Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: The Royal Mummies, Immortality in Ancient Egypt


Francis Janot
White Star Publishers
Italy
2008
ISBN: 978-88-544-0389-5

          "What a thrill it is when the portable lamps are lowered down a deep shaft and their light dispels the darkness of a tomb forgotten for centuries!"

The introduction of the book was by Dr. Zahi Hawass who repeats his finds including pictures from a television program about the finding of the mummy of King Hatshepsut in which a late 19 Dynasty mummy of unknown woman "D" is represented as being the late 17 Dynasty mummy of unknown woman "B", though it appeared in his words that he was describing the correct mummy but the unknown "D" was the one pictured in the book.

The author introduces the reader to the fascination of ancient mummies and the thrill of the royal mummies found in caches discovered in the 19th century at Deir el Bahari and the Valley of kings. The chapter is filled with many nice old images of mummies including a Ptolemaic mummy once owned and drawn by the great artist Peter Paul Rubens in 1626.

From here the author presents the reader with a section on the main royal mummies which was a huge let down. One would expect with a book called, "The Royal Mummies" that more of the royal mummies, especially of those not seen in a century would be present, instead the reader is presented with new photographs of the most famous of the royal mummies including the Thutmoside mummies and Seti I, Ramses II, III and V, you would think that was all the royal mummies of interest.

The mummy of Amenhotep II represented in the book as hidden under wrappings is an error in labeling as it is more likely the mummy of Queen Meryetamun that is presented. The use of excavation photographs from Victor Loret's finding of the royal cache in the tomb of Amenhotep II are indeed special as are the books other excavation photographs.

More beautiful photo's of King Tutankhamun's shiny stuff are presented through out but also many fine images from the tombs of the nobles. The chapter on masks, coffins, sarcophagi and canopics was a nice assortment of material presented.

     "Entrance here is defended by a terrifying guardian, a monstrous ram-headed crocodile armed with a gigantic knife. Some secondary routes that branch off from the main ways are especially dangerous because they lead to blind alleys, insurmountable obstacles. or even directly into the fire and Nothingness. Both ways lead the deceased to the necropolis of Rosetau".

Most disapointing for me is I bought a book on royal mummies instead I found myself in a book about funerary beliefs and practices that also include some royal mummies. This gigantic book was difficult to read by the very nature of its size and weight and cost even, though the photographs within are a feast.

Moreover this Mega-book possesses a number of editorial mistakes and that the content was not particularly special and not worth the struggle of propping oneself into position to read it. Leave it on the coffee table!

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