Red Land, Black Land

Red Land, Black Land

Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

Book - 2008
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An erudite and witty glimpse of the human side of ancient Egypt, this classic work is revised and updated for a new generation. Displaying the descriptive power, eye for detail, keen insight, and wit that have made her novels bestsellers, renowned Egyptologist Mertz transports us back thousands of years and immerses us in the sights, aromas, and sounds of day-to-day living in the legendary desert realm that was ancient Egypt. What did average Egyptians eat, drink, wear, gossip about, and aspire to? What were their amusements, their beliefs, their attitudes? Mertz ushers us into their homes, workplaces, temples, and palaces to show us the everyday worlds of the royal and commoner alike. We observe priests and painters, scribes and pyramid builders, slaves, housewives, and queens--and receive tips on how to perform tasks essential to ancient Egyptian living, from mummification to making papyrus.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : William Morrow, 2008.
Edition: 2nd ed., 1st William Morrow ed.
ISBN: 9780061252747
0061252743
Branch Call Number: 932/MERTZ
Characteristics: xxi, 410 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm.

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EuSei Jul 23, 2011

Mrs. Mertz's book is a good way to gather basic general knowledge of pharaonic Egypt. It has a nice little reading list by subject; yet she needs to add Aidan Dodson's "Monarchs of the Nile," to it. The book has some nice pictures too. Now, it is certainly difficult to write a book without bias--and here I am, giving my biased opinion!--but not impossible, and it should be of utmost importance to an Egyptologist conveying the little that survived about that civilization. Her "feminist inclinations" are a constant presence in the book. I believe the small amount of documents that survive would be better comprehended if readers were allowed their own conclusions. She harshly--and too frequently--criticizes Victorian scholars for judging Egyptians based upon their values, yet, she can hardly claim no prejudice. Adultery, for example, she concludes was not a big deal for Egyptians--yet historical documents record adulterous women being burned alive, or killed and thrown to dogs! Then there is one V Dynasty tomb at Sakkara that belonged to 2 court officials; both had wives and children, but are "shown in their joint tomb in attitudes more commonly found between husband and wife." So, she concludes that was "Strong indication that [homosexual] relationships were accepted"! Silly me, I thought Egyptologists expected to find at least several examples to believe something common in a civilization--and we are talking about one that lasted thousands of years! Then, she describes a mummy of a "middle-aged woman found at Deir-el-Bahri [that] has the most extraordinary hairdo for an Egyptian woman." She says that the mummy's hairdo "is very `un-Egyptian' and I know of nothing like it in the pictorial representations." So, she believes that one example of (possible) homosexuality proves it was widely accepted among Egyptians, yet one hairdo example does not make it a rule for Egyptian women... Mmmm... It seems Mrs. Mertz may believe readers are ignorant and cannot make up their own minds if given only facts. (Consider this: not even "experts" agree and many explanations/views exist to each surviving piece of evidence.) Her book is lavishly punctuated with silly remarks, such as "don't ask me, because I don't know!" At one point she wonders if Nefertiti ever had a bad hair day... She informs us that: "Some loaves [of bread] have survived to the present day; they are like rock, the stalest bread you can imagine." Who would have expected hundreds-of-years-old bread to be stale or hard, right? Oh, and there is the case of the many centuries old rose bud found by an Egyptologist, who put it in water and it... opened--I kid you not! Later on she mocks Mika Waltari for using a name--Nefer-Nefer-Nefer--in his famous novel "The Egyptian." Gosh, could she have forgotten Ka-Nefer-Nefer (the Twice Beautiful Ka) whose name has been given by an Egyptologist (Goneim)? Paraphrasing Mrs. Mertz, don't ask me, because I don't know! (Is that annoying or what?)

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