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Life Under the Pharaohs by Leonard Cottrell
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Life Under the Pharaohs (1960)

by Leonard Cottrell

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Egyptological nostalgia. Leonard Cottrell was a journalist who wrote a series of popular books on archaeology in the 1950s and 1960s (this particular book was first published in 1960). As soon as I got a library card I read every one I could find. This particular one turned up at somebody’s yard sale and I bought it for sentimental reasons. It’s still engaging, though, alas, a little outdated; one of the ironies of ancient history is that it changes every few years as new stuff gets dug up.


Life Under The Pharaohs would be more accurately titled Life Under Thutmoses III; Cottrell focuses on Rekhmire, Thutmoses III’s vizier. Cottrell mixes chapters of straightforward description with imagined episodes in Rekhmire’s life; he sails down the Nile from a visit to Egyptian possessions in Syria; attends a happy return party at his estate; his daughter flirt with various suitors; his sons go to school and join the army; there’s some sickness requiring a physician; and Rekhmire and his wife inspect their tomb. Cottrell invents a youngest son to allow for a discussion of Egyptian schooling, but the other sons and daughters are all attested.


Despite being 50-odd years old, all of this is pretty well done. Cottrell’s suggestion (based on work by Sir Alan Gardiner) that the Phoenician alphabet (and, therefore, ours) was originally based on Egyptian hieroglyphs is no longer accepted, but that’s the only major difference from modern understanding I noted. Cottrell’s quotes from Egyptian texts use the unfortunate convention of the time that the language should be translated to a sort of King James Bible English, which might be a little off-putting.


There are, of course, much more modern popular books – my personal favorites are Barbara Mertz’s Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs and Red Land, Black Land. However, a young person interested in Egyptology or ancient history in general would not be badly misled by reading Cottrell. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 15, 2017 |
Hovers somewhere between history and historical fiction. Lively, entertaining, and out of date. ( )
  Rubygarnet | Mar 30, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0750937238, Paperback)

This book, written by one the masters of popular history, is for the interested amateur and reconstructs every day life in the Egypt of 1500 BCE. The central character, a real person whose tomb still exists, is Vizier Rekhmire. You meet with him and go with him on his official duties. This absorbing and entertaining book takes the reader on a fascinating tour of the world of ancient Egypt, providing an overview of Egyptian history, the City of the Dead, Thebes and the Valley of the Kings, the building of the pyramids, and such important figuresand places as Akhenaten and Amarna. It looks at the life and times of the Ancient Egyptians, including the work of craftsmen and labourers, hunting, and surgical procedures and provides a full bibliography and lists of Egyptian dynasties.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:59 -0400)

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An account of everyday life in ancient Egypt, as seen through the eyes of a real person, Vizier Rekhmire, whose tomb still exists. It takes the reader on a fascinating tour exploring Egyptian history, the City of the Dead, Thebes and the Valley of the Kings, and the pyramids.… (more)

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