Genesis of the Pharaohs

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Overview

Dramatic new discoveries rewrite the origins of ancient Egypt.
For generations, tourists, scholars, and armchair travelers have been intrigued by the puzzle of the ancient Egyptians' origins. Was civilization brought to the Nile Valley by invaders from other lands, even refugees from Atlantis? Or did civilization develop, over a long period, within Egypt itself? Most archaeologists favor the latter theory, yet nagging doubts have always remained because many of ancient Egypt's most distinctive elements seem to have appeared quite suddenly, as if from nowhere.
Now the quest for the elusive "missing link" is finally over, and, in the light of dramatic new discoveries, the genesis of the pharaohs is coming into focus. Ancient Egypt, it seems, did not begin by the banks of the Nile but in a much harsher environment. The ancestors of the pyramid-builders were not village-dwelling farmers but wandering cattle-herders, and pharaonic civilization was forged in a remote region, one of the most forbidding places on earth. These are the startling conclusions of Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson, based on his own discoveries in the heart of the Eastern Desert, between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea. Here, the pharaohs' distant ancestors left a stunning legacy that has remained hidden for 6,000 years: hundreds of intricate rock carvings that tell us about their lifestyle and their deepest beliefs. Pharaonic imagery such as the afterlife journey by boat, royal hunting, and the iconography of gods and kings all find their origins in this inhospitable terrain.Genesis of the Pharaohs traces the discovery of these ancient records, dates them, and identifies the artists who made them. As the story unfolds, we travel back in time to a remarkable early period of human creativity and discover the answer to the question of where, when, and how ancient Egypt began.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Modern scholars have tended to accept that the brilliant civilization of the pharaohs is the product of the rich agricultural surpluses of the Nile floodplain. But ancient rock carvings tell a different story, according to this illustrated treatise on ancient Egypt. Archaeologist Wilkinson specializes in rock art in the region between the Nile and the Red Sea dating from the 5th millennium B. C., when this now-desert area was verdant grassland. These pre-Pharaonic carvings, he argues, are a complex mixture of motifs, depicting crocodiles, hippos and boats from the Nile alongside ostriches and giraffes from the savannah, and suffused with cattle imagery and the religious symbolism that would characterize classical Egyptian art. This evidence, he asserts, shows that pre-Pharaonic Egyptians were not settled flood-plain farmers, but semi-nomadic herders who drove their cattle in between the lush riverbanks and the drier grasslands-a legacy evident, for example, in the Egyptian royal sceptre, which looks like a shepherd's crook. Wilkinson argues for Egyptian civilization's deep roots in a distinctive African landscape. His theory tacitly challenges an orthodoxy that holds that civilization sprang from efforts to irrigate land around the great rivers of Egypt, Mesopotamia and China; "cultural complexity," he writes, "was not borne of an easy agricultural lifestyle by the banks of the river, but of the fight for survival in more difficult terrain." Wilkinson wears his erudition lightly and provides an engaging and clearly written guide to the arcana of pre-historic Egyptology. His book is an invigorating contribution to a vital historiographical debate. 87 illustrations, 25 in color. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wilkinson, a fellow of Christ's Church, Cambridge and author of Early Dynastic Egypt, has written the first major popular work focusing on Egypt's predynastic period (c.5000-3000 B.C.E.) since Michael A. Hoffman's out-of-print classic, Egypt Before the Pharaohs. Having found inspiration in the expeditions of Weigall and Winkler in the first half of the 20th century, the author recently led his own into the dried river beds (wadis) of Egypt's Eastern Desert in search of prehistoric rock art. By assembling a corpus of petroglyphs and comparing their themes and content with contemporary pottery and other artifacts found in the Nile Valley, Wilkinson asserts that they were produced by the same people. This would disprove the old theory once and for all that dynastic civilization came into the Nile Valley full blown with a "master race" from the east. The reader is reminded that the deserts of Egypt were very different in that remote period; summer rains produced a savanna environment supporting animals we now associate with East Africa. The rock art features prototypical elements closely associated with later pharaonic art and iconography. This well-researched and logical work is recommended for public and academic libraries. Immanuel Velikovsky's highly controversial approach to Middle Eastern history and his theories of revised chronology have made few inroads in the scientific or archaeological communities over the years, but followers of Velikovsky will welcome first-time author Henry's attempt to distill (with commentary) his theories for a new generation. The author has spent 25 years researching the subject and contends that the biblical record must be treated as history while archaeological evidence receives less credence. Principally through telescoping and paralleling traditional Egyptian dynasties, the adjusted chronology results in such startling anomalies as Ramsses II, identified as Necho, fighting the Hittite king Hattusilis, identified as Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suitable for larger public libraries.-Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500051221
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 5/19/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,161,233
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Introduction 9
1 The Desert Speaks: Making the Discoveries 12
2 The Sands of Time: Dating the Rock Art 54
3 Hunters and Herders: Unmasking the Artists 83
4 Before the Pharaohs: Life in Predynastic Egypt 113
5 Ships of the Desert: The Birth of the Egyptian Religion 134
6 Cradle of Civilization: Re-thinking Ancient Egyptian Origins 162
Postscript 196
Maps and Table 198
Bibliography and Guide to Further Reading 201
Sources of Illustrations 204
Index 206
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