Friday, January 07, 2011

Book reviews by Joyce Tyldesley

Financial Times Online (Reviews by Joyce Tyldesley)

Egypt: A Short History, by Robert L Tignor
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilisation from 3000 BC to Cleopatra, by Toby Wilkinson
Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak, by Tarek Osman

It is curious that at a time when Latin and ancient Greek have all but vanished from our lives, interest in ancient Egypt is booming. It is not immediately obvious why we should find Egyptology so engaging, but it is undoubtedly a combination of interlinked factors: the beauty of the art, the intricacies of the language, the idea of buried treasure and the elaborate funeral rituals – all currently being brought to life in an exhibition at London’s British Museum. Whatever the reason, books and television programmes about ancient Egypt are perennially popular in the west, while only dinosaurs, it would seem, can rival the appeal of the ancient Egyptians in its museums.

Yet, in spite of this obvious interest in everything Egyptological, many of us fall into the trap of seeing ancient Egypt as a time and place far removed from the real world. The land of the pharaohs can seem as exotic and remote as a colony of aliens from a distant planet. This does not detract in the slightest from our enjoyment of the period, but it does leave us prone to believing the ancient Egyptians capable of anything.

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