The memoir of a world-renowned archaeologist and Egyptologist.
Ryan (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Lost Civilizations, 2007, etc.) takes the reader behind the scenes of the life of a typical archaeologist, who leads anything but the “dangerous, swashbuckling life” of characters like Indiana Jones. While many of his expeditions involve the excitement of discovery, he writes, most of his time is spent meticulously sifting through sand to rescue and piece together buried artifacts and then trying to puzzle out their meaning. Ryan’s first love was mountaineering, but he became fascinated with Egyptology and archaeology during his senior year in college, when he saw the travelling exhibit of King Tut (“a blockbuster exhibition that has yet to be surpassed”) and switched from a major in political science to the study of anthropology and archaeology. During the following years, while he received grants which paid the bills for his explorations in Egypt, he also supported himself, his wife and son by teaching and lecturing, writing books and consulting on BBC specials. On one occasion during filming, he jumped through a cleft in the rocks to rescue a member of the cast caught on a ledge and was almost killed when a dislodged rock hit his head. In 1989, he made the exciting discovery of a mummified body that was later identified as controversial female pharaoh Hatshepsut. Though Ryan made it clear that he was not officially labeling the find as such, the discovery received a premature banner headline in a British paper that read “Ancient Egypt’s Lost Queen Found in Humble Tomb.” In 1995, the author began a seven-year collaboration with Thor Heyerdahl to gather evidence for Heyerdahl’s contention that ancient cultures made contact through ocean voyages. Ryan continues to work diligently at his craft, noting that “each time we come across something new, whether artifacts from the past or ideas from the mind, it’s a discovery.”
An entertaining, illuminating adventure story by a modern-day explorer.