Time for another update. In the last three months I have read a lot of books, all but two in my Egypt project (now only five to go!):
Peter F. Dorman and Betsey M. Bryan, edd., Sacred Space and Sacred Function in Thebes -- the first book I read this year on my e-book reader. A symposium of 11 papers on the uses of religious space in ancient Thebes (Egypt). Highlights -- paper on the earliest temples at Karnak and Luxor; one on the "Botanical Garden"; one on the reuse of the temples and tombs as Christian monasteries; and one on the Qurnawi who live in the Theban necropolis today and its effects on their religion.
Erik Hornung, Akhenaton and the Religion of Light -- a good summary of one of the most interesting topics in Egyptian religion. Not as original as I expected.
Jitse Harm Fokke Dijkstra, Religious Encounters on the Southern Egyptian Frontier in Late Antiquity (AD 298 - 642) -- another download on my ebook reader. A PhD dissertation on the replacement of Egyptian religion by Christianity in the region of the First Cataract, especially Philae. A lot of very interesting information. Not in the shelfari database.
Edward Wente, tr., Letters from Ancient Egypt -- in the Society for Biblical Literature's Writings from the Ancient World series -- a good selection from the Old Kingdom to the 21st Dynasty.
James Roger Black, The Instruction of Amenemope: A Critical Edition and Commentary: Prolegomenon and Prologue -- downloaded PhD dissertation.
An edition, translation and commentary on the prologue to the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope, which is the source for part of the Biblical book of Proverbs. Black discusses the age of the MS, the original age of composition (eleventh century BCE), and the relation to Proverbs, with a survey of the relevant literature. I thought it was very good, and thorough.
Cyril Aldred, Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs, 3100 - 320 BC -- a volume in the Thames & Hudson World of Art series, to start off my reading in Egyptian art. Good description, unfortunately most of the illustrations are in black in white.
Richard H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture -- an interesting idea, he lists the most important hieroglyphs used in Egyptian art and shows how the paintings and sculptures follow the forms of the hieroglyphs, and the symbolism they get from them.
Gay Robins, The Art of Ancient Egypt -- She deliberately emphasizes the areas which are not emphasized in Aldred, and vice versa, so the book was a good complement to that. It also has some coverage of the Ptolemaic art. Most of the illustrations are in color.
Jaromir Malek, Ancient Egyptian Art -- Very comprehensive, from the prehistoric period to the Islamic conquest, and a few modern "Egyptianising" works. Color illustrations.
W. Stevenson Smith, The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, revised by Wm. Kelly Simpson -- A volume in the Pelican History of Art; first published in 1958, this has long been the standard history of Egyptian art in English. It was revised in 1998, but the text gives the impression of a very old book; the illustrations are almost all in black and white. It is extremely detailed, particularly for the earlier periods; the treatment of the post-New Kingdom material is somewhat sketchy.
Nigel Strudwick, Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt -- Color photos of artifacts in the British Museum collection, with short descriptions.
Alessandro Bongioanni and Maria Sole Croce, The Treasures of Ancient Egypt : The Collection of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo -- Color photos of artifacts in the Cairo Museum, with short descriptions. Beautiful photos, but the text is inaccurate and the proofreading is some of the worst I've ever seen.
Whitney Davis, Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late Prehistoric Egyptian Art (on my e-book reader) -- This is a discussion of seven artifacts from predynastic Egypt. If you can get through the first chapter -- a very jargon-laden postmodernist methodological introduction -- the interpretations of the objects are actually quite interesting.
James P. Allen, The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt --- It's hard to say if this is a book on art or a book on medicine. It's the catalogue of an exhibition of artifacts at the Metropolitan Museum which are connected with medicine. The second half of the book is a facsimile with translation of the Edwin Smith Papyrus.
Richard J. Gillings, Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs -- Very interesting discussion of ancient Egyptian mathematics. The differences from ours were mainly in the methods of arithmetic (since they didn't use place value) and in the fact that they didn't have fractions in the modern sense, with numerators and denominators, but only reciprocals of integers (and of one and a half = two thirds), which they added to get other fractions in our sense. With this to us rather cumbersome system, they were able to solve first and second degree equations. The book discusses the major papyri that have been found with mathematical problems, especially the Rhind Papyrus. It doesn't require any great knowledge of mathematics to understand the discussions.
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief -- My first fiction of the year, for the discussion here.
John F. Nunn, Ancient Egyptian Medicine -- Discusses all aspects of ancient Egyptian medicine, from the evidence of the actual remains, the medical papyri, and other literature and art of the period.
Bruno Halioua and Bernard Ziskind, Medicine in the Days of the Pharaohs -- Another work on ancient Egyptian medicine, more recent than Nunn but not nearly as good. The authors are quite uncritical and take far too many writings and representations which are probably mythical or symbolic literally and at face value -- they even include an appendix explaining the ten plagues of Moses!
Mark Collier and Bill Manley, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs -- A beginning textbook of the ancient Egyptian language as written in hieroglyphs, with examples taken from Middle Kingdom inscriptions. I really should have read this at the beginning of my Egyptian project, when it would have made sense to really study it and do the exercises. At the end of the project, I basically just read through it to get some idea of the way the language worked.
James P. Allen, Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and the Culture of the Hieroglyphs -- A much more advanced textbook. The previous book tells you how to read the common inscriptions; this one would let you read all the literature, if you really studied it (which of course I didn't.) It was interesting in that Egyptian is very different from any of the languages I have studied (which are all Indo-European.) The biggest problem is that since the Egyptians didn't write vowels, most of the forms are written the same, so the whole grammar is just theories.
Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction -- A description of Ancient Egyptian (Old, Middle, Late, Demotic and Coptic) from the viewpoint of modern linguistic theory. More interesting to me than the previous book, which was for learning the language. Not an easy book to get through.
Jan Willem Stutje, Ernest Mandel: A Rebel's Dream Deferred -- Since this is the first book I've actually written a Shelfari review on, I'll just quote that here:
The first serious biography of one of the most important activist-intellectuals of the twentieth century. Beginning as one of the founders of the Belgian resistance movement during WW2, Mandel went on to become a major economist with works like Marxist Economic Theory and Late Capitalism; he was one of the principal leaders of the Trotskyist Fourth International, and played an important role in the Belgian strike wave in the early 60's and the May 1968 events in France. Stutje's biography is sympathetic, but critical; I think the author's own pessimism somewhat colors the last chapters. I had respected Mandel since reading some of his economic works in the 70's and 80's, but there was much here that was new to me, especially about his earlier life. The book is occasionally difficult to follow because the author switches back and forth in time, sometimes by as much as a decade; there were also events I would have expected to be included which were left out. This is not a book which will appeal to the casual reader, but anyone interested in Marxist thought or the history of post-WW2 Europe will find it fascinating.
Brian Fagan, The Rape of Egypt: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt -- A popular history of the "dark side" of Egyptian exploration; the looting of antiquities. I had read most of this material in bits and pieces in other books, but not as a continuous book. Fagan is a good writer but this is not his best book; it was a little superficial, but worth reading.