Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt

Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt

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by Barbara Mertz

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An eye-opening, edifying, and endlessly entertaining tour through an astonishing bygone world—the acclaimed classic history of ancient Egypt, now newly revised and updated

Writing as Elizabeth Peters, world-renowned Egyptologist Barbara Mertz is the author of the phenomenally popular New York Times bestselling mystery series featuring archaeologist Amelia

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An eye-opening, edifying, and endlessly entertaining tour through an astonishing bygone world—the acclaimed classic history of ancient Egypt, now newly revised and updated

Writing as Elizabeth Peters, world-renowned Egyptologist Barbara Mertz is the author of the phenomenally popular New York Times bestselling mystery series featuring archaeologist Amelia Peabody. In Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs, Dr. Mertz explores the breathtaking reality behind her fiction by casting a dazzling light on a remarkable civilization that, even after thousands of years, still stirs the human imagination and inspires awe with its marvelous mysteries and amazing accomplishments.

A fascinating chronicle of an extraordinary epoch—from the first Stone Age settlements through the reign of Cleopatra and the Roman invasions—Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs brings ancient Egypt to life as never before. Lavishly illustrated with pictures, maps, photographs, and charts, it offers tantalizing glimpses into Egyptian society and everyday life; amazing stories of the pharaohs and the rise and fall of great dynasties; religion and culture; folklore and fairy tales; stories of the explorers, scientists, and unmitigated scoundrels who sought to unravel or exploit the ageless mysteries; and breathtaking insights into the magnificent architectural wonders that rose up from the desert sands.

Revised and updated to include the results of the most recent historical research and archaeological finds, Dr. Mertz's book is unhampered by stuffy prose and dry academic formality. Instead, it is a vibrant, colorful, and fun excursion for anyone who's ever fantasized about exploring the Valley of the Kings, viewing up close the treasures of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, or sailing down the Nile on Cleopatra's royal barge.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This updated and revised version of Dr. Mertz's stunning collection of everything related to the civilization of ancient Egypt is brought to life through Lorna Raver's informative and entertaining narration. Presented as half textbook, half historical fiction, Raver finds a solid balance between the two genres. Her voice brims with mystery and the unknown as she, along with the listener, travels along the path that Mertz has meticulously paved from the earliest glimpses of the remarkable civilization to the very latest discoveries. Raver is solid and unwavering throughout, sounding as though she's enjoying the information she so clearly presents. She brings fun and excitement to a field that many consider to be overly analyzed and studied, offering a learning experience through an abundance of speculative fiction sure to capture the minds of even the youngest listeners. Simultaneous release with the William Morrow hardcover. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Better known as Elizabeth Peters, creator of archaeological sleuth Amelia Peabody, Mertz is an Egyptologist who has the ability to entice general readers into the complexities of her field of study, using nontechnical language with wit and amusing personal asides worthy of Peabody herself. The original version of this book, a classic introduction to the history of ancient Egypt and Egyptology, was published in 1964. This new edition incorporates all significant discoveries of recent decades into the discussion. Mertz gives special attention to such topics as the kingship (yes) of Queen Hatshepsut, the exploits of Thutmose III, and the Amarna Period with its intriguing players Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Tutankhamen. Presenting both pros and cons of current theories, Mertz also explains in simple language archaeological techniques such as carbon 14 dating and historical chronology. The bibliography includes the essential titles for the nonspecialist who wishes to explore the subject in greater depth. Recommended for public libraries as an excellent introduction for patrons interested in the land of the pharaohs. For an overview of archaeological sites in Egypt, Ian Shaw's Exploring Ancient Egyptis a fine choice with a different focus.
—Edward K. Werner

A reprint of the respected and widely-enjoyed Coward-McCann edition of 1964. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"A joyful intellectual excitement permeates the book." —The New York Times

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Product Details

Brockhampton Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.91(w) x 9.06(h) x (d)

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Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs
A Popular History of Ancient Egypt

Chapter One

The Two Lands Geb the Hunter

One bright summer afternoon in the year 5263 B.C., a man stood on the cliffs high above the Nile Valley. He was slightly built and only a few inches over five feet in height; his brown body was naked except for a kilt of tanned hide. But he held himself proudly, for he was a tall man among his people, and a leader of men. The people he led clustered about him—women peering timidly out from a tangle of black hair, hushing the children in their arms; men bearing their weapons, bow and arrow and stone ax. The wind blew hot behind them; they had turned their backs on the desert. Once it had not been desert. Once, in the time of their ancestors, there had been water, and green growing things, and animals to kill for food. Now the god had withdrawn his hand from their homeland. And so they looked with bright apprehensive eyes into the new land below, a green slash of life cutting through the growing desolation all around. The leader's keen vision saw the gleam of water and the flicker of birds' wings; his hunter's ears caught the far-off bellow of a hippopotamus. There was food below, and water; yet still the leader of the tribe hesitated. He knew the old life, with all its perils. Could he face the more chilling peril of the unknown and, unaware of destiny, take the first step toward the pyramids?

It is a pity that this picturesque episode must belong to fiction rather than history. Some of the details may be true. The first prehistoric cultures in Egypt are dated to around 5500 B.C., but not eventhe miracle of carbon 14 could give a date so specific as the one mentioned above. At some point in the remote past, man came out of the desert into the valley of the Nile and settled into small villages. He may have looked something like the leader of the tribe who, in a historical novel, would be christened Geb or Ab, or something equally monosyllabic and prehistoric. But it is unlikely that a single man with a vision initiated the transition from nomadic hunters to village farmers. The change took place over long centuries.

Admittedly, the signs of the great change are not dramatic when they are seen in dusty museum cases—flint knife blades and arrowheads, not very different at a casual glance from the crude tools of the hunters; tattered scraps of a woven basket that once held grain; the bones of a dog, appearing, to an untrained eye, like the bones of any wild beast. Yet the transition is more important than the pyramids and more exciting, in its implications, than the golden treasure of a Tutankhamon. We find ourselves here at the beginning of a long and momentous chapter in the great book of man. As the pages turn, we will meet kings and conquerors, poets and inventors. We will conjure up visions of treasure unsurpassed by the most luxuriant forms of imaginative fiction; we will encounter the darker aspects of the human spirit as well as its bright triumphs. Yet never again, perhaps, will we see the human animal take a step so gigantic as this first one, little known and poorly recorded as it is.

Scholars usually place the first "revolution" in man's way of life between the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. These terms, which mean "Old Stone Age" and "New Stone Age," were coined to describe a change in the techniques of working stone implements, but it is the least significant of the differences between the two periods. The wandering hunters of the Old Stone Age became the farmers and shepherds of the Neolithic. The permanent settlement of a tribe implies agriculture and domesticated animals, and perhaps pottery—though there is considerable variation from place to place—and people continued hunting and fishing even after other means of food production were developed. The evidence of the transitional period in the Nile Valley is almost nonexistent—so far. One suspects that something is bound to turn up eventually, but perhaps not in the Nile Valley itself; there were hunter-gatherers wandering around the Western Desert, and possible signs of at least semipermanent habitation there as early as nine thousand years ago. For our purposes, however, the oldest known predynastic cultures of Egypt date from approximately 5400 B.C.

Life in the early village cultures was not exactly luxurious. The houses were built of mud and sticks and consisted of a single dark room, unfloored and unventilated except for a smoke hole in the roof. The bodies of the dead were laid in shallow holes scooped in the sand, with no covering except straw mats or skins. But in the goods buried with them we may see the groping of the human spirit toward the concept of immortality. They could only postulate a continuance of the life they knew; so the hunter has his spear, the woman her beads (vanitas vanitatum, against the fleshless skull), and the pitiful child bones sometimes huddle against the dust of a once-cherished toy.

The bones and their belongings can speak to us, sometimes with poignant clarity. And the mute stone and baked clay can speak as well, to those who know how to listen. So meager are the remains from this distant time, before the dawn of history, that archaeologists have developed ingenious techniques for wringing the greatest possible amount of information from each scrap. They rely upon the skills of many specialists—biologists, who can identify the species of the gnawed bones in the kitchen middens, geochemists, who analyze pottery, and paleobotanists, who ponder the withered grains left in the bottom of the granary basket by a thriftless ancient housewife. (Contrary to popular report, none of the "mummy seeds" found in Egypt has ever produced a living plant; there is a limit to the preservative qualities of even Egyptian soil.)

Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs
A Popular History of Ancient Egypt
. Copyright © by Barbara Mertz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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