Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Book Review: City of the Ram-man

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Review by Robert Gozzoli)

Donald B. Redford, City of the Ram-man: The Story of Ancient Mendes. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010.

This book by Redford is a synthesis of the author’s fieldwork at the site of Mendes, in the northeastern Nile Delta, from 1990 onward, supplemented with a history of the site itself. In fact, the book is a general introduction to the site, as each of the 13 chapters has an initial historical introduction followed by a discussion of the archaeological discoveries of the period. There are numerous textual boxes throughout, giving biographies of ancient Egyptian officials, royal texts or other relevant material. Previously, books for the general public have appeared only for major sites such as Amarna and Thebes; now there is a third: this book describes the entire history of a capital of a Delta nome, which grew to become Egypt’s capital during the first millennium BC. While the idea is certainly lauda-ble, the end result is not entirely smooth.

Chapters one and two deal with the origins of Egypt. Prehistoric Egyptian to later Mendes is described, introducing the reader to the geographical and historical setting. Redford takes pains to describe the growth from the primitive community to chiefdom, led by the Big Man (“Great Man”) and the extension of the settlement, with mudbrick houses and buildings imitating Asiatic prototypes. The integration of the Delta region into the southern kingdom through military conquest is then narrated. The foundation of the White Fort is briefly described, as well as the implications of a unified kingdom over the country, which also brought the development of writing.

No comments: