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Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  941 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
In this updated version of the classic of popular Egyptology, Barbara Mertz combines a doctorate in Egyptology at the famed Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago with a life-long enthusiasm for ancient Egypt. Her love of the subject is contagious and makes her the perfect guide to ancient Egypt for the student, the layman, and those who plan to visit—or ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published December 15th 2007 by Tantor Media (first published 1964)
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Feb 02, 2009 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very fun, absorbing, quick history of ancient Egypt. The author unapologetically tells us that she's going to cover what's interesting to her - and in my opinion that makes for a much more interesting book for the reader as well. Could be a great way to introduce Egyptian history to a child. Also, for fans of Amelia Peabody, it's fun to see where Barbara Mertz (pen name is Elizabeth Peters) has developed her theories and interests in the realm of historical fiction. And yes, there are ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Jul 27, 2011 Daniel Kukwa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the most irritating & frustrating non-fiction work I have read in some time. It can't decide if it's a history of Egypt, a history of Egyptian archeology, or a gossipy history of people studying Egyptian history. The author's lame attempts at sarcastic side-bars don't help one bit. It contains some interesting information, but it's in no way a cohesive read. Very disappointing.
If you want a book that could be an introduction or refresher course on Ancient Egyptian history that's both informative and entertaining, I can only recommend this. It covers what I consider to be the "real Ancient Egypt" – starting with the predynastic Egypt and ending just as Alexander the Great conquers Egypt.

This is a book very much about the Egypt of the (dynastic) pharaohs, so if you want detailed information about the Greco-Roman period and it's personalities, it's best to look elsewher
Apr 12, 2013 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
This review applies to the audio version of the book. This book took longer than it all should have as I would turn it on to listen to when I went to bed, and I would fall asleep and then have no idea where I lost consciousness. I must have listened to chapter four about ten times.

Listening to this book is a lot like having a class taught by a fun, albeit eccentric, professor. I have no idea what Barbara Mertz looks like, but I have decided to cast her as Professor Sprout only with more scarves
'Aussie Rick'
Nov 28, 2009 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

Firstly I must admit that I am not an expert on this subject. I learnt the basic stuff at High School and that's about it. My interest was sparked in Ancient Egypt after taking my daughter to watch 'The Mummy' and subsequently reading Bob Brier's book 'The Murder of Tutankhamen'.

As it has been previously noted by other reviewer's this book is somewhat dated (orginally published in 1964) but that does not detract from the wonderful narrative that the author weaves around the Pharaohs and their p
Aug 01, 2016 Joan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lively, gossipy overview of Ancient Egyptian history and the archaeological adventure and discoveries that uncovered it. Mertz writes like a favorite professor: witty, knowledgeable and prone to digressing into diverting anecdotes. She admits her biases freely and acknowledges that so much of what we "know" about Egyptian history is based on scholarly and non-scholarly speculation. I am reading her book Red Land/Black Land next which focuses on daily life in Ancient Egypt. This book covers mor ...more
- Spoiler! Everyone in this book died. ;)

- Barbara Mertz was a wonderful historian who penned the excellent Amelia Peabody mystery series under the name of Elizabeth Peters. I only mention this because I had no idea who Barbara Mertz was when I was checking the book out of the library. It's a small world indeed.

- I really enjoyed her narrative. Barbara had a certain spunk that made her writing very approachable and just plain entertaining. The historical figures in this book are vibrant individu
This book covers the span of, what, thirty centuries, give or take a few either way, in 350 odd pages. It must have taken years to write this book, not only because of the sheer amount of research that would have had to be done, but also because of the amount of text, of passages that the author no doubt would have had to cut. If the author is anything like me, she would have devoted a lot of her daytime hours – and maybe even some of her night-time hours – with her finger hovering in agony abov ...more
Dec 31, 2013 Kiri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, entertaining read. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in learning an overview about ancient Egypt. This is not an art history tome. The narrative reads as a story told by a storyteller or oral historian who brings the culture, customs and the era to life. There are even photographs and sketches of the artifacts and of the tombs as well as maps and diagrams. While reading the book I found it helpful to look up the sites and tombs on Google images as a reference to he ...more
Nov 14, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
Mertz, more recognizable under her nom de plumes Elizabeth Peters or Barbara Michaels, offers up a gossipy, fascinating history of Egypt. Don't let the tone fool you - she's got the Ph.D. to back her up, as her occasional, inevitable digressions into Lists of Names You'll Never Remember proves. She's set herself a monumental task, attempting to cover five millennia of history in just over 300 pages, but she attacks it with relish and wit, and has the grace to admit when she's being particularly ...more
Jul 05, 2008 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another revamped recently and re-released non fiction by Barbara Mertz. This one is more about the ruling history and rulers of ancient Egypt. The earlier book I reviewed, Red Land Black Land is more about the people and customs. I read it about 6 months ago or so and really enjoyed it. In typical Barbara Mertz style she writes about ancient Egypt with much knowledge and humor. I would again recommend this book to anyone who has even the vaguest interest in Ancient Egypt. I may even re-r ...more
May 10, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: egypt
When I visited these areas the tour guide spoke with great certainty about everything. Come to find out almost everything is subject to question. Mertz is clear on what has been established, and what is theory. The time, energy and research put into Egyptian archaeology opens new avenues of doubt and make facts more and more elusive.

Mertz warns at the beginning that this is not a text nor a complete history. She says it is an collection material that she finds interesting. The first part was a l
Cassandra Kay Silva
Apr 25, 2012 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As it is difficult to find a book that covers the reigns of so many great pharaohs and the history of Egypt in such a short read its hard not to appreciate what the author did here as she covered a great deal of ground in a rather logical format for a set of history that is so highly controversial. Unfortunately I did not enjoy her constant insertion of unnecessary opinions on various historically debated topics in this work. I wish she would have left the gossipy, somewhat personal "asides" out ...more
Christine Zibas
Feb 13, 2016 Christine Zibas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who has an interest in Egypt or ever wondered exactly who the ancient Egyptians were and why their dynasties lasted for thousands of years, Barbara Mertz's Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs is the perfect introduction. More commonly known to readers as Elizabeth Peters, Mertz is the author of the popular Amelia Peabody mystery series.

Long before she started her career as a best-selling writer, however, Barbara Mertz began as a trained Egyptologist, with a PhD from the famed Oriental In
Marie Michaels
Jul 01, 2014 Marie Michaels rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What becomes clear is that a person could spend an entire academic career studying any one of these dynasties and even some of the individual players, but Barbara Metz does a great job fitting twenty-something dynasties into a couple hundred pages. She eschews a very formulaic book report-type summary for thoughtful and entertaining discussion of the major characters and explains the changing historical settings. She did not harp on a dry timeline of events or succession of generations but rathe ...more
Jul 25, 2009 Bondama rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Barbara Mertz, long known for her thrillers under the two pseudonyms Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters, has finally come out with a non-fiction book on her speciality, Egyptology. This is an imminently readable work, taking the reader through a history of all the dynasties and Kingdoms that are thousands of years old. This is an incredible book -- and extremely accessible to virtually anyone with an interest in the Ancient Egyptians.
Craig Fiebig
This was probably a great book for someone more grounded in Egyptian history than I am. The narrator was perfect for me; she projected the persona of an elderly middle school teacher. In fact, I wish she'd been my middle school history teacher so that I would have acquired something of a rudimentary understanding of this fascinating culture. I appreciated the author's effort to explain the errantly recorded relationships amongst the order of the pharaohs and their wives, first wives, top concubi ...more
Sarah Sammis
Feb 22, 2012 Sarah Sammis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released, pc, read-in-2005
An excellent read! This book was published roughly four years before she ventured into fiction writing but her sense of humor and skills as a writer show through in this non-fiction over-view of Egyptian history. It would be another ten years before she would publish her first Amelia Peabody mystery but this book shows a lot of sources of inspiration for the series.
May 07, 2016 Courtney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook-d
A great introduction to Egyptology for the lay enthusiast. The historical account is solid (Mertz's credentials ensure nothing less), but the overall tone is far from the dry and ostensibly objective style of a textbook. Mertz does not seek to detach herself from the text she is writing; rather, she delves headfirst into the petty rivalries and contentious disagreements between scholars, happily takes sides, and inserts her own speculations based on the available facts. She's a biased narrator, ...more
Molly Brewer
Feb 04, 2014 Molly Brewer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Not the most "scholarly" text available on ancient Egypt, no doubt; but when I'm reading a history, especially an overview, I don't usually want a scholarly text. Mertz's authorial voice is very loud and loving, and it read like a history of ancient Egypt as written by Mary Roach; there are equivalent amounts of sass, sarcasm and (clearly demarcated) personal bias that make it altogether a really fun read. I don't always agree with Mertz (she loves the Great Man theory of history, whereas I pref ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ancient Egypt fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is a fine introduction to ancient Egypt from pre-history to the Roman conquest and to Egyptology by a University of Chicago Egyptologist also known, under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, as a novelist.
Mar 03, 2015 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in studying Ancient Egypt, this is a good place to start. The writing is accessible and, at times, amusing. She covers a lot of ground but manages to keep the book at a manageable length. I finished wishing that she had spent more time discussing certain people and time periods at greater length, but I don't consider that a bad thing. In fact, I think it means she did her job well because I'm still eager to learn. On a side note, I do recommend that you check out her Amelia ...more
May 19, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it
Imagine a friendly grandmother telling you a story with a nod and a wink, and you have the tone for this book. She narrates the adventures of certain Archaeologists. When the pharaohs have the same name (like Thutmose I, Thutmose II, and Thutmose III), she gives them fun nicknames. She tells the most memorable theories of what happened in ancient Egypt. My one complaint is that she tells the fun theories, and then sometimes ends with 'but this has been found to be untrue', then presents the curr ...more
Mar 16, 2016 NancyHelen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ancient Egyptian history is complex at the best of times, so it was a pleasure to read a book written in a whimsical yet scholarly style which gave a whistlestop tour of Ancient Egypt. Barbara Mertz, whom most of us know as the creator of the Amelia Peabody series, is both knowledgeable and honest in this book. She doesn't shy away from putting her own opinions or asides in, which makes the book a pleasure to read, and she reports many of the academic debates. For an introduction to ancient Egyp ...more
Michael Tapp
After I stumbled upon an ancient Egypt exhibit in a museum I wanted to find out more about the belief system behind the culture that produced such extravagant burial rituals. After doing a bunch of research I decided to go with this book. This is the wrong book to read if you're looking to find out more about the belief systems and the general culture behind ancient Egypt. The book is aptly titled. This is an easy read if you're looking to learn about the stories behind pharaohs, queens, and tem ...more
Apr 16, 2013 Ramya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spell-bound by narrative style, now adore Barbara Mertz, and fully renewed of my undying spirit's vow as an Egyptophile!

Blown away by the breezy, humorous, and never dull narrative style with which Dr. Mertz takes us through what is a scholarly sound but personal roller coaster ride through the civilizations of the lower Nile River from 5000 B.C. to around 30 B.C. Found myself sobbing by the end of her last sentence (nothing to do with the lunar cycle being close mind you since the Egyptian's in
P.D.R. Lindsay
Oct 03, 2013 P.D.R. Lindsay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research

Publishers used to describe this type of book as one 'written for the intelligent reader', and this is exactly what the updated, revised edition of Barbara Mertz's book is. For people without a history degree in Egyptology, but an interest in learning about those fascinating people, Ms Mertz's cheerful, chatty and thoroughly knowledgeable writing style is perfect. She takes the reader through the long history of Egypt's Dynasties, examining the scholarly differences of opinion, talking about per
I liked this one even more than I did Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt, probably mostly because while Red Land, Black Land covers the daily life of Regular Joe ancient Egyptians, this book covers the monuments and tombs and personalities I was already familiar with. Also, I will admit that I was mostly familiar with the aforementioned monuments and tombs and personalities from reading the author's Amelia Peabody series--heh! It was fun to go back and visit places Amelia and Emer ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Katja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, en, kindle
A very nice introduction covering the history of Ancient Egypt up to the third intermediate period. The focus is more on the pharaonic history (rather than on, say, traditions, religion or hieroglyphs) but this probably makes the book more coherent and easy to follow. A few things are outdated (e.g., KV55 is now believed to be Akhenaton's tomb with all certainty) but since Mertz is very cautious when making assertions not yet widely accepted at her time it's ok. It might also be a good read for ...more
Jun 08, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barbara Mertz publishes as Elizabeth Peters and authors the Amelia Peabody Egyptian mysteries that I really enjoy. It goes without saying that I would really enjoy her nonfiction as well. It is too bad all historians can't write history to read like fiction. I read this after reading "Napolean's Pyramids" and decided I was right to roll my eyes at a lot of the statements made in that book. The author describes events chronologically and puts them into the periods and dynasties. She says we don't ...more
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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...

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