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The Rape of the Nile: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt, Revised and Updated Paperback – September 14, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fagan has written numerous archaeology books (e.g., The Little Ice Age, 2000), but his inaugural title from 1975 was out of print. This welcome revision recounts the encounter of all manner of people, from Herodotus to Howard Carter of Tutankhamen fame, with the pharaonic ruins of the Nile Valley. Modern interest in the imposing antiquity and scale of Giza, the Valley of the Kings, and the like dates from the French invasion of 1798, which included a scientific team--"the Enlightenment in action," in Fagan's words--to survey pyramids, temples, and tombs; its work provoked a rage in Europe for all things Egyptian. Some tackled the problem of unlocking hieroglyphics (achieved by Jean-Francois Champollion); others flexed their muscles to get the good stuff out of Egypt, like Giovanni Belzoni. By far the star attraction in Fagan's presentation, Belzoni was an ebulliently colorful character--a circus strongman in 1810 who chanced into the ancient Egypt craze and its accompanying lust for artifacts. That's how Egyptology began, and Fagan's history is a fine gateway to it. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Born in England and educated at Cambridge University, Brian Fagan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is internationally known for his popular books on archaeology. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Rev Upd edition (September 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813340616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813340616
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian Fagan was born in England and studied archaeology at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was Keeper of Prehistory at the Livingstone Museum, Zambia, from 1959-1965. During six years in Zambia and one in East Africa, he was deeply involved in fieldwork on multidisciplinary African history and in monuments conservation. He came to the United States in 1966 and was Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1967 to 2004, when he became Emeritus.
Since coming to Santa Barbara, Brian has specialized in communicating archaeology to general audiences through lecturing, writing, and other media. He is regarded as one of the world's leading archaeological and historical writers and is widely respected popular lecturer about the past. His many books include three volumes for the National Geographic Society, including the bestselling Adventure of Archaeology. Other works include The Rape of the Nile, a classic history of archaeologists and tourists along the Nile, and four books on ancient climate change and human societies, Floods, Famines, and Emperors (on El Niños), The Little Ice Age, and The Long Summer, an account of warming and humanity since the Great Ice Age. His most recent climatic work describes the Medieval Warm Period: The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations. His other books include Chaco Canyon: Archaeologists Explore the Lives of an Ancient Society and Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World and Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age gave birth to the First Modern Humans. His recently published Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind extends his climatic research to the most vital of all resources for humanity.
Brian has been sailing since he was eight years old and learnt his cruising in the English Channel and North Sea. He has sailed thousands of miles in European waters, across the Atlantic, and in the Pacific. He is author of the Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California, which has been a widely used set of sailing directions since 1979. An ardent bicyclist, he lives in Santa Barbara with his life Lesley and daughter Ana.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Case on February 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Fagan is a great tour guide of the heyday of Indiana Jones style archaeology in Egypt during the 18th and 19th centuries. His narrative is compelling and the ancedotes entertaining - but do yourself a favor and find the original edition (it came out in 1970's) at a used bookstore (on or off-line). It is PACKED with gorgeous illustrations that really bring the story to life. I can't believe they reissued this edition without them. I can only assume they did so to save money on printing costs.

It is still, of course, a great book without the illustrations; but they do so much to bring the story to life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this some years ago when it first came out. It was a fascinating read. Now I am trying to buy a copy of my own so I can read it again before I go to Egypt for the first time. I educated and trained as an archaeologist and spent years working in the field. Brian Fagan is a well known archaeologist and a scholar. This book reflects that kind of attention to the facts.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
I don't know what book the previous reader read but this book is fascinating and highly readable. It chronocalizes the arrogance of Europeans in their never ending quest for wealth - just as they raped Africa and the Americas. Though the true is that had they not the world would have never known the wonders and achievements of Egypt, Nubia or Cush. Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
After reading several novels set in Egypt (particularly the Amelia Peabody mysteries), I found myself curious to learn about the "reality" of the subject. I don't want to know EVERYTHING about this topic, but I wanted to get some grounding in it.
This book was a perfect solution. It covers the "investigations" (or more commonly looting) of the Egyptian treasures, starting with Herodotus and ending, pretty much, with Petrie. (I was surprised that it didn't follow the history to Carter.)
The author manages to explain what each era was like, describing both what an individual (such as Belzoni or Petrie) did, the conditions in which the events occured, and why it was important. He also writes with humor and a steady non-judgemental hand -- pointing out what the detractors said (then and now) as well as the supporters' view.
It's not all fascinating stuff; there were some subjects that didn't hold my interest, but I didn't mind flipping over them.
The pictures are all in black and white, but they're all interesting and they illuminate the people as well as the places.
It was certainly enjoyable reading for a subject amateur like myself.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Brandt on December 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
Even if you aren't overly interested in ancient Egypt, Brian Fagan's Rape of the Nile is written in such a fast-paced, exciting, engaging way, that you'll keep turnin' and learnin' until the book ends...perhaps leaving you wanting more.

It's not a five-star book...some passages are too choppy and abrupt, and the updates contain informational redundancies that, given their context, make them stand out.

A minor quibble, though.

This is a book you'll be hard-pressed to put down, and when you do, you'll marvel that IT'S ALL TRUE. These events ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Giovanni Belzoni is by no means a household name, but you might come to think it should be, given what he managed to accomplish.

You'll feel like you're a member of the party as Belzoni frenetically travels the length of the Nile, removing ten-ton stone heads nearly single-handedly, and re-opening the temple of Abu Simbel after it had been lost to history for millennia.

The vicarious thrills don't end there, as you'll be peeping over Howard Carter's shoulder as he opens up the near-pristine tomb of King Tut, the only Egyptian pharaoh whose sepulcher survived being completely looted in antiquity.

(You may then feel the desire to travel to Egypt yourself, in which case you'll be somewhat prepared, per Belzoni and others' descriptions of the native populace, to deal with the hassle, headache and constant demands for baksheesh. But once you step into the Tut galleries at the Egyptian Museum...)

Most people have at least a superficial knowledge of ancient Egypt, but a closer investigation into the subject is greatly rewarding. This book is a perfect way to enhance one's understanding of the remarkable people who built the world's first civilization, and the remarkable people who brought the grandeur and majesty of the Egyptians to the attention of the world, and into our collective imagination.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Art Detective on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would say this is an excellent book for Egyptology lovers; especially beginner, who would like to have an overview of where , who & how the treasures have been robbed all through the years. Readers can have a thorough understanding on how the European museums acquired all these artefacts, the logistics & the historical incidents involved.

The book is easy to read & is able to keep your interest from beginning to the end. The footnotes is especially useful if you would like to go into more detail reading.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a well written story of the acquisition of Eqyptian treasures for the British Empire. Facinating tale of Belzoni using his talents as a strongman for English shows to manuver massive stone artifacts. Truly a good read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on April 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
When we think of archaeological excavations today, we think of very slow and careful work. With these modern methods ingrained in our minds, we can only gasp when we read about the methods used in the nineteenth century and earlier. I have read a number of books by this author and this is one of his best. He describes how antiquities were treated in the past - where being a tomb robber in Egypt was reputable and the source of much income for individuals and museums outside of Egypt. The discovery of ancient monuments and artifacts was encouraged by those in power in Egypt only so that they could be presented as gifts to potential allies. Despite this "rape of the Nile" that has so tragically taken place on such a large scale in the past, it encouraging to read Dr. Zahi Hawass's comment that only about 30% Egypt's antiquities have been discovered thus far. This book is well written and difficult to put down. I heartily recommend it!
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