EGYPT by Anne Millard


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Ancient Egypt as idiosyncratically reconstrued by a practicing archaeologist whose purview and choice of specific foci are (de)limited by a field-orientation. Presuming some frame of historical reference, Miss Millard projects the nature and problems of an excavation in terms of both the participant (""One of the most glorious smells I know is that of pigeons being grilled over a charcoal fire in the clear, sweet air of an Egyptian night"") and the dictates of the geo-topography of the site. ""You just cannot dig neat, straight-sided trenches in sand,"" for example; ""you have to clear a large area by removing hundreds of tons...layer by layer"" and then worry about where to put them. ""The residents of Upper Egypt...buried their dead in the desert so as not to waste land that could be cultivated,"" and the inscriptions on and contents of the tombs yield clues to the customs, creations, and cosmology of the people -- these the subjects of a second casual survey. Particular discoveries are the pivot of a third: Miss Millard chronicles several that ""show how important an individual excavation can be"" or ""illustrate an interesting aspect of the archaeologist's work,"" emphasizing the constellation of features that make Egypt so singularly fertile a source of data. There follow synopses of still-unsolved riddles with prescriptions for interdisciplinary research and finally a quaint sight-seeing guide -- typically equipped with diagrams, photographs, drawings, and margin notes. All the fragmented tidbits and pieces add up to an erratic overlap of the mutually complementary perspectives of more systematic studies (Hans Baumann, Christine Price, Robert Silverberg).

Pub Date: June 8th, 1971
Publisher: Putnam