A World Beneath the Sands: The Golden Age of Egyptology

Norton. Oct. 2020. 512p. ISBN 9781324006893. $30. HIST
Wilkinson (The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt) explores the founding and development of Egyptology as a science during the century between the 1822 deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics by Jean-François Champollion and the 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter. Those two crucial events mark the rise and subsequent decline of European domination of Egyptian political, economic, and cultural spheres. The resulting rivalries of the great powers, particularly Britain, France, and Prussia (Germany after unification in 1871), are traced as they impacted the recording, study, and preservation of the ancient monuments. Champollion’s Franco-Tuscan expedition of 1828–29 and Karl Richard Lepsius’s Prussian expedition of 1842–46 are highlighted for their monumental contributions to these endeavors. Archaeologists Auguste Mariette, Gaston Maspero, and James Henry Breasted and travelers Lucie Duff Gordon and Amelia Edwards are among the luminaries whose careers and activities are examined. The triumph of Egyptian nationalism and independence put an end to this “golden age.”
VERDICT Wilkinson is a master storyteller, and the narrative is so engaging that readers will find it hard to put down. This comprehensive study is highly recommended for anyone interested in the exploration and study of Egypt, both ancient and modern.
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