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Valley of the Golden Mummies Hardcover – October 1, 2000
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In the winter of 1996, a guard at the temple of Alexander the Great near Bahariya, Egypt, reported an astounding discovery: during a routine patrol, he had been startled when the donkey he had been riding fell into a hole. Helping the donkey out of its predicament, the guard saw that the hole was in fact an opening into a tomb--and one from which a mummy's golden face peered.
Zahi Hawass, the director general of the Giza Pyramid complex and a leading Egyptian archaeologist, hurried to the site, which turned up more and more of those golden-masked corpses--105 in the first year of excavation alone, the largest number of mummies yet discovered at a single Egyptian site. Hawass's book describes the site and its contents, which offer material evidence of daily life at the Bahariya Oasis during the 25th and 26th dynasties, a time about which little is now known. Gaps in the historical record are quickly being filled, however, thanks to Hawass's ongoing findings, only a fraction of which are reported in his book. He guesses that the Valley of the Golden Mummies may eventually yield more than 10,000 perfectly preserved corpses and a wealth of information about their time.
The richly illustrated text also provides a detailed account of the work of modern Egyptologists, who accord their subjects a respect not often shown by earlier generations of field workers; as Hawass remarks, "We always treat a mummy as if it were still a person, just as we would hope to be treated ourselves in similar circumstances." It's an altogether fascinating excursion into long-ago times. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
During the summer of 1999, one of the more spectacular discoveries in recent archeological history was announced in Egypt. At the Bahariya Oasis, 230 miles southwest of Cairo, a large group of intact ancient Egyptian tombs were unearthed that contained more than 60 mummies in excellent condition. This was truly a stunning find and made headlines the world over. In this elegant and marvelous book, the flamboyant and well-regarded Egyptian archaeologist Hawass, who was in charge of the excavations, describes this unusual discovery. Hawass explains that these mummies, probably remains of people of a merchant class, date from the second and third century C.E. The text is geared to the general reader and Hawass is a great storyteller with a knack for providing the spicy detail (sometimes his persona intrudes a bit too muchDa small criticism). Fabulous color photographs of the remote and serene excavation site and detailed pictures of the various finds grace Hawass's informative text. The author estimates that it the Bahariya site may, once fully excavated, yield over 10,000 mummies. This book, therefore, will probably not be the last we hear from Bahariya, but it is a great start and easily whets the appetite for more. For anyone even remotely interested in ancient Egypt or archeology, this title is worth its weight in golden mummies. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Outstanding photos, interesting and insightful stories and commentary by Dr. Hawass makes this a very important book for anyone interested in Ancient Egypt. It is a sincere hope that the unrest in Egypt today will come to a peaceful ending and important historical artifacts like these mummies and the other wonderful sites and wonders of Ancient Egypt will be safe and secure and more discoveries will occur in the future. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BOOK!
Hawass gives the reader some insight on what it is like to be part of the excavation. Digging up black sand, for example, is an indication that one is getting close to a mummy (pg. 33). He describes the overpowering smells one experiences when uncovering a mummy that has been under the sand for thousands of years and what it is like to be brushing away and then to suddenly be greeted by the stare of an obsidian eye (pg. 53). He describes a mummy being prepared for transport and his own experience with the curse of the mummies forcing him to send the father of two child mummies to the museum to reunite the family (chapter 6).
Besides the golden mummies, other amazing discoveries in Bahariya are detailed in this book including an ancient wine factory (the first of its kind to be discovered), temples to the God of Bes and Hercules, and the only temple honoring Alexander the Great known to exist. Hawass describes the history of Bahariya as well as daily life as it exists today. Then, of course, there are the hundreds of breathtaking color photographs of the unique mummies, temples, and artifacts found at the sites. Because the sites described in this book are still under excavation, the defnitive book on the Valley of the Golden Mummies is yet to come and, if the author is correct, will take fifty years to complete. Still, the book offers interesting info on the sites up to this point in time although some of the copious details of mummies and artifacts gets tedious, especially in the last chapters. The book is 223 pages and includes an index, bibliography, and chronology of Egyptian rulers.
Overall, the book is the best one on the market, and is well worth buying if you wish to learn more about this century's most important discovery within Egyptology.