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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile


Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile by Bob Brier and Hoyt Hobbs

(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) "The civilization of ancient Egypt is perhaps best known for its omnipotent pharaohs, monumental pyramids, and remarkable sculptures and paintings, all of which still captivate us today. But what was life there really like? Ancient Egypt comes alive in this vivid, abundantly illustrated exploration of its people and their world. Ordinary citizens in ancient Egypt lived and worked in much the same ways as the average European of the eighteenth century, but are better, dressed more practically, and lived better--in houses with patios, latrines, and cooling systems."

I enjoy learning about history, and although my favorites are United States history (the Revolutionary War and the Civil War especially), I do enjoy learning about world history as well. So when the publisher contacted me to review this new series of the everyday lives of ancient cultures (Egypt, Vikings, Middle Ages, and Greece), I jumped at the chance. I will eventually get to the others in the series, but I chose to read Egypt first. First off, this is a nice hardcover book. It has a lot of interesting pictures and graphics. I love looking at the stone carvings and the ancient paintings. I went through the whole book and looked at all the pictures before I even read the first sentence (shhhhhh.....don't tell) because they were so interesting. The book started out very heavy in detail about the different dynasties and the history of Egypt. Although it is probably a good thing to start a book that way, I thought it was written very much like a text book and was, I hate to say, quite boring. I almost stopped reading. Almost. I'm glad I kept reading, because after that it got a lot better. It is still written more like a text book than I was hoping for, but when  it started describing religion in ancient Egypt it started to get much more interesting. I enjoyed learning about their religion. From there I found some chapters kind of uninteresting (government), but I found others (work and play, food, clothes and other adornments, arts and crafts) full of interesting facts and I enjoyed reading them. Did you know that one of the lesser pharaohs' household ate over 2,000 loaves of bread and 300 jugs of beer daily? Did you know that the ancient Egyptians ate about 3,780 daily calories from grain alone? Wow. Luckily their jobs required hard manual labor, which allowed them to burn off those calories. Did you know that even with all our technology and knowledge, we still aren't sure how they managed to build those huge pyramids? Crazy. Khufu's Great Pyramid "required that more than two million blocks weighing from two to more than sixty tons be formed into a structure covering two football fields and rising in a perfect pyramidal shape 480 feet into the sky." They needed over 25,000 workers (they signed up, they weren't slaves), and they had to work fast in order to finish before their pharaoh died. Khufu reigned for 20 years, so that is how long they had. "The math indicates that, with about 2 million stones to place and at most twenty years to position them, given a work-year of 350 days and a work-day of ten hours, approximately thirty blocks were placed per hour. That is, one block was delivered to its position in the pyramid every two minutes." Crazy, I know. 

So, I was hoping that the book would be written a little less like a text book, but it was very informative and I ended up liking it. There were some areas that I just wasn't interested in, but I'm sure other people (boys) will enjoy learning about their warfare and government. In fact, I'm sure that is what my husband would like reading about. He probably wouldn't care about their cosmetics or fancy clothes. In other words, there is something for everyone in this book. There's a history nut in every family, right? This book is perfect for them, and a great, informative read for the rest of us. It would be a great addition to a junior high, high school, or college world history class as well.

Rating: PG+ (It does describe mummification, which is gross. It mentions that a lot of times Egyptians worked naked because it was so hot, and it mentions briefly some dancing party where the girls were naked except for a sash around their waist.....my husband wanted to attend that kind of party......haha...just kidding, he would die if he knew I said that.)

Recommendation: 12 and up (About 6th grade, maybe a mature 5th grader. I will let my 12 year-old read it if he wants to, my 10 year-old I'm not sure yet.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.





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