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Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy-King Paperback – August 18, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (August 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312280645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312280642
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,833,014 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When British archeologist Howard Carter first opened King Tutankhamen's tomb in November 1922, his patron, Lord Carnarvon, standing behind him, impatiently asked if he saw anything. In one of the great moments in archeological history, Carter, dumbstruck, could only utter, "Yes, wonderful things." Briskly written by Egyptologist El Mahdy, this book is also a wonderful thing. El Mahdy seeks to shift attention away from the headline-grabbing elements of the tomb and toward the historical figure of Tutankhamen himself. Despite immense interest in his tomb, our knowledge of Tutankhamen's life, including who his parents were and how he died, is sparse. In fact, El Mahdy maintains, the accepted story of Tutankhamen is marred by inaccuracies and misperceptions. By scrutinizing the evidence from his tomb (which was full of intriguing anomalies), she reconstructs a spate of long-hidden details about his life and death. Examining Tut's mummy, El Mahdy argues that he was not murdered, but died suddenly of natural causes, probably a tumor. This is significant because his sudden death could easily have led to a power struggle and political crises in Egypt. Instead, it led to a cover-up: Tutankhamen was secretly buried by his successor, the author argues, in order to ensure order in Egypt. Accessible and informative and full of the author's enthusiasm for her subject, El Mahdy's book provides some long-absent historical context to the life of the famous king. Although at times she overextends herselfAas when she posits that homosexuality did not exist in ancient EgyptAEl Mahdy has, generally speaking, produced a concise and lively account of life in ancient Egypt and a balanced historical discussion of Carter's discovery. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Biographies can be controversial even when based on richer documentary sources than a small corpus of often fragmentary inscriptions, decorative temple reliefs, tomb paintings, funerary equipment, and mummies from the 14th century B.C.E. El Mahdy (Egyptology, Liverpool Univ.) employs the fallacious premise that "we now have incontrovertible archaeological evidence for the true story of Tutankhamen, and can recreate the events of his life and death." Previous biographies of the short-lived king include Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt's classic Tutankhamen: Life and Death of a Pharaoh (1990) and Bob Brier's highly imaginative and sensational The Murder of Tutankhamen: A True Story (LJ 12/97). El Mahdy' s work fits somewhere in between and includes all of the evidence currently available for analysis. The author provides an introductory primer on Egyptian culture during the Eighteenth Dynasty and outlines the 1922 discovery and subsequent clearing of Tutankhamen's tomb. Unfortunately, El Mahdy includes totally speculative commentary, e.g., that Nefertiti and her purportedly half-sister Mutnodjme "regarded each other as full sisters" and that "it seems that Nefertiti was the more beautiful of the two." To her credit, she includes as appendixes the complete texts of Tutankhamen's Restoration Stela, Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten, Amenhotep III's commemorative scarabs, and Thutmose IV's Dream Stela. El Mahdy rejects the "murder" of Tutankhamen as "out of the question" based on the lack of evidence but proceeds to accept Julia Samson's theory that there was no ephemeral King Smenkhkare but rather Nefertiti as coregent using that name. Most of this same material is handled more judiciously by Joyce Tyldesley in Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen (LJ 2/15/99). If only one book is to be purchased, Tyldesley's is the most "factual." To appreciate the complexities of the archaeological puzzle, the books by Brier and El Mahdy offer the lay reader interesting alternative conjectures.DEdward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Sys., Ft. Pierce, FL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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For anyone interested in the subject of Tutankhamen, or in Egyptology in general this book is a good read.
J. Chippindale
Actually, her book could be accurately titled "Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Smenkhare, Tutankhamen, and Ay" because her study extends to include all the "Amarna Period".
Bruce Trinque
Step by step, Christine Mahdy shows how bringing together information without prejudice puts a more sensible interpretation on the facts.
Happy Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on August 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I give very high marks to Christine El Mahdy's "Tutankhamen" for its vigorous, insightful examination of the reign of the so-called Boy-king. Actually, her book could be accurately titled "Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Smenkhare, Tutankhamen, and Ay" because her study extends to include all the "Amarna Period". El Mahdy contends, and rightly so I believe, that much of the conventional wisdom about this era of Egyptian history and its rulers is based not on a careful examination of the evidence, but upon outdated theories first published early in the Twentieth Century or even earlier, when the amount of information available was much smaller and our overall understanding of Egyptian culture far poorer. In this book El Mahdy goes back to basics, not blindly accepting the conclusions of other Egyptologists (many of whom appear to somewhat blindly repeat what others had written before them) but examining the original inscriptions for herself. Not infrequently they have previously been mistranslated or particular interpretations placed upon them without good justification. Inscriptions, art, tombs, and mummies are all re-examined with a rigorous application of common sense and logic. What emerges is a story strongly at variance with popular understanding of the period. El Mahdy rejects the notion that Akhenaten's "new" religion was really something radically different than the Egyptian mainstream, and she finds flaws in the notion that the so-called "heretic king" was widely hated by the Egyptian people.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Christine el Mahdy obviously has a fascinating take on the life of Tutankhamen, with what are apparently new and very interesting theories about his parentage, his life and death, the cultural and political life of his time, and his entombment.
However, while she criticises other archeologists, past and present, for jumping to conclusions, making unwarranted assumptions, and cutting data to fit the shape of their expectations, her writing invites her readers to conclude that she's done the same thing herself. It's one thing to say that evidence "suggests" a conclusion, and it's something else again to present such a conclusion as a fact, as El Mahdy often does in writing of her own findings. The problem, as el Mahdy repeatedly says, is that we don't KNOW--we can only infer based on evidence, and I could wish she's taken this precept to heart in presenting her own conclusions, which would appear to be more serious if she had presented them more judiciously.
I also found this book an irritating read, because it is full of repetition as well as typographical (1959 for 1859) and editorial (it's for its, everyone...their) errors. Can't help but feel that a month or so under the pencil of a good editor would have given the book a much cleaner shape and a good deal more pace and excitement.
El Mahdy's not to blame for the failings of her publishers, though, and it is a good story, once you get to it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By kallan on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
There are many good points about El Mahdy's book. It demonstrates clearly, for the non-specialist, the importance of going back to primary sources when examining historical/archaeological issues, and the need always to employ a sceptical eye and a hefty dose of common sense. It also explains matters in a way that makes them very accessible to the non-specialist. Though I can't speak for the accuracy of the evidence she presents and her conclusions, being a non-specialist myself, in the first three quarters of the book which deal with the "Armarna Period" her material was presented clearly and understandably, and seemed reasonable for the most part. However, I found her examination of Tutankhamen's life in the final part of the book much harder to swallow. It was very rushed and seemed to jump to an awful lot of conclusions.
One final quibble: I am sick to death of authors telling us about their childhood in what so often appears to be an attempt to claim some extra authority in their particular field. El Mahdy has always loved Egypt, taught herself to read hieroglyphs as a child, and decided at the age of ten she was going to be an Egyptologist? So what? What counts is her academic achievements, not her childhood quirks.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When twenty years ago the unprecedented exhibit of artifacts from King Tutankhamen's tomb was shown around America, they caused a sensation wherever they went. When it came to the importance of Tutankhamen, however, the exhibit sparked another round of dismissiveness about the boy king (who just happened to leave a terrific tomb) compared to his predecessor Akhenaten, who was regarded by western Egyptologists as a bit of a hero. It was Akhenaten who struck a blow for monotheism, banishing the strange gods with insect and crocodilian bodies in favor of the one sun god Aten. He was a figure compared to Moses or Jesus, but it was said that his heresy terrified the people and threatened the powerful priesthood, which forced him out of Luxor into a new city he could devote to his peculiar ideas. Upon his death, the boy king Tutankhamen came to power (or his handlers did), and caused a reversion to the old ways.
Christine El Mahdi has another tale to tell in _Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy King_ (St. Martin's Press), a revision of the lives of the pharaohs that shows how fashions, even in such arcane studies as Egyptology, change over time. Akhenaten, in her view, was not the monotheistic hero pictured by the Egyptologists of the last century. The old view was sparked by Tutankhamen's successor Horemheb, a conservative military man who hated Akhenaten, but not Aten. The attestations of Akhenaten's monotheistic "heresy" were most vividly not from his successors, but from the nineteenth century "gentlemen archeologists" who were in Egypt as part of their Grand Tours, perhaps as preparation for entering the church. Ancient Egyptians were seen as those who had enslaved the Jews, and who had the worst sort of animal-worshipping polytheism.
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