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Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile ~ A Capsule Book Review

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

Ancient Egypt is one of the oldest cultures in the world, going back more than five thousand years. The Egyptians were some of the most innovative and inventive people in the world. They built the largest stone structure ever constructed anywhere in the world (Pyramids at Giza) and the largest temple of worship (Karnak Temple), using sophisticated engineering techniques but without machines and with tools that we consider primitive. They advanced art and architecture and invented writing, even though only about five percent of ancient Egyptians could read and write. They waged war, wove cloth, sported fashionable clothes, grew and irrigated abundant crops, built furniture and beautiful decorative items, practiced medicine (even though they knew nothing about germs or bacteria), and adorned their tombs with riches beyond imagining. They worshipped many gods, but the pharaoh was the supreme being, the living god. Everything the people did was in tribute to the pharaoh.

The Egyptian civilization would have never existed if it hadn’t been for the Nile. Every spring the river flooded and when the floodwaters receded, fertile soil was left behind. The raising of plentiful crops was relatively easy, giving the people plenty of time to do other things, such as wage war against their neighbors for their pharaoh and engage in massive building projects. Instead of a necessity, war was a given in ancient Egypt. The most revered pharaohs were the ones who waged the most successful military campaigns. Egypt wasn’t interested in adding to its territory but in stealing the plunder of the vanquished.

Over its thousands of years of history (the longest-lasting civilization anywhere in the world), Egypt’s fortunes rose and fell, depending a lot on whoever happened to be in charge at the time. Some pharaohs were effective leaders, while others led the country to chaos. At Egypt’s highest point, it was the richest country and the most feared superpower in the known world.

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile by Bob Brier and Hoyt Hobbs is an interesting and informative overview of what life was like for the three million or so souls who called Egypt their home thousands of years before Christ. Did you know there was one pharaoh who sat on the throne for ninety-four years, a record that still stands for any king or monarch in any country in the world? Did you know that, through the complex rules regarding succession, there was one woman, Hatshepsut, who was pharaoh? We know Egypt in modern times mostly through the fabulous treasures that were uncovered in Tutankhamen’s tomb in the 1920s. The truth is that Tutankhamen was a minor pharaoh as pharaohs go, a “boy king” with a misshapen body who sat on the throne for only ten years. He was considered so insignificant that, in the years after his reign, he was almost forgotten, almost erased from historical records. Most of the pharaohs’ tombs were plundered in ancient times, no matter what measures were taken to secure them, but Tutankhamen’s tomb was left untouched by robbers because, the truth was, most people didn’t even know he had existed. When his tomb was opened in the 1920s, it provided a snapshot of ancient Egypt at the apex of its glory. So much for a “minor” pharaoh.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

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