A noted Egyptologist follows the search for burial sites.
Former director of the Egypt Exploration Society and president of the International Association of Egyptologists, Naunton has presented his research in several TV documentaries, most recently King Tut’s Tomb: The Hidden Chamber (2016). He makes his book debut with an insightful, informative, and beautifully illustrated overview of archaeologists’ quests to find the tombs of some of the most famous individuals of the ancient world—Imhotep, Nefertiti, Cleopatra, and the Macedonian leader Alexander the Great foremost among them—that so far have eluded discovery. Along with chronicling expeditions, Naunton provides colorful biographies of these major historical figures and the world they inhabited. The 19th-century craze for Egyptian antiquities resulted in major finds, but despite two centuries of efforts, much has not been revealed. Of the tombs that have been discovered over the years, the author notes that many have been found empty, plundered by robbers lusting after the considerable wealth buried with the mummified corpse. Some robberies, he speculates, were likely carried out by the same people who buried the deceased or by workers involved in the construction of a new tomb that opened accidentally into the old one. Naunton vividly describes the sumptuous riches of burial sites: In 1939, for example, a team under the direction of French archaeologist Pierre Montet discovered a royal tomb containing a “falcon-headed coffin of solid silver,” a solid gold funerary mask, a scarab of lapis lazuli, and objects made of other precious materials. The following year, his team discovered a mummy “wrapped in almost unimaginable riches,” including 22 bracelets, solid gold toe and finger rings, and jeweled weapons, amulets, and canes. While it seems mysterious that the tombs of famous individuals should remain hidden, Naunton suggests that ancient “waves of rebuilding,” sieges, geological changes, and recent redevelopment have caused sites to be obscured. The tomb of Cleopatra and, perhaps, Marc Antony, for example, may lie buried in the sea, off the coast of Alexandria.
An authoritative guide leads an illuminating journey into the distant past.