Archaeology and the Ancient World

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From Slave to Pharaoh: The Black Experience of Ancient Egypt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 32 [pounds sterling]) by Donald B. Redford explores the racial issues that the Egyptian empire faced during its 2,000-year spell as the most powerful state on Earth.

Jean Bottero's The Oldest Cuisine: Cooking in Mesopotamia, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan (Chicago University Press, 16 [pounds sterling]), considers the ways in which religion and social custom influenced the preparation of food and drink during the second and third millennia BC.

The Maya: Life, Myth and Art (Duncan Baird, 12.99 [pounds sterling]) by Timothy Laughton immerses the reader in the rich, often overlooked culture of the Mayan people, examining their beautiful pictographic language and advanced science.

Ian Macgregor Morris retells the biography of Leonidas, the Spartan commander who led 300 soldiers in a legendary battle against the Persians which altered the fate of Greece, and the world, in The Sword King: The Life and Legend of Leonidas of Thermopylae (Bristol Phoenix, 14.99 [pounds sterling], $27.95).

Love, Sex and Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes our Lives (John Murray, 18.99 [pounds sterling]) by Simon Goldhill offers a contemporary, and readable account of the influence of the key civilisation of the ancient world on our own day, written by the Cambridge Professor of Greek.

Alexander the Great is a subject of interest at the moment, with several major feature films in the offing. Claude Mosse examines Alexander the Great's career and looks at the ramifications of his conquests on the ancient, medieval and modern worlds in Alexander: Destiny and Myth (Edinburgh University Press, pb 19.99 [pounds sterling], hb 49 [pounds sterling]).

Athenian Democracy (Edinburgh University Press, pb 17.99 [pounds sterling], hb 50 [pounds sterling]) is a collection of international scholarship on the history of ancient democracy, edited by P.J. Rhodes.

The Politics of Greek Tragedy (Bristol Phoenix, 8.99 [pounds sterling]) by D.M. Carter explains how and why Greek tragedy should be read as a political art form.

Ancient Greece: Life, Myth and Arc (Duncan Baird, 12.99 [pounds sterling]) by Emma J. Stafford tells the story of Greek art in a lively and highly illustrated presentation.

The first of a new series of introductions to important world heritage sites, Alexander Villing's Classical Athens (British Museum Publications, 8.99 [pounds sterling]) looks at the city in the Golden Age, from the Parthenon to the back alleys.

Richard Buxton's beautifully illustrated The Complete World of Greek Mythology (Thames & Hudson, 24.95 [pounds sterling]) is a thorough introduction to the world of Greek myths.

A Brief History of the Olympic Games (Blackwell, 45 [pounds sterling]) by David C. Young is an informative introduction to the ancient games, published to coincide with the Games of 2004.

The same subject--one in which winning by any means was crucial, even at the cost of dying--is dealt with by Cambridge historian and broadcaster Nigel Spivey in The Ancient Olympics (Oxford University Press, 17. …