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Ancient Lives: The Story of the Pharaohs' Tombmakers

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  108 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
One of the best-known historians working today, and a world-renowned expert on the ancient world, presents a brilliant account of the lives of the stonemasons, scribes, and painters who created some of Egypt's finest treasures. Illustrated with both color photos and black-and-white drawings, this groundbreaking study goes back more than 3,000 years to a village where the ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 1st 2003 by Phoenix (first published January 1st 1984)
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From the 1930s until the mid 1950s Bernard Bruyere (view spoiler) and Jaroslav Cerny (view spoiler) worked on the village of Deir el Medina, several miles to the west of Thebes the occasional capital of ancient Egypt and a major cult centre.

Deir el Medina was no ordinary village. Built in the desert, about two miles from the Valley of the King
Jul 28, 2007 Phyl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who love ancient Egyptian history
Shelves: class-by-itself
If you've ever seen the television documentary, "Ancient Lives," you will know how thrilled I was to find the book upon which it was based, by John Romer.

Romer traces several hundred years of the history of a village now called Deir el Medine, which was located just over a ridge from the Valley of the Kings in ancient Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile from Thebes. There were no natural sources of food or even water nearby, so all its provisions were supplied by the Royal Vizier or the Priests
Nov 22, 2012 Mel rated it it was amazing
This book really brings home the wonder that is Egyptology. It is amazing that to see that such detail can be known about a community that lived over 3000 years ago. The book traces the village, and the villagers, that made the tombs of the pharaohs. It looks at their lives, their labour and their conflicts with each other and the government. I think this book was written for people who have a greater knowledge of Egypt than I do. References were made to different Pharaohs, without saying what ...more
James Mietus
Apr 04, 2014 James Mietus rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful study of the well-preserved archaeological record of Deir el-Medina, a New Kingdom village housing the builders of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. This village was unique in Egypt in that its inhabitants were mostly literate and moderately wealthy on account of their trade. Nevertheless, from the record of their lives we can extrapolate much about ancient Egyptian society. John Romer does an excellent job at presenting this wealth of evidence while maintaining a ...more
Simon Binning
May 02, 2016 Simon Binning rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: egyptian-history
This is an excellent book. John Romer tells the story of the village inhabited by the craftsmen who created the tombs in the valley of the kings. We have a surprisingly large amount of archeological evidence for their activities because, being central to the Egyptian state, the village was largely run by dedicated scribes who noted everything down. Through the quirks of history, many of these records have survived and been excavated, and give us a fascinating insight into nearly 300 years of the ...more
Nick Van der Graaf
Jul 10, 2010 Nick Van der Graaf rated it really liked it
An absolutely fascinating study of a village of craftsmen and artists who built many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

It reveals a million interesting details about the lives of ordinary people in the ancient world - their cuisine, their artefacts, their clothes, their struggles to achieve their own kind of greatness.

It also reads like an ancient Peyton Place. There were enough literate people around to have left us detailed records of their jealousies, crimes, workers' strikes, even illi
James F
Feb 14, 2015 James F rated it liked it
The American subtitle is somewhat misleading; the original British subtitle, "The Story of the Pharaoh's Tombmakers" gives a better idea of what the book is about. It is a history of one atypical village -- the village of the workmen in "The Great Place", better known today as the Valley of the Kings -- over the last three centuries of the New Kingdom, from the reign of Horemheb to the end of the Ramesside period and the first few ruling High Priests.

Because of the discovery of local archives,
Nancy Hartwell
Sep 05, 2013 Nancy Hartwell rated it it was amazing
I am an amateur Egyptologist -- I just gave away 88 books on ancient Egypt -- and this is by far my favorite. Not only does it dazzle you with pictures of amazing artwork, but it makes the people come alive. I howled with delight at "misspellings" in hieroglyphs, learned to recognize the loopy handwriting of Scribe Kenhophapeshef, laughed at a couple making love and they fall out of bed, felt my heart grow warm as a generous citizen is described, chuckled at an excerpt from a letter more than ...more
Sep 27, 2012 Sarahandus rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book is told like the reports of a small village down the road. It is a diary of generations of the tomb builders lives and times, giving one a new look at how Egypt worked or sometimes didn't work, in those days.
I found trying to imagine how their monetary system worked, getting paid in grain or kind and not coinage baffling.
John Romer makes those people come alive.
A really fascinating book.
Margaret Sankey
Nov 18, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Using archeological remains and governmental records, Romer reconstructs the working world of the crews who built the pyramids--generation spanning construction projects which spawned "worker villages" of hierarchically jostling supervisors, craftsmen, grunt labor and their families, with all the attendant conflicts and material remains in the trash.
I am not the all-knower about things Egyptological, but this is one of my favorite books about pharaonic Egypt. With source material as rich and complex and fascinating as this, it remains an utter mystery to me how the Stone of Light books (which draw on the same village of tomb-builders) turned out so two-dimensional.
Jul 27, 2012 Brendan rated it it was amazing
A very good read. In view of many "day in the lives" books that often fail -- sometimes just be lack of data -- this one takes you through lives of people in the village of the tomb makers. Not just data, and writings, but we have artifacts from the people you read about and the tombs they built for themselves..
Jun 11, 2013 Elli rated it really liked it
Imagine piecing together the story of the very ordinary craftsmen, scribes and artists behind the grand tombs of Ancient Egypt based on bits on ostraca? This is what archaeologists painstakingly did, generation over generation for the workers at the ancient Place of Truth. An amazing story!
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Mar 14, 2016 Jess Erin rated it it was amazing
Great book! I couldn't put it down!
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John Louis Romer, the son of accountant Louis Henry Romer and secretary Norah Simpson Romer, was born on September 30, 1941 in Surrey. He attended Ottershaw School, the Wimbledon School of Art (1958-1963), and the Royal College of Art (A.R.C.A., 1966) in London. Following this, he traveled and studied in the Near East and married his wife Yvonne Elizabeth de Coetlogan Aylwin (Beth), an artist and ...more
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