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At a certain stage in the development of a scientific discipline scholars pause to record the history of that discipline. For a host of studies that took root in the nineteenth century--anthropology, sociology, archaeology to name a few--the mid-twentieth century seems the ripe stock-taking time. For Egyptology Bratton may be the right man. He is 'a person with a deep knowledge of the field but at the same time a degree of objectivity since he has not been a working Egyptologist. Retired now, he, had been chairman of the Department of Religion of Springfield College, Massachusetts, for thirty-one years. In this compact volume he summarizes the high points of Egyptian culture, relates Champollion's analysis of hieroglyphics, and then proceeds to a detailed but condensed chronicle of the early explorers in antiquity and the nineteenth century pioneers. This is an account of thieves and rascality as much as it is of heroes and scholarship, and it includes such colorful figures as the Great Belzoni, a six-foot seven-inch carnival performer who devoted the latter part of his life to discoveries and heroic engineering feats in the Nile valley. The bulk of the book treats of the sites themselves in chapters devoted to pyramids, temples, tombs, papyri, or in special accounts of particular discoveries like that of the tomb of Tutankhamen or the recent findings in Nubia. This section is both the strength and weakness of the book. Bratton earnestly reports the full dimensions, weights and measures of the finds, and frequently is given to long descriptions of the objects which are guaranteed to frustrate or bore the reader. On the other hand what a useful book to have on hand at the sites themselves, like Nagel's Guide to Rome. For readers hay on nomenclature or short on dynastic memory a reading of the glossary and chronology at the back of the book would be useful at the start. More pictures would have been nice too, to spare the excess verbiage, but at the price the book is certainly a bargain.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1968
Publisher: Crowell