In development since 1994 (according to the preface), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (OEAE) "provides students, scholars, and the merely curious with the latest information on the civilization . . . tracing its history through the Islamic conquest of 642 CE--although the focus is on dynastic Egypt and its cultural complexity." Editor-in-chief Redford, of Pennsylvania State University, whose credits include being director of the Akhenaten Temple Project, has overseen a work featuring essays from more than 250 contributors from various countries and scholarly pursuits, all with solid academic credentials from institutions such as the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Universitat Heidelberg, University College London, University of Chicago (and its Oriental Institute), and many more. The preface outlines the decisions made on transliteration as well as the particularly thorny problem of a common chronology, as "it would ill serve the pedagogic and synthetic overview purposes of the present work to allow each contributor to decide on his or her own schema."
OEAE features more than 600 scholarly yet eminently readable articles. Many of the lengthier articles are subdivided, each article subdivision with its own author. Sculpture, for example (at 33 pages the longest entry in the set), contains five separate articles: "An Overview," "Royal Sculpture," "Private Sculpture," "Divine Sculpture," and "Wood Sculpture." Each of these is signed by the author and includes its own bibliography. Other entries with similar subdivisions include the 26-page Grammar (divided into "An Overview," "Old Egyptian," "Middle Egyptian," "Late Egyptian," "Demotic," and "Coptic") and the 18-page Myths ("An Overview," "Creation Myths," "Osiris Cycle," "Solar Cycle," and "Lunar Cycle.") The bibliographies concluding every article are themselves virtually worth the price of the set, assembling sources from all languages and time periods. In keeping with the work's attempt to be a synthesis of contemporary scholarship "that would describe in detail where Egyptology stands, as a whole, in the year 2000," it is refreshing to see many bibliographies listing several works bearing publication dates in the 1980s and 1990s.
There are many noteworthy entries in OEAE. Apart from the entries noted above, there are detailed discourses on topics as wide-ranging as Beer, Family, Hairstyles, Intoxication, Marriage and divorce,^B and Social stratification. Of course, there are plenty of entries on topics most closely associated with ancient Egypt: Horus, Isis, Osiris, Pyramids, and Tombs. There are also entries on some of those responsible for famous discoveries, such as Howard Carter, the discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and on topics of interest to the field of Egyptology as a whole (e.g., Egyptology, interpretation of evidence). There is even an article on Reference works, listing the more prominent titles in the field, divided by area of study. Maps are incorporated with wonderful effect, making one wish there were many more. The entry Theban Necropolis includes a plan depicting the location of various temples in relation to one another. Valley of the Kings has a full-page map showing a more-detailed plan of this famous area.
There are some 400 black-and-white illustrations scattered throughout the text. The majority are photographs, but there are also some line-drawn maps and other drawings. Readers will also find a section of colored plates in volume two. OEAE concludes with a "Directory of Contributors," a "Synoptic Outline of Contents," and a detailed index that indicates page references for main entries in bold type. The "Synoptic Outline" is a particularly worthwhile enhancement, divided by major headings ("Egyptology," "Land and Resources," and "Religion," for example) with subdivisions within those, listing all articles covering the topic.
There is no direct competitor to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, given its interdisciplinary nature. The Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (Routledge, 1999) focuses primarily on archaeology and does not include some of the sociological articles the present work does (plus, at $250 for a single volume, it is pricey). Margaret Bunson's The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (Facts On File, 1991) and Rosalie David's Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt^B (Facts On File, 1998) are shorter and less scholarly in tone and more appropriate for secondary schools. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, with articles that should be understandable to an interested layperson, should find a home in most libraries. Though the $475 price tag may give smaller libraries some pause, one is not likely to encounter another work of this magnitude on a subject of such universal interest for some time. RBB
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"Oxford University Press has published a top-notch subject encyclopedia that is exhaustive and accessible. With over 600 articles in 3 volumes, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt is an example of what a quality encyclopedia should be. The articles cover every aspect of ancient Egyptian life from foreign affairs to burial rites. The bibliographies are impressive....should find a prominent place on academic library reference shelves...larger public libraries will aslo want to give it thoughtful consideration."--Against the Grain
"One is not likely to encounter another work of this magnitude on a subject of such universal interest for some time."--Booklist
"...An invaluable resource. Highly recommended."--Library Journal
"...a comprehensive tool that has no rival in its scope and depth...highly recommended for academic and large public libraries."--John R.M. Lawrence, Lawrence Looks at Books, galegroup.com