Its list price is $16.95, it has 335 pages, but I don't know where Amazon.com gets "April, 1990" as the book's date. The book is the 1978 revised edition of a 1964 book and therefore misses some modern theories and has a 1960's slant (for example, the author apologizes every time she describes people with the word "race"). This was the first of a large number of books and documentaries I've read/watched in preparation for a visit to Egypt this coming summer. Before I grind my axe at some of the problems with this book, let me say that I learned a lot from it and enjoyed reading it. If this is your sole book it will enable you to identify many places, temples and tombs with the appropriate point in Egyptian history with only a few built-in mistakes! If someone asked me to recommend an informative, relatively inexpensive, but not too dry study of ancient Egypt I would recommend this one without hesitation. But some theories which are currently in vogue she misses or gives just a one sentence discussion: like the current idea that the pharaoh Smenhkkare was really the queen Nefertiti. She flatly states that the mummy found in Tomb 55 in the Valley of the Kings "can't be Akhenaton." However, modern consensus agrees with turn of the century Egyptian Director of Antiquities (whose argument the author fails to mention) Authur Weigall: "The body was lying in a coffin inscribed with Akhenaton's name; it was bound with ribbons inscribed with his name; it had the physical characteristics of [his] portraits...Those who erased the names (of Akhenaton in the tomb because he had been a "heretic") must have thought it to be Akhenaton's body...finally, there is nobody else who..it could be." The author presents other opinions which, even given the information available 20 years ago, are highly debatable, but it seems to make the book more readable: it's purpose is not to exhausively evaluate every theory. Occasionally, she seems inconsistent. For example on p.148 "Hatshetsut and Cleopatra...Elizabeth the Great.. She [Hatshepsut] was beautiful, of course; all great queens are beautiful." Then on p.216 "...not all the great charmers of history have been beauties, and Ti certainly rates a place among them, with Cleopatra..." There are a few places where the discussion becomes cloudy because the author appears to assume the reader has prior knowledge. For example, she mentions the beauty of Nefertiti without describing who she was. Then, after discussing "truth in artistic technique," she mentions the "king's devotion to his beautiful wife." Was she Nefertiti? I had to skim through to the end of the chapter to be sure she was. Despite the problems, they are few compared to the wealth of information, stories, and theories that are presented. This is NOT a book that will put you to sleep. I went through it in two days and I don't speed-read!
Firstly I must admit that I am not an expert on this subject. I learnt the basic stuff at High School and that's about it. My interest was sparked in Ancient Egypt after taking my daughter to watch 'The Mummy' and subsequently reading Bob Brier's book 'The Murder of Tutankhamen'. As it has been previously noted by other reviewer's this book is somewhat dated (orginally published in 1964) but that does not detract from the wonderful narrative that the author weaves around the Pharaohs and their place in history. The author does not get bogged down in technical details and you never lose interest in the story. She has a knack of writing about these far away times and people as if it was yesterday and draws you into her story. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to obtain a decent overview of Ancient Egypt.
If you're new to egyptology and are looking for a good book on the History of Egypt then you can't pick a better place to start than by reading this. Barbara Mertz writes in a conversational style and her wit and personality shine out from the page. Despite the 'light' feel of the text the author is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject and is not afraid of letting the reader know of her own, sometimes controversial, opinions. For example, she is particularly scathing of the New Kingdom Pharaohs that followed Thutmose III (including Ramses II) which might surprise some people but she backs this up with reasoned argument leaving the reader to decide for themselves. This book also contains what I feel to be the classic put-down for 'Pyramidiots' and I quote: "He [the pyramidiot] is not using facts to construct a theory, but is selecting facts to support a preconceived and unshakable belief. Whatever the techniques a historian chooses to work with, he must use them without prejudice and be prepared to revise, or dismiss, his theory when he runs up against a fact his tools cannot handle." Graham Hancock please note! Despite being written some time ago I found this classic work a refreshing and informative read. Well recommended.
I picked this book up in an airport when I was a teenager, and it sparked an interest in Egyptology which has lasted 30 years. Mertz is a graceful writer, deftly mixing scholarship with humor and 'human interest'. The book is not intended for Egyptologists, (Hence 'A Popular History') and bypasses, wisely in my opinion, the wrangling between experts which makes the field so frustrating to the lay reader. Honesty prevails, however; when she is stating a personal opinion, she says so. The result is a fascinating, funny and intelligent look at the ancient culture of which we know so much and understand so little.
Barbara Mertz is not only an egyptologist, but a talented writer. She produces the most interesting and complete history of Egypt that I've ever read. It is informative, revealing, and presented in a way that keeps the reader interested in what's going to happen next. I actually forgot that I was reading historical facts. This book is a must read for Amateur Egpytologists everywhere! Also check out 'Red Land, Black Land : Daily Life in Ancient Egypt" by Barbara Mertz
Mertz, who also writes as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, has turned her talents to a nonfiction work on Egypt. Though the stories she tells here are factual, they are no less entertaining than her Egyptian romps with Peabody and Emerson. Her lively style carries readers through the book effortlessly.