I’m joining in with a Facebook group to read through all of the Landmark series of history books in chronological order. The event at a group called Following Book Trails, called Read All the Landmarks, started in January with a couple of books that deal with “pre-history”, books that I’m not too sad to have missed since I don’t think I share the presuppositions of the authors about so-called prehistoric times.
So, my first book with the group is this one about ancient Egypt. It’s as much a book about archaeology and Egyptology as it is about ancient Egypt. The book begins with the discovery and translation of the Rosetta Stone by French scholars in Napoleonic times (early 19th century), and then in chapter two there’s some speculation about Egypt and Egyptians before civilization (10,000 BC – 3200 BC) Then, we come to the beginning of actual history, c.3200 BC with Pharaoh Narmer/Menes and the kingdoms of Upper Egypt, Middle Egypt, and Lower Egypt.
And in chapter two, I start having my usual upper/lower/middle Egypt problem. Does anyone else have trouble visualizing (or keeping the image fixed) of a river that flows NORTH? My mind wants all rivers to flow southward—or east or west maybe, but not north. I think it has something to do with the Mississippi River and with flat maps on which south is down, the direction a river should flow, of course. Anyway, it makes me mix up Upper and Lower Egypt all the time, even though I know the difference.
The book continues in a well-written and accessible vein as the most famous and infamous of the Egyptian pharaohs strut and fret their hour upon the stage. From Cheops/Khufu of the Great Pyramid to the Hykksos dynasty, the Shepherd Kings, to Hatshepsut and Thutmose to Akhetaton to Rameses, Egypts’s god-kings are a fascinating study. I will admit to spend a great deal of thought time and a bit of research time to trying to figure out once again where the Biblical narratives of Joseph and Moses fit into the Egyptian timeline of the pharaohs, but Ms. Payne’s book never mentions that aspect of Egyptian history, probably because it’s both controversial and complicated.
Ms. Payne’s book hits the highlights of Egypt’s 3000 year history (BC) and gives some details about the archeological re-discovery of ancient Egypt and its culture and lore during the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course, since The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt was first published in 1964, more recent advances in the study of Egyptology are not included. For example, the following discovery was made just last year in 2017:
Scientists detect mystery void in Great Pyramid of Giza:
Particles from space point to unknown chamber in the 4,500-year-old Egyptian monument.
Of course my questions are: What is inside the previously undiscovered chamber or “void”? When and how will the archeologists find out? Or is it empty? Inquiring minds want to know.
Anyway, The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt is a good introduction to the study of ancient Egyptian history, certainly not exhaustive, but adequate for elementary and even middle school aged students. Some good follow-up books are:
Pyramid by David Macaulay. I love David Macaulay’s books about architecture from pyramids to castles to bridges. The illustrations are so detailed and helpful, and the accompanying story makes it come alive.
Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green. Stories of the ancient Egyptian gods such as Amen-Ra and Osiris, and some of the Egyptian rulers.
The First Book of Ancient Egypt by Charles Robinson. History of ancient Egyptian daily life, farming and trade, religion, architecture, literature, and science.
Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki. All you ever wanted to know about mummies and mummification, and some things you probably could have lived without knowing.
His Majesty, Queen Hatshepsut by Dorothy Sharp Carter. Fictional account based on the real life of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the only woman pharaoh of ancient Egypt.
Shadow Hawk by Andre Norton. Fiction set c.1590 BC, near the end of the Hyksos occupation of Lower Egypt.
Escape From Egypt by Sonia Levitin. YA fiction about Moses and the people of the Exodus.