Lisa's Reviews > Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt

Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt by Lynn Meskell
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's review
Jul 15, 14

bookshelves: ancient-egypt-reference
Read from July 01 to 06, 2014, read count: 1

Lynn Meskell's Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt is an attempt to critically reconstruct the experiences and views of life in Ancient Egypt, specifically around the 18th to 20th dynasties, the peak of Ancient Egyptian civilisation.

The book is divided into seven chapters. The first introduces Meskell's interpretative framework from a range of disciplines which she then uses to carefully analyse and explore the notions of private life in Egypt over the next six chapters (Locals and Communities, Social Selves, Founding A House, Love, Eroticism and the Sexual Self, Embodied Knowledge and Cycles of Life and Death). The book's structure roughly mimics the stages in the life of an Ancient Egyptian.

For those looking for a way to understand the worldview of the Ancient Egyptians, particularly their attitudes towards daily life, Private Life in New Kingdom Egypt is simply a must-have. Meskell attempts to go beyond "this is what they did" and instead talks critically about the deeper meaning behind daily practices.

For instance, Meskell discusses how the sense of smell would have been more important to the Egyptians than it is to Western culture today (Meskell states that in the 18th and 19th centuries of the Common Era, "smell was effectively devalued in the West, while sight was elevated as the sense of reason and civilisation", p.153). Such detail may seem somewhat trivial, but it allows the reader to gain some understanding of the Ancient Egyptians' experiences of life.

Meskell is very thorough in her research, relying not only on a wealth of physical evidence at sites like Deir el Medina, Gurob and Amarna but on a whole host of Egyptological literature. Another talent of Meskell is her ability to blow away the cobwebs and cut through general assumptions that have been made about the Ancient Egyptians. Admirably, Meskell is very clear when she is making assumptions and when evidence is missing.

However, at times I found the writing a little dry and at other times, I felt I was reading a piece of work produced for an academic audience – a few times, I felt like I was reading through the lines to hear "here is a gap in precious academic work that justifies my research and this paper", but this is a minor complaint.

This an excellent piece of work, one that I would find very easy to recommend to anyone wanting to begin to understand the worldview of the Ancient Egyptians.

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07/01/2014 marked as: currently-reading
07/06/2014 marked as: read
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