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Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt (Penguin History) Paperback – September 1, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Histories of women usually bring with them histories of women's world and women's work--in other words, the daily life of a culture. This look at ancient Egyptian women is no different. British archaeologist and researcher Tyldesley illuminates women's positions as cooks, washerwomen, dancers, mourners, weavers, priestesses, mothers, wives and--on very rare occasions--pharaohs. Tyldesley doesn't try to simplify a subject complicated by linguistic subtleties, lack of archaeological evidence, ancient propaganda and the orientalist mythology of seething harems that early excavators imposed on ambiguous digs. What she does, and does well, is give an idea of what evidence is available and, in accessible, slyly cheery prose, recreate how women (and men) shopped, dressed and ate (``the menus of the poor and less enterprising usually involved a fairly dull and rather flatulent rotation of bread, onions, lettuce, radish and pulses''). Most intriguing, though, are Tyldesley's all-too-brief initial observations of the standing of Egyptian women. For all its emphasis on tradition, Egypt differed from much of the worst of Graeco-Roman paternalism: women were important factors in a child's heredity, not just passive bearers of men's genetics; they could own property; make legally binding contracts; sue; and, most amazingly, live alone.

Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

During the dynastic period (3000 BC - 332 BC), as the Greek historian Herodotus was intrigued to observe, Egyptian women enjoyed a legal, social and sexual independence unrivalled by their Greek or Roman sisters, unrivalled, indeed, by women in Europe until the late nineteenth century. They could own and trade in property, work outside the home, marry foreigners and even live alone without the protection of a male guardian. Furthermore, women fortunate enough to be members of the royal harem were vastly influential, as were those rare women who rose to rule Egypt as 'female kings'. Joyce Tyldesley draws upon archaeological, historical and ethnographical evidence to piece together a vivid picture of daily life in Egypt - marriage and the home, work and play, grooming, religion - all viewed from a female perspective. She has an engaging eye for incidental detail and draws fascinating parallels and contrasts between the ancient and our modern world.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin History
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Revised ed. edition (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140175962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140175967
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent scholarly study of the women of Ancient Egypt. Pulling exclusively from written accounts and archaeology finds, Ms. Tyldesley remarks on what we know of all facets of the lives of the women of this age. She is careful to admit when we don't have enough knowledge to guess the meaning of this, or the customary use of that. She is never afraid to admit we just don't know for sure.
The great scope of this work manages to be laid out in an easy to read and understand format that is entertaining as well as informative. Interspersed throughout the text is quotes from various ancient translated sources that give an insight to daily life and beliefs. The book also is wonderful because it looks at both the wealthy Queens and the lowly servants, the slaves, the merchant's wives.
What did they wear? Why did they wear wigs and shave their natural hair? What jobs did women hold? How were marriages arranged? Did harems of women really exist? Which women ruled Egypt alone? What rights did women have in Ancient Egypt? What was day to day life like? Why was Ancient Egypt the very best society for women at the time? What did they eat?
It is all explained with supporting information, footnotes, and an extensive bibliography to advance your search for information after you've read this book. Highly recommended addition to your library!
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Format: Paperback
"Daughters of Isis," is a must from those who want to know the ins and outs of Egyptian civilization, which includes the often over-looked role of women. This book covers the life of women from birth to death and contains a wonderful chapter on female kings, including Maatkare Hatchepsut and Neferuaten Nefertiti along with other, lesser known great women. Changes in styles and beliefs through the history of Ancient Egypt are noted with wonderful detail. The plates are superb and portray a variety of household implements and portrayals the Egyptians, themselves, made of their women. Forming a wonderful compliment to other literature that examines the lives of those below Pharaoh as well as other works by Joyce, "Daughters of Isis" does those same daughters and their goddess quite the justice.
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Format: Paperback
From the moment I began reading this wonderful book, I was hooked! Joyce Tyldesley draws you in with her evocative narrative and transports you to a time and place often romanticized by modern Western culture. She "sets the record straight" and tells the reader, based on current archaeological evidence, what women's lives were like 3,000 years ago in Egypt. The great thing about this book is that it's written with the average reader in mind (in other words, in plain English), so you don't have to have a Ph.D in Egyptology to understand it. Tyldesley discusses every aspect of women's lives, from what makeup they used, how they dressed, what they ate, and their daily household duties. She describes women from every social class--from the poor all the way up to royalty. The author does a good job of presenting available evidence and making objective interpretations, not assumptions as many archaeologists have in the past. She constantly points out throughout the book how little is actually known about women's lives, since Egyptian history was recorded by men. Even the ever-present wall paintings which adorn tombs and temples present Egyptian life in an idealized manner, so it is often hard to deduce what is real and what is fantasy.
The book includes a plethora of photographs and illustrations which act as effective visual aides to the text. The well-organized timeline in the back of the book was also very helpful, and I found myself referring to it often just to keep track of the time periods and which pharaoh came when. This was a very enjoyable book which I had a hard time putting down. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in ancient women's history.
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Format: Paperback
joyce tyldesley is such a great writer. this 318 page book has 8 chapter's images of women, married bliss, mistress of the house, work and play, good grooming, the royal harem, female kings, and religious life and death. this is a great book on women in ancicent egypt. you can tell that joyce tyldesley has researced the topics and knows what she is talking about and she also puts it into words that anyone can understand. there are 16 pages of black and white pictures. if you are just looking for a picture book this is not for you but if you are looking for a book with great info on women of ancient egypt this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley has provided us with a stunning rare glimpse into the lives of ancient Egyptian common and royal women. This informative, well-researched book discusses the role women played in Egyptian art; marriage; common household life; women's work and leisure activities; grooming; royal women (from harem members to the female pharoahs); religious life and funerary customs for women. Tyldesley explores every aspect of the lives of these ancient women - from their daily chores and child-rearing practices to their marital relationships and religious affiliations to descriptions of elaborate hairstyles, clothing and jewelry. Tyldesley provides plenty of interesting photographs and drawings to illustrate her fascinating text, and includes an informative geographical and historical background, maps and a historical chronology of events to help orient the reader. The book is extremely well organized and well written. You will come away with a real understanding of and appreciation for the lives of ancient Egyptian women.
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