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Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist Paperback – July 12, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
For prominent American archeologist Ryan, EgyptÖs famed Valley of the Kings, a royal cemetery from 1500 to 1000 B.C.E., was a gift that kept on giving. Ryan rediscovered a small, undecorated tomb in 1989 that had been found and dismissed in 1903 by Howard Carter (later celebrated for discovering King TutÖs tomb). In this simple tomb, Ryan found a mummy lying on the floor whose bent left arm and clenched left fist suggested an Eighteenth Dynasty royal female grasping a scepter or other ceremonial object. Her identity became a media sensation in 2007 when EgyptÖs most prominent archeologist, Zahi Hawass, provided compelling evidence that she was the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, whose father, Thutmose I, was the first pharaoh buried in the Valley of the Kings 3,400 years ago. Ryan also recounts his collaboration with the controversial and celebrated Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his long journey to becoming an archeologist, including graduate school fieldwork mapping petroglyphs in Hawaiian lava fields and studying ancient Egyptian cordage in the British Museum. RyanÖs observations are intimate, frank, and perceptive, and his spirited adventures in underappreciated avenues of exploration are a boon for armchair and budding archeologists. 32 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* This book should do for Egyptology what Donald Johanson and Maitland Eddy's Lucy (1981) did for paleontology. Ryan, the archaeologist who rediscovered tomb KV 60 in the Valley of the Kings (later identified as the final resting place of the pharoah Hatshepsut), takes us through his life, career, and numerous expeditions. It's a thrilling book, not because it's full of Indiana Jones heroics but because Ryan's enthusiasm for what he does (more dirt-sifting than bullwhip-wielding) is manifested on every page; and—again like Johanson and Eddy—he catches us up in his excitement, makes us wish we weren't just reading about this stuff but were actually doing it. Ryan also dispels or challenges some long-held pieces of so-called common knowledge, such as the belief that slaves built the pyramids (there's no evidence to support that) and the much-ballyhooed but sadly nonexistent curse of the mummy's tomb. This wonderful adventure story should be must reading for anyone aspiring to become an archaeologist, but even those of us who harbor no such dreams will be aching to get a little dirt under our fingernails. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
"I'm a fortunate fellow. Literally hundreds if not thousands of times, people have told me that I'm doing something they wish they could do. I'm living their dream, or part of it anyway, they tell me...I've gone to fantastic places, worked with fascinating people, and discovered...wonderful things. Sadly, society can't realistically sustain millions of archaeologists and Egyptologists, but I can at least attempt to share the adventure and perhaps educate, entertain, and even inspire.
In this book, I hope to do all these things...Yes, I've been involved in some pretty great stuff...I hope you enjoy my sharing of some of my adventures, focused mostly on Egypt."
The above comes from the preface of this extraordinary book by Donald P. Ryan, Ph.D. Ryan is an American archaeologist, Egyptologist, and author.
Ryan in my opinion has succeeded in what he promises in the preface!! He shares some of his adventures and, as well, educates, entertains, and even inspires.
In the pages of this book you'll come across such things as burial chambers, tomb raiders and tomb desecration,, mummies, the history of Egyptian archaeology, pyramids, Egyptian libraries and museums, Hawaii (that's right, Hawaii!), the actual writings of past archaeologists, danger, and mysteries.
The black and white photographs in this book are fantastic and some are unique. I counted over thirty of them. One of my favourites is the photograph that has the caption:
"The face of one of the occupants of KV27 is gradually revealed as it is unearthed from hard, compact sediment on the tomb's floor."
(Note that "KV27" means "Kings' Valley tomb number 27" where "Kings' Valley" is more commonly known as "Valley of the Kings" which is located in Egypt.)
I especially enjoyed the chapter on Ryan's "Adventures in Television Land" where he helps out in a five episode TV program commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen ("King Tut") by English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter. Another chapter I found enjoyable was the chapter on Ryan meeting of and eventual working for his childhood idol, the world-renowned Norwegian ethnographer, explorer, and writer, Thor Heyerdahl.
Oh, by the way, don't mention Indiana Jones to Ryan. He's not a fan of this "fictional movie character" and he explains why.
In conclusion, Donald Ryan states in the book's conclusion that "Anyone who thinks exploration is dead but for the planets and stars is short sighted." I can see why he says this after I read this thoroughly interesting book!!
(first published 2010; preface; acknowledgements; 12 chapters; conclusion; main narrative 285 pages; photograph credits)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>
Just as the tomb accounts began to get tedious, Dr. Ryan would give accounts of other archaeologsts, the surrounding areas, some local flavor and his past. It was those accounts that made the book worthwhile. The memoir parts were more captivating than the tomb inventories.
The book gives a good and entertaining look at life as an archaeologist, particularly in Egypt. Dr. Ryan spent several years as Thor Heyerdahl's personal archaeologist, but those years were skimmed over. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the book, though is its subtitle. No where does he explain why he is "an unconventional archeologist". Regardless, he is a good author with some good yarns to tell.