography in 1943, and it is appropriate that it should be reprinted this year as we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, which Breasted founded with the support of D. Rockefeller Jr.

Breasted's vision was to create an interdisciplinary research centre that would unite archaeology, textual studies and art history as three separate yet complementary specialisations, thus providing a clearer understanding of ancient civilisations.

In this engaging account, which on many levels is more compelling than fiction, Charles Breasted (1897 -- 1980) takes us into the academic and personal life of his father, the holder of America's first Chair of Egyptology and one of the most prolific scholars of his day. His 5-volume Ancient Records of Egypt, which systematically recorded and translated all the inscriptions he could find in Egypt, remains unmatched.

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