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The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis's Gilded Age in the Valley of the Kings Hardcover – June 25, 2013

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The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis's Gilded Age in the Valley of the Kings + The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy + Egyptomania: Our Three Thousand Year Obsession with the Land of the Pharaohs
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (June 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250026695
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250026699
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Behind every great fortune is a crime, Balzac once declared. But Theodore Davis’s struggle for wealth and power is only one side of the amazing story. The tycoon is a complex character driven by his demons to achieve something noble and unforgettable with his ill-gotten gains. And in the barren wastes of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, Davis achieves just that. Unstoppable, self-educated, kind and tyrannical in turn, Davis embodies the energy of an America just coming into its own. The book is a meditation on the mysteries of the past Davis uncovers as well as a study in the contradictions of human nature. I could not put it down. I loved the anecdotes Adams ‘dug up’ and held my breath as Davis descended into ancient, sealed tombs. A wonderful book."--Daniel Meyerson, author of In The Valley of the Kings and The Linguist and the Emperor

"A fascinating book: a lively split-screen account of the corrupt rise of a Tweed-ring mogul, Theodore Davis, interlaced with his later distinguished career as an Egyptologist and primary excavator of the Valley of the Kings."--Charles.R. Morris, author of The Tycoons

"A rounded biography. Theodore Davis's work, though overshadowed by later excavations, was revolutionary in its methodical thoroughness, and Adams is similarly scientific in his factual resurrection of Davis's life. Throughout the book, there is a compelling tension between Davis's uniquely American style of self-made wealth and the divinely granted kingships of the ancient Egyptian rulers. It's a fresh look at Egyptology, and the author skillfully dusts off a historic life, presenting his subject as a full-bodied human."—Publishers Weekly

"A fast-paced narrative. Adams brings to life a fascinating individual and his world. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"It proves to be an extraordinary read, thoroughly and freshly researched, and well written. It is the book everyone interested in the golden age of Egyptioan archaeology has been waiting for,a nd it does not disappoint. Thanks to Adams' groundbreaking research, we learn a great deal that is new about our hero...the story recounted by Adams is a gripping one...This book is a winner."—Egyptian Archaeology

"It’s high time we had a biography of Theodore Davis, the eccentric millionaire who cut a wide swath in Egyptology (and elsewhere) during the 1900’s. Was he as big a crook as some of us suspected? John Adams has the answer!"- Dr. Barbara Mertz, author of "Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs" and, as Elizabeth Peters, of the "Amelia Peabody" mystery series.

"Theodore Davis, a flamboyant American millionaire, was responsible for some of the most provocative discoveries ever in Egyptian archaeology, and an accessible authoritative biography of this curious, remarkable man is long overdue. John Adams tells the story of Davis with substance and enthusiasm in his enjoyable book, which should greatly appeal to anyone with an interest in Ancient Egypt and the exploration of its remains."– Donald P. Ryan, archaeologist and excavator in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

"A contemporary of the famed Heinrich Schliemann, the excavator of Troy and Mycenae, the discoveries of Davis in the Valley of the Kings were no less spectacular and scientifically important . . . The author of this welcome biography lays bare the hitherto obscure details of Theodore Davis’s private life and earlier career in the legal profession and his acquisition of considerable wealth."- Geoffrey T. Martin, Edwards Professor of Egyptology Emeritus, University College, London

"Theodore Davis has always been something of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character for Egyptologists – lauded by some as a sponsor of some of the greatest discoveries, reviled by others as little better than a bungling tomb-raider. At long last, John Adams has untangled the truth from the fiction that has built up around Davis and allows him to be assessed a human being and genuine lover of ancient Egypt."- Dr. Aidan Dodson, University of Bristol and author of Amarna Sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation

"Evocative, erudite, irresistibly readable, THE MILLIONAIRE AND THE MUMMIES brilliantly brings to life one of the key movers of the golden age of Egyptian archaeology. It is that most rare of beasts; an exhaustively researched page-turner. An utterly compelling account of a completely extraordinary man."- Paul Sussman, best-selling author of The Lost Army of Cambyses and The Labyrinth of Osiris

"Theodore M. Davis: while the name may be one of the best known in Egyptian archaeology, the personality behind it has for too long proved elusive. Thanks to John Adams we now have the story – and, my, what an interesting man Mr. Davis turns out to have been!"--Nicholas Reeves, author of The Complete Tutankhamun

    "This fascinating tale, told with panache, is a must-read for anyone interested in ancient Egypt, archaeology, art, and the history of collecting. Theodore Davis was a compelling rogue, a robber baron and rabid excavator whose finds are among the most important and arresting from ancient Egypt. This book is an entertaining and enlightening romp, revealing not only Davis’s life but also the highlights of his career as an archaeologist in Egypt."- Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology, American University in Cairo

    "Adams vividly portrays the unlikely robber baron who set the standards for archaeology. Adams presents Davis warts and all, as a callous, scheming tycoon who amassed a fortune and then did an about-face and behaved with honesty, responsibility and generosity as he transformed archaeology from glorified grave robbing to a science."—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

JOHN M. ADAMS is director emeritus of the Orange County Public Library. He has served on the Board and Executive Committee of the American Research Center in Egypt (the professional organization for U.S. Egyptologists) and founded the Southern California Chapter of ARCE and served as its president. He is a regular contributor to Kmt: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt.  He edited the Egyptological newsletter Sedjem for five years. He lives in Winchester, Illinois.

More About the Author

John M. Adams was raised in the Chicago area and received degrees in English Literature and Library Science from the University of Illinois. He served as director of the libraries in Moline, IL, Tampa, FL and Orange County, CA, before retiring to Winchester IL. He is a past member of the Board of the American Research Center in Egypt, past president of the Orange County Chapter of ARCE, and a regular contributor to Kmt: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt. THE MILLIONAIRE AND THE MUMMIES is his first book. Please visit

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John O. Freed on July 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Millionaire and the Mummies" is the story of Theodore Davis, who is best known for finding more tombs in Egypt's Valley of the Kings than any other explorer before or since. But Davis' rise to fortune is a classic story of financial shenanigans that involved making money from an association with "Boss" Tweed and from the hard work of liquidating (looting?) an insolvent bank.

Davis knew poverty as a child and was determined to become rich. And so he did. He was also the subject of three congressional investigations, from which he escaped totally unscathed (how much money was paid to various members of Congress is unrecorded).It would be easy to label him a greedy thief, but quite contrarily he was generous with his friends and relatives. And today he is best known for spending large amounts of money looking for the burials of ancient Egypt's royalty.

Davis' expeditions found the tombs of Yuya and Thuya, Horemhab and many others, but it is the discovery of Tomb 55 that Davis is best known for. To this day we are not sure who was actually buried there. Davis insisted for ages that the body was that of Queen Tiye, (even though the doctor who examined it claimed that the body was male). Unlike many of his predecessors, Davis felt that most of his finds belonged in Egypt and he actually took far less for his personal collection than his agreements with the Antiquities Service allowed him.

John M. Adams has done a great job of writing this book. He has skillfully moved back and forth between Davis' rise to wealth and power as a young man and his adventures in Egypt as a retiree. He paints a fascinating picture of Egypt in the early twentieth century and America in the Gilded Age (late 1800's). The book is well written, nicely paced and is easy to read. Anyone who is interested in Egyptian Archaeology will find this book fascinating.
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Format: Hardcover
The Gilded Age is back in vogue, and John Adams has given us a different view through the biography of Theodore Davis. Instead of the usual Robber Barons of finance and industry, we learn the story of a remarkable lawyer/wheeler-dealer, who had much the same stature, brains and energy as Teddy Roosevelt without the patrician background and Harvard education. Alternating between the exploits of Davis in Egypt and those in America keeps the story lively, and, in the end, it is hard to decide just how much of scoundrel he was.
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Format: Hardcover
This well-written book deals with two subjects from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: the age of robber barons in America and the search for tombs in Egypt. The author tells, in an easily understood and very readable way, the story of a lawyer who used his wits and outright thievery to build up a large fortune, which he then used to finance some of the most comprehensive searches in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt up to that point. He was the most successful of those seeking to find the artifacts of ancient Egypt, until Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in the 1920s. Very enjoyable.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pipercub on August 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
great quick read of the discovery events especially if one has had the thrill of visiting the valley! I had hoped for greater depth in subject matter on both Davis and pharoahs. Limited illustrations gave cause to purchase the Duckworth series to understand what the author was describing.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dolores Davis on August 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well informed author writes about a little known man and subject. He documents Theodore Davis's life and clearly defines the magnificent contribution to Egyptian archaeology that he made.
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