Romer, John. A History of Ancient Egypt. Vol. 1: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2013. 512p. illus. index. ISBN 9781250030115. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250030108. HIST
During his long career in Egyptology, archaeologist Romer (The Great Pyramid) has excavated in the Valley of the Kings and Karnak, written a dozen books on the subject, and presented critically acclaimed TV documentaries. He is now in the process of reassessing the history of ancient Egypt. In this first of what will be two volumes, he covers from 5000 to 2550 BCE, from Egypt’s “beginnings to the establishment of the full panoply of the pharaonic state.” This formative period was an afterthought in Alan Gardiner’s classic Egypt of the Pharaohs, literally placed at the end of the book. W.B. Emery’s Archaic Egypt and Michael A. Hoffman’s Egypt Before the Pharaohs offered popularly oriented overviews. Romer challenges the reader to reconsider the development of civilization in the Lower Nile Valley with unbiased eyes and to keep in mind the paucity of archaeological evidence from which the traditional narrative has been derived. He is a proponent of a dynamic evolution of the indigenous culture rather than of change coming to Egypt from external forces. VERDICT Scholarly yet accessible to the nonspecialist, this iconoclastic study will thoroughly engage all Egyptophiles, who will eagerly await the second volume.
Schneider, Thomas. Ancient Egypt in 101 Questions and Answers. Cornell Univ. Sept. 2013. 304p. ed. by J.J. Shirley. tr. from German by David Lorton. illus. ISBN 9780801452543. $26. HIST
Here translated from the original German edition by American Egyptologist Lorton, this volume by Schneider (Egyptology & Near Eastern studies, Univ. of British Columbia) explores the civilization of ancient Egypt for the general reader in a question-and-answer format. The questions are divided among eight categories: “Ancient Egypt and the Modern World,” “The Egyptian World and the Egyptian World View,” “Egyptian History,” “Egyptian Religion,” “Egyptian Art, Archaeology, and Architecture,” “Egyptian Language and Literature,” “Egyptian Society,” and “Egyptologists.” Among the more unusual and intriguing questions are “What role did Egyptology play in the Third Reich?” “Are Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep the first attested gay couple?” and “Could Queens Hetepheres, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra have had a chat?” In keeping with the theme, the author includes 101 bibliographical citations. The information is fully current and authoritative, but the book lacks an index which would give enhanced access. VERDICT Even without an index, Schneider’s title provides an illuminating introduction to Egyptology for the nonspecialist, for whom it is appropriate and recommended. For those looking for a comprehensive popular overview in conventional format (i.e., not a Q&A), Charlotte Booth’s The Ancient Egyptians for Dummies is a good option.