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Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  544 ratings  ·  58 reviews

A fascinating, erudite, and witty glimpse of the human side of ancient Egypt—this acclaimed classic work is now revised and updated for a new generation

Displaying the unparalleled descriptive power, unerring eye for fascinating detail, keen insight, and trenchant wit that have made the novels she writes (as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) perennial New York Times
ebook, 432 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published November 1967)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,395)
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Lauren Albert
When I was in Sixth Grade, we did a unit on Ancient Egypt. All these years and it took me until today to realize that it was the same time as the King Tut exhibit came to NY (the first time). Well, I was hooked and told everyone that I was going to be an Egyptologist. I still have a book from back then called "The Splendor that was Egypt." In Junior High, at some point I was allowed to pick any topic for my English paper. Naturally enough, like any teenage girl would, I wrote a paper entitled "R ...more

I've been a fan of MPM, aka Barbara Mertz, aka Elizabeth Peters, aka Barbara Michaels, for years. Although I've read almost every book under almost all of her names, I still love the Amelia Peabody series the best. In these books, the indefatigable Amelia Peabody, parasol in hand, defies Victorian mores to indulge her passions for Egyptology. The books are adorable Gothic spoofs, but they also manage to pack in a rather impressive amount of information about both Victorian Egyptology and the
This is a very informative and fascinating peek into life in ancient times in Egypt. The author, although a noted Egytology scholar, writes in a sweet, simple converstional style. She relays touching anecdotes such as the mummified cat of a minor prince with an inscription translating roughly as "Miss Kitty, beloved pet". She goes into the everyday objects and experiences such as the cosmetic procedures, style of dress (flattering only on very slender people she points out), and the practice of ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Sandy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in Ancient Egypt
Barbara Mertz is my favorite author in the world. She is a lady who got her degree in Egyptology before "Ladies" did so. She is known for her 2 non fiction books and her numerous fiction writing. This book is older than me and was recently revised and published. I would recommend it to anyone who has even the vaguest interest in Ancient Egypt. Her writing style is very approachable and entertaining as well as spot-on accurate. She is biased towards and against some theories but unlike most she f ...more
“This is not a book about ancient Egyptian culture; it is a book about ancient Egyptians.” Barbara Mertz starts out her book with this line, and it perfectly describes her work. “Red Land, Black Land” gives details of Egyptian life in different periods of history. She traces life from birth to death in all the myriad ways life can go.

Mertz has a pleasant, conversational tone throughout the book that makes it feel more like you’re listening to her describe a personal experience over tea rather
Tiger Gray
Whether you read this text for religious or secular purposes, the information within will be of great help to you. It's very detailed, and the author is quite willing to condemn unfortunate thought processes like eurocentrism, pyramidism, and more. She presents a balanced perspective and does a good job of separating personal opinion from accepted truth.

The major downside is her flippant, smug tone, especially around the issue of religion. She is the stereotypical high and mighty atheist (or so
An excellent, if at times dry, overview of life in ancient Egypt.

Organized from birth to death and afterlife, this is a very good primer on what life was like, how it was lived, and what the norms were likely to have been in ancient Egypt over the centuries.

I was surprised to find that the chapters describing the blend of magic, religion, science, and medicine were my favorite while those retelling the myths and the afterlife were a bit more of a slog for me. I think what struck me was how the
Rick Davis
If you are a fan of ancient Egypt, then you must read Red Land, Black Land by Barbara Mertz. It was pure pleasure to read this book detailing the daily life of ancient Egypt based on the archaeological record. Mertz approaches the issues in this book with all the scholarly reservations necessary to make her a trustworthy source, while at the same time writing in an informal style that feels like having a conversation with an old friend. I especially liked the way she wove anecdotes about various ...more
J. Else
"Its an ironic fact that when magic works, it is no longer magic but science."

What I love about this book is its excellent prose thanks to an experienced and talented fiction writer. The narrative is engaging and so unlike any other history book -- its not dry!!! While the author clearly presents her own point of view, this does not limit her presentation of the material, and she eloquently presents numerous schools of thought. She also includes fun side stories pertaining to Egypt's archeologic
Karen Ireland-Phillips
Must. Own. [ETA: Oh, yeah, I bought it. Books before groceries!][return][Full disclosure: I am a total geek for ancient Egypt, and I absolutely love the Amelia Peabody adventures, penned by Ms. Mertz as Elizabeth Peters.][return]In her original forward, the author's thesis statement is “This is not a book about ancient Egyptian culture; it is a book about ancient Egyptians.” Ms. Mertz doesn't quite keep her promise (the behavior of people is their culture, is it not?), but deftly avoids the patr ...more
I'm not qualified to comment on the academic grounding of this, which is the biggest reason I'm only giving it four stars - I'd only feel comfortable giving nonfiction five stars if I were absolutely sure its content were accurate, and I'm insufficiently educated to judge that in an absolute way. :)

That said, Mertz has written an incredibly readable and incredibly *entertaining* overview of credible, informed opinions about ancient Egyptian history, mythology, and daily life. She's careful to ma
This was a lot more fun than I thought it would be! Mertz writes her non-fiction egyptology books with the same sense of humor she exhibits in her fiction works, and it was fun to hear her descriptions of the actual history behind the things she writes about in her Amelia Peabody series. The book's main premise seems to be that ancient Egyptians were not the solemn and sober people that their tombs and monuments might have us believe them to have been, but people much like us, and I think she ma ...more
A pragmatic approach explaining the mysterious cultural phenomena which is Egyptology. Everything is touched upon including a catalog of gods, demigods, pharaohs, kings, scribes, slaves, nobles and artisans. Mummification, Pyramidology, Hieroglyphs, Tombs and the Afterlife are thoroughly explored. Overall, a fully immersive and highly-readable primer of a most fascinating ancient civilization.
Barbara Mertz has a PhD in Egyptology. She is, therefore, enough of a scholar to know what she is talking about when it comes to the culture of ancient Egypt. That said, I didn't much care for this book. I was glad that it wasn't another "dry" discussion about Pharaoh XYZ and Middle Kingdom ABC but IMHO the author was flippant and seemed to throw facts to the reader willy-nilly. She jumped back and forth on subjects, told us she had a personal opinion on certain debatable topics and then decline ...more
A great company piece to Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs. While there's some history, this book focuses more on fleshing out life in Ancient Egypt (hence the title) and provides a more well rounded view of the period. You can only get so much from names and dates. I think I liked this book better because it contained more new and interesting information.
Deva Fagan
I loved this in large part because I was already a fan of Barbara Mertz's Egyptian mystery series, written under her pen name as Elizabeth Peters. Listening to this audiobook, it was very much as if Amelia Peabody herself was giving me a series of lectures on ancient Egyptian life, with a great deal of love for the topic and the ancient Egyptians themselves. I appreciated that Mertz continually reminded the reader that these were real, living people, not so different from us. And I loved her dry ...more
Lindsey Fairleigh
This book is fantastic, as is Ms. Mertz's knowledge of the ancient Egyptians and her ability to make logical and believable interpretations of physical evidence. She makes the ancient world accessible to us modern folks, painting a vivid picture of the every day for these ancient peoples--which is VERY welcome when almost all publications on Egyptology focus on tombs and temples. After reading this, I have a much better idea of what it might really have been like to lived in various time periods ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book!! I loved the author's whit and candor (maat). I have a greater understanding of the Egpytians, one that isn't muddied by myth and misconception. The chapter on death particularly interested be as she drew parallels to our own, advanced civilization and how we view death. I've decided that I want to be cremated. The only thing that I would say against it is that there weren't enough pictures and therefore some of her descriptions were hard for me to follow.

My favor
Enjoyable guide to daily life in Ancient Egypt, stripped of any wild assumptions or new age trappings of pyramid power and the like. The author is an Egyptologist who writes the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries under the name Elizabeth Peters. The same wry sense of humor she brings to her fiction is present throughout ... warning sensitive readers to skip the next bit because it's icky, and then reminds you that she already warned you when she describes some details of preparing the body for e ...more
I did like the book. You can tell, because I read it all the way through. I was a bit disappointed as it drifted away from what I think of as everyday life into the realm of "mortuary" attitudes, beliefs, and rituals. This aspect took up nearly a full third of a fairly dense read. The life of an Egyptian commoner, on the other hand, was used skillfully to attract my interest in the book in the first place, but then I felt like we shifted away from it to more mundane archeological interests. Howe ...more


How to be an ancient Egyptian: all you need to know about clothes, pyramids and papyrus.

What a refreshing voice on a dusty subject...

...Elizabeth Peters writing under her real name and profession as an Egyptologist but the wry voice is unmistakable.
I wasn't as enamoured with this as I was with Mertz's Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs, which I think is more of a reflection of my mindset when I read the first and less about the quality or content.

Mertz writes in a relaxed, conversational, often amusing way and she writes a popular history of Egyptian daily life. I think Mertz's two books are perfect to give an inexpert reader an overview of Egypt, and she provides a reading list for readers who want more. Personally, even if I didn't feel l
Lady Knight
This was a hugely entertaining read! Very informative, and while I disagree with Ms. Mertz on some points made in reference to modern day, I was overall impressed and totally captivated by the work. While definitely a scholarly work, there are huge doses or humour, and the writing style is certainly informal. Definitely a great piece of non-fiction for fans of Mertz' historical mysteries (published under a pseudonym... Elizabeth Peters!), or anyone else looking for an introductory read about anc ...more
This was pretty entertaining. As other reviewers have mentioned, it reads like a gossip page. Cursory overview of much of basic ancient Egyptian history, with a little speculation thrown in for good measure. I read this at the same time as Bob Brier's Egyptian history (Great Courses series) and it's like hearing 2 people tell the same story using the same template, except Bob's is more informational, and Bob himself is a more enthusiastic a story teller.
Barbara Mertz, better known as the creator of the Amelia Peabody series under her pen name Elizabeth Peters, sets out to show us that the ancient Egyptians loved life. It's true, we mostly associate them with a pretty serious cult of the dead. Mummies, tombs, the Book of the Dead and all that. But though they certainly had their eye on death and the after-life, they also loved their children, pets, games, food, and beer. And, no surprise here, given the author's considerable story-telling skills ...more
Barbara Mertz is an Egyptologist who also writes the Amelia Peabody Mystery series under the name "Elizabeth Peters". This book is a nonfiction account of what it would have been like to have lived in Ancient Egypt covering practical things like what they ate, what they wore, cosmetics, furniture, how they raised children and pets as well as bigger things like military service, religion, and art. This could have been very dry, but her skills as a mystery writer serve her well in this book. She m ...more
Fun, sassy, but perhaps a little undercited for more serious readers. I'm so glad that Mertz's voice wasn't lost in the move to non-fiction; it's what makes those Amelia Peabody books so much fun.
I was nervous when I read the jacket and learned this was authored by "Elizabeth Peters" because I wasn't a fan of her fiction, but this was great.

I learned more about ancient Egyptians than I have in all the other books Ive read in the topic. Mertz really does make their daily life come alive, and makes them relateable through it.
Elizabeth Peters writing under her real name and profession as an Egyptologist but the wry voice is unmistakable. Full of interesting information told at just the right level to appeal to a wide audience. But she doesn't sugar coat the material either. I very much enjoyed this. The audio presentation was quite lively but I think the print edition would be more valuable for the illustrations.
It was an informative book. The author does go off on a lot of her own whims in this book. She will be explaining something and then she starts talking about something else in the middle of her explaination. It is a little annoying. Also there were parts that were so boring that I had to read them more then once. Ok book. Read it only if you are interested in the subject a lot.
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Barbara Mertz (September 29, 1927 – August 8, 2013) was an American author who wrote under her own name as well as under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels.

Barbara G. Mertz studied at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, receiving an M.A. in 1950 and a Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1952. In 1950 she married Richard Mertz and had two children, Elizabeth and Peter. She was
More about Barbara Mertz...
Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt Amelia Peabody's Egypt The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog (Amelia Peabody, #7) Night Train to Memphis (Vicky Bliss, #5) Naked Once More (Jacqueline Kirby, #4)

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