Lauren Albert's Reviews > Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

Red Land, Black Land by Barbara Mertz
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's review
Feb 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: history-ancient
Read from February 12 to 13, 2011

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 "Rituals of Death in Ancient Egypt." I still wonder what on earth my English teacher must have thought about that one. I went to visit my grandmother in Miami around the same time (7th or 8th grade) and I remember her taking me to the library and my taking out these huge museum books on Ancient Egypt. I sat at the pool in the heat with the plastic dust jacket covers sticking to my legs. All the old folks came over to find out what I was doing and they must have thought me as strange as my English teacher did.

The interest faded over time but perhaps a rush of nostalgia led me to Mertz. I don't remember reading it when I was young but if not, I'm surprised I never did. She has a fun, debunking style to her writing-making affectionate fun of the tendency of Egyptologists to see facts where there is only possibility. "[W]e enjoy our fantasies immensely," she writes, "particularly when we label them 'theories' and get into exciting arguments with other archaeologists." She is a "just the facts ma'am" Egyptologist but with a smile. She shares all the evidence for and against theories and makes it clear what is actually known as opposed to what is hoped for or guessed at.

My favorite section was her explanation of magic in Ancient Egypt. It is a very good discussion of how to see things as they did, rather than as we do (magic, science and religion not being seen as separate, for instance). Overall this is a very good introduction to life in Ancient Egypt.

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08/17 marked as: read

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message 1: by Shadee (new)

Shadee She writes one of my absolute favorite mystery/historical fiction/suspense/sorta romance series as Elizabeth Peters. I'm currently re-reading the series and loving it! Due to Indiana Jones and books like these I also wanted to be an Egyptologist...until I realized how dirty the job was and after I took a class (led by a drunk professor, when he bothered to show up) on the History of Ancient Egypt.

I still want to go to Egypt, rather badly but I don't see it happening anytime in the near future.

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