After identifying a pyramid, a hieroglyph and checking the name of Tutankhamun, most of us have exhausted the sum total of our knowledge of Ancient Egypt. It is more remote in time than ancient Greece and Rome, but somehow feels more remote culturally, too. Perhaps this is because to an untrained eye those hieroglyphs are identifiable as something—humans, animals, representations of plants and things—and the pyramids are identifiable as burial sites, and yet knowing the function of these phenomena merely enhances the apparent weirdness and incomprehensibility of the culture that produced them.
We have three interviews to enhance your understanding of Ancient Egypt. Toby Wilkinson of Clare College, Cambridge talks about his best books on Ancient Egypt. He recommends a range of books from A Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt, the first book he bought on Egypt, to the most scholarly reassessments of Ancient Egypt and Akhenaten, Tutankhamun's much less famous father, the ‘heretic king’ who introduced monotheism into Ancient Egypt and overthrew centuries of tradition. Elizabeth Frood, lecturer in Egyptology at Oxford, recommends books on, among other things, Ancient Egyptian literature and life in an Ancient Egyptian village—recovered from written evidence that was preserved on scraps of pottery thrown into a non-functioning well that was turned into a rubbish tip.
Finally, Diane Greco Josefowicz looks at French Egyptomania, at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon failed to fulfil his ambitions to emulate Alexander the Great’s conquests, but did much to advance the science of Egyptology and the understanding of Ancient Egypt. She discusses the broader cultural roots of French Egyptomania in the first half of the 19th century.
Hieroglyphs: A Very Short Introduction
by Penelope Wilson
Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt
by Maria Betro
The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition
by Erik Iversen
Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts
by Andrew Robinson
The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts
by Susan Brind Morrow
Reading the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt reveals much about the worldview of a civilisation that rose to prominence 5000 years ago and flourished for thousands of years. Here, intellectual historian Diane Greco Josefowicz—whose book, The Riddle of the Rosetta, co-written with Jed Buchwald, tells the story of how the meaning of the hieroglyphs was deciphered in 19th century France—recommends the best books to learn more about hieroglyphics.
The Cambridge Egyptologist discusses his favourite works on Ancient Egypt, from the first book he bought on the subject to an authoritative coffee-table tome.
Using examples that range from vaudeville plays to secret societies, Josefowicz paints a colourful picture of the period when, inspired by Napoleon, the French were whipped into an Egyptian frenzy
Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt
by Jan Assmann
Visual and written culture in ancient Egypt
by John Baines
The Chapel of Ptahhotep
by Paolo J. Scremin & Yvonne M. Harpur
Village Life in Ancient Egypt
by Andrea McDowell
The Tale of Sinuhe and other ancient Egyptian poems
by Richard Parkinson
Egyptologist Elizabeth Frood recommends books that take us away from the elite context of Egyptian history and focus on the ‘normal’ lives of Egyptians.