Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist

( 12 )

Overview

Ancient Egypt, with its spectacular temples and tombs, its history, gods, and legends, has enticed the human imagination for centuries. This fascination—and the irresistible drive to unearth the buried secrets of a lost civilization—have been the life work of archaeologist Donald P. Ryan. Beneath the Sands of Egypt is the gripping first-person account of a real-life “Indiana Jones” as he recalls a career spent delving into the remains of Egypt’s past—including his headline-making rediscovery of a lost tomb in the...

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Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist

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Overview

Ancient Egypt, with its spectacular temples and tombs, its history, gods, and legends, has enticed the human imagination for centuries. This fascination—and the irresistible drive to unearth the buried secrets of a lost civilization—have been the life work of archaeologist Donald P. Ryan. Beneath the Sands of Egypt is the gripping first-person account of a real-life “Indiana Jones” as he recalls a career spent delving into the remains of Egypt’s past—including his headline-making rediscovery of a lost tomb in the Valley of the Kings containing the mummy of the famous female pharaoh Hatshepsut.

Infused with the irrepressible curiosity and the incomparable wonder of discovery that have fueled Ryan’s lifelong journey, Beneath the Sands of Egypt is the extraordinary story of a man who has always embraced adventure whenever—and wherever—he finds it.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
“This wonderful adventure story should be must reading for anyone aspiring to become an archaeologist, but even those of us who harbor no such dreams will be aching to get a little dirt under our fingernails.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Any writer who can make you interested in old rope is worth reading.”
Booklist
"This wonderful adventure story should be must reading for anyone aspiring to become an archaeologist, but even those of us who harbor no such dreams will be aching to get a little dirt under our fingernails."
a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters - Barbara Mertz
"Don Ryan is a rare bird – a field archaeologist who can write with verve and immediacy. I heartily recommend his book to all Egyptology buffs."
Barbara Mertz ( a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters)
“Don Ryan is a rare bird – a field archaeologist who can write with verve and immediacy. I heartily recommend his book to all Egyptology buffs.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Any writer who can make you interested in old rope is worth reading.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press
"Any writer who can make you interested in old rope is worth reading."
Library Journal
American archaeologist Ryan (Faculty Fellow in Humanities, Pacific Lutheran Univ.) is best known for his projects in Egypt, most recently in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes. In this action-packed memoir, Ryan's aim is to "share the adventure and perhaps educate, entertain, and even inspire." He accomplishes this with evocative writing and excellent, detailed descriptions of fieldwork in Egypt, be it clearing mud brick in the Fayyum or excavating a series of tombs in the Valley of the Kings. He captures well the joys and hazards involved in fieldwork, as well as the rapport that develops with colleagues and workers. He acknowledges the hospitality of Egyptian villagers along with the renowned epigraphic surveys conducted by the University of Chicago and Chicago House in Luxor and literally follows in the steps of Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamen's tomb, doing full justice to Carter's life and work. He also takes the surprising stance of speaking up for Giovanni Belzoni, the 19th-century adventurer whose name and exploits in Egypt are traditionally viewed as anathema in the history of Egyptology. Unfortunately, there are no footnotes or bibliography to guide the reader to additional sources. VERDICT An enthusiastically written book for readers from YA to armchair adventure lovers who dream of being archaeologists or Egyptologists.—Joan W. Gartland, Macomb Community Coll. Lib., Warren, MI
Kirkus Reviews
The memoir of a world-renowned archaeologist and Egyptologist. Ryan (The Complete Idiot's Guide to Lost Civilizations, 2007, etc.) takes the reader behind the scenes of the life of a typical archaeologist, who leads anything but the "dangerous, swashbuckling life" of characters like Indiana Jones. While many of his expeditions involve the excitement of discovery, he writes, most of his time is spent meticulously sifting through sand to rescue and piece together buried artifacts and then trying to puzzle out their meaning. Ryan's first love was mountaineering, but he became fascinated with Egyptology and archaeology during his senior year in college, when he saw the travelling exhibit of King Tut ("a blockbuster exhibition that has yet to be surpassed") and switched from a major in political science to the study of anthropology and archaeology. During the following years, while he received grants which paid the bills for his explorations in Egypt, he also supported himself, his wife and son by teaching and lecturing, writing books and consulting on BBC specials. On one occasion during filming, he jumped through a cleft in the rocks to rescue a member of the cast caught on a ledge and was almost killed when a dislodged rock hit his head. In 1989, he made the exciting discovery of a mummified body that was later identified as controversial female pharaoh Hatshepsut. Though Ryan made it clear that he was not officially labeling the find as such, the discovery received a premature banner headline in a British paper that read "Ancient Egypt's Lost Queen Found in Humble Tomb." In 1995, the author began a seven-year collaboration with Thor Heyerdahl to gather evidence for Heyerdahl's contention that ancient cultures made contact through ocean voyages. Ryan continues to work diligently at his craft, noting that "each time we come across something new, whether artifacts from the past or ideas from the mind, it's a discovery."An entertaining, illuminating adventure story by a modern-day explorer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061732836
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/12/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 798,336
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald P. Ryan, Ph.D., is a specialist in Egyptian archaeology, Polynesian archaeology, and ancient languages and scripts. He is best known for his research in Egypt, including excavations in the Valley of the Kings, where he has discovered lost tombs and controversial mummies. The author of several books and numerous articles on archaeological subjects, he is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Society and worked closely with world-renowned Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2011

    Interesting read, but...

    Much more about the life and adventures of the author than it is about Egypt...I was disapointed at how little there actually was about Egypt. I found myself skipping ahead over rambling sections looking for more about the V of the Kings and/or tombs or any other egyption history. Not worth the cost to me.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Fascinating Man And His Life

    Readers interested in Egypt and archeology will be fascinated by the life and career of Donald Ryan in his book Beneath The Sands Of Egypt. Ryan was fascinated by ancient cultures and exploration from his childhood; the kind of kid whose favorite magazine was The National Geographic. After he finished his education he found work and made significant discoveries in Egypt.

    There are several points that I'd not really considered prior to reading this book that were quite interesting. One was the day to day danger and tedium of an archeologist's life. Those who work in the Valley of the Kings are exposed to grueling heat, nerve-wracking climbs down steep cliffs and crawls through narrow underground passages. They endure this to find shards and pieces of the past, which then must be painstakingly put back together. The modern archaeologist in Egypt is getting to tombs after the early discoveries by scientists who didn't have advanced methods of protecting the finds and after repeated predations by graverobbers. They battle bureaucracies, both in their home country and in the country where the work is done. Disease is common from the dust and animals found in the sites. A common enemy of their work is water. Egyptian tombs are located in such a way that they are often repeatedly flooded over the years, destroying much of the evidence the scientist is looking for.

    Another interesting point is how common objects are as precious to the scientist as the big, showy items that make it into museum showcases. Ryan had a fascinating chapter on the rope used during the era of the Pharaohs, and his scholarship is displayed as he researches how it was constructed and used. Another common object is papyrus, and he discusses those who have brought this art back from extinction.

    A point most hobbyists don't consider but that Ryan discusses is how few career jobs there are in archeology and how hard it is to make a living in this field. Ryan spent years patching together a career from teaching in several colleges, lecturing on cruise ships, being a consultant to TV productions about Egypt and serving on different site digs. The life is one of constant scrambling for funds, and those not comfortable with a career outside the box need not apply.

    Although Ryan focuses mainly on his work in Egypt, he also discusses the seven years he spent as an assistant to the great Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl burst onto the archaeological scene with his theories about how primitive men were able to transverse oceans, and his replication of such a journey on his raft, the Kon-tiki. Ryan had grown up with Heyerdahl as his childhood hero and the opportunity to work with him as an adult was a dream come true.

    This book is recommended for history readers, and those interested in archeology. Ryan is a fascinating man, and he has covered his career in an interesting fashion.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    Inspiring Read.

    My interest in archeology has been piqued for decades, especially during the periods of the ancient Egyptians and the Mayans. This book served to pique my interest even more. I found it to be unconventionally written, although at times I felt it to wonder in different directions from what I assumed would be only on Egyptian archeology. But I found the side tracks to be equally fascinating and equally intriguing. I very much enjoyed it .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2010

    Excellent

    This book was amazing!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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