Thursday, March 5, 2015

All Color Book of Egyptian Mythology

Richard Patrick
Octopus Books
ISBN: 7064 0128 x

It is not often that one finds a forty-year-old book meant for those younger readers in as nice a shape as I have found this copy even though yes it also happens to not be my favorite subject along with Cleopatra and King Tut, I could do without them all! The introduction given by Margaret Drower is a good rundown of Egyptian history with of course some minor issues of kingdoms expected from a presentation made more than forty years past.

Chapter one is on the ancient Egyptian creator gods and religion presented by the plates represented on the pages accompanied by relevant descriptions. As I was browsing through noticed a number of artifacts displayed that I have not seen before including the beautifully preserved Sekhmet relief carving from Imen-m-hebra and family in the Cairo Museum. In plate 15 the reader is presented with two pillars at Karnak created for Thutmosis III though here identified as of Nineteenth Dynasty date and just three plates later King Nectanebo II is described as a Twenty-Sixth Dynasty Pharaoh. Right off the bat, we have two strikes.

In the next chapter, the author deals with the main gods within the Egyptian pantheon. In plate 24 the author implies that the tomb of Ramsses II's queen Nefertari is at Abu Simbel when it is actually at Thebes in The Valley of the Queens far away from Abu Simbel. Plate 27 is described as a colossal statue of Ramsses II at Karnak when in reality the truth of the beautiful image is better. While it is Ramesses II it is not Karnak but rather the temple of Gerf Hussein which could not be saved from the rising waters of the high dam and now lies deep beneath Lake Nasser.

With an image from the tomb of Sennedgem at Deir el-Medina, the author describes its owner as a member of the royal household when in reality he was a craftsman who worked on the tomb of Ramesses II. These mistakes are lessened by the fact that so many of the objects and sites presented in the book are obscure and a fine selection. There are many beautiful images from the temple of Seti I at Abydos which presented on the pages with other illustrations really brings home the high quality of King Seti's reliefs.

In chapter three Mr. Patrick puts forward the role of kingship and here the reader is presented with another high-quality monument. This time, it is the wondrous reliefs in the chapel built at Karnak by theTwelfth Dynasty King Sesostris I. In this historical overview, much of the author's concerns are based on Egypt's period of empire particularly the rulers of the later Eighteenth Dynasty, Hatschepsut onward.

The role of kingship is brought to its penultimate point under the Nineteenth Dynasty god-King Ramesses II. This king's extremely long reign dominated his dynasty and sadly the standard of craftsmanship declined. In plate 75 we find the interior of the temples of Abu Simbel baring crude reliefs though in the temples at Abu Simbel there are worse. These artworks bare striking contrast to the reliefs in the temple built by Ramesses father Seti I at Abydos.

The reader is presented with the afterlife described through various fragments of Books of the Dead though a typo lets us know that the book of Anhai is actually the only known copy of the Book of the Dad. In a final chapter, I am presented with sacred animals with an unusual image in plate 96 of a faience sow and her piglets. In plate 100 we find a much-damaged Falcon with four wings in flight from the breast of a Ptolemaic mummy.

The list of plates was the first rate in interest and for the most part well explained though there were about a half dozen bumps in the text which cause me concern as a gift especially for a child but for an adult like myself the All Color Book of Egyptian Mythology is worth having for the images alone.


An out of date synonym of stingy appears in the text which may be offensive to some readers


Virgil T. Morant said...

That's funny about the Book of the Dad. And I remember not too long ago a political employee in D.C. resigned from his job after colleagues were offended at his use of that synonym for stingy. We live in sensitive times, sensitive even to words that sound the same but have no etymological relation. I can only imagine the outcry of some folk learned about the Book of the Dad.

Pardon the mostly glib comment. A good post as always.

Timothy Reid said...

Thanks Virgil