on March 22, 2004
If you are a general reader interested in getting an overview of the history of Egypt from pre-historic through Roman times, you would be hard pressed to do better than this book. It has fifteen chapters. Each is devoted to a range of history or change in culture. This segmentation is quite useful in keeping aspects of the history straight in one's mind.
While I knew that Egypt wasn't a single culture through time, I never had a clear sense of who was doing what where and when. This book provides a wonderful cure for that problem. Obviously, there are lifetimes to be spent by specialists in the endless aspects of these cultures. However, there is a lot to be gained by having a better overview and some understanding of these things by generalists. I am glad to have this book on my shelf.
Each chapter is loaded with interesting pictures, drawings, color plates, and maps. Each chapter has a section for further reading in the back of the book. There is also a glossary, a chronology, a list of sources for the illustrations, and an index.
on February 3, 2003
As a quote expresses on the back of this book, "If you only want to read one book on Egypt, then read this one." Ian Shaw's history of ancient Egypt is a beautifully constructed volume that is at once densely packed with information and high in its level of scholarship, and aesthetically appealing and fairly accessible. The book surveys Egyptian history from 700,000 years before the present through the Roman period (ending in AD 395). This is an enormous task, and one might assume that the book could only be very summary and superficial in its treatment of each period. However, every member of Shaw's team of scholars manages to describe his or her period of expertise in a good amount of detail, discussing not only historical events but also art, religion, economics, and material culture. The book thus very successfully follows current trends in history of approaching periods from myriad points of view. Equally importantly, each author discusses the current problems and debates in the scholarship of his or her field. The multi-author approach allows the reader insight into the nature of research for each stage of Egyptian history: the reader gets a sense of the way in which research is conducted, the modes of analysis applied, and the style and terms of discussion. This book serves as an introduction to Egyptian historiography and to the nature of the study of ancient history almost as much as it serves as an introduction to ancient Egypt itself. Thus, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt manages a high level of scholarship while remaining a useful survey of a huge span of time and culture. Readers who are unfamiliar with archaeological language might find some of the articles in this volume slightly more difficult than others, but there is a decent glossary in the back, and it is more the scholarly tone than the actual material that needs getting used to. Any reader who is genuinely interested in the topic will be able to read through this entire book without much trouble. My only reservation is this: the highly dense nature of the text means that it is occasionally a bit of a slow read. I read the book for a graduate class with Egyptologist David O'Connor (excavator of Abydos; you will see him mentioned several times in the book) and it took me about a week of constant focus. On the whole, though, this is a remarkable book and probably the best existing introduction to ancient Egypt. With a publication date of 2002, it is also the most up-to-date.
on January 5, 2001
I cannot praise this book enough. Unfortunately in academic areas, introductions and overviews to various fields, particularly broad histories, tend to reflect the opinions and suppositions of the authors much more than render the actual environment they are working in. This book proves to be a rare exception to this sad fact and sets a standard of scholarship to be emulated by all researchers of the ancient world. Never in egyptology, assyriology, or biblical studies have I found a history that did such a wonderful job of laying out the textual and archaeological finds that scholars base their judgments upon. This is important to me, as I am in disagreement with many scholarly communities about issues of chronology. This book, rather than simply laying out tables and dates, supplements those tables with actual references to the texts and archaeological items that have lead scholars to date things the way they have, pointing out inconsistancies and uncertainties along the way.
After reading this book, I have become convinced that the history of Egypt is not as well known as most books on Egypt would have us believe.
The book is a mammoth undertaking, attempting to chronicle the history of Egypt from prehistory until 311 BC. Introductory sections on the state of research and certainty of chronolology are extremely enlightening. I was particularly impressed with the chapters on prehistory and the naqada culture, in which the archeological evidence and its interpretation were expressely explained to the reader, allowing the reader to agree or disagree with the authors as they wish. My only complaint is that the book, being an anthology of essays by a variety of scholars, shows some inconsistancy in its thoroughness. The chapter on the 18th dynasty reads a little like standard books on the subject, that is, the reader is kept from the evidence to support the author's view and the author seems to have trouble distinguishing his own suppositions from the facts of history, at times appearing a little tendentious.
Overall, this book is the best history of an ancient culture that I have yet read.
on January 6, 2005
This is an first rate book on the General History of Ancient Egypt from Pre-Historic times until the end of the Roman Empire. The 13 various contributors--Betsy Bryan, Gae Callendar Janine Bourriau, Jaromir Malik, Ian Shaw among other--give an excellent overview of Egypt's colourful and long History. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt is a good update on Alan Gardiner's 1963 Egypt of the Pharaohs and Nicolas Grimal's more recent 1988 book, A History of Ancient Egypt. While you might slightly diagree with a contributors take on certain topics such as Ms. Callenders complete rejection of the institution of coregencies in the Middle Kingdom which are accepted by most scholars(they are certainly documented between Senusert I/Amenemhet II, Amenemhet II/Senusert II and Amenemhet III & IV based on the Inscription at Konosso in Nubia for the latter; rather, it is the coregency of Amenemhet I/Senusert I which is not fully secure), they are more than made up for by these scholars careful and balanced coverage and interpretation of all the latest archaeological evidence. These contributors certainly know their stuff.
Especially impressive were the various contributors incluion and analysis of much of the latest studies on Egypt's various Periods of History such as Kim Ryholt's 1997 book on the Second Intermediate Period and Luc Gabolde's important 1987 SAK study on the length of the reigns of Tuthmose I and II, based on their attested scarabs. One of the most invaluable parts of the book is its exhaustive catalogue of all the best publications and articles for Egypt's various historical eras.
My only regret was that John Taylor's coverage of the end of Third Intermediate Period is short and generally does not analyze the Libyan Period in great detail after Sheshonq I's reign, his brief mention of this period's history of severe political fragmentation--which was documented in Piye's Year 20 Victory stela plus the recent(c.1993) discovery of a completely new Tanite king namely Sheshonq IV, who intervened between Sheshonq III and Pami.
on July 13, 2011
This is a good perspective of Ancient Egypt written by specialists.
Excellente vue d'ensemble de l'Égypte ancienne. Aborbée par des spécialistes et traitant de toutes les périodes ainsi que de plusieurs aspects cultuels, religieux, historiques, humains, etc. reliés à cette civilisation, ce livre offre une information consistente et diversifiée donnant au lecteur un point de vue actuel sur les découvertes et l'histoire de l'Égypte ancienne.