BOOK REVIEWS: An Ancient World Brought Vividly to Life; the Royal Tombs of Egypt by Zahi Hawass' Photographs by Sandro Vannini, Thames & Hudson, Pounds 39.95. Reviewed

Article excerpt

Byline: by John Carter

Tutankhamun's tomb, discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 by Howard Carter, my great uncle, was a treasury not only of precious objects put in the tomb for use in the king's Afterlife, but a treasury of information as to the religious rituals used in Egyptian royal burials.

With the discovery of the complete burial came hitherto unknown details of the Egyptian's belief in the Afterlife and the ritual procedure used to prepare the dead king for his eternal life.

The Royal Tombs of Egypt is a similar treasury of informative text by Zahi Hawass, General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, with superb photography by Sandro Vannini.

The first chapter of this book clearly illustrates the history of burials in ancient Egypt, from pits dug in the sand, in the Predynastic Period, to the elaborate tombs of the later ages.

Also included in this chapter is a full description of how a tomb was equipped for the dead king's life in the Netherworld or Afterlife.

The tomb of Tutankhamun has been the only tomb discovered with a relatively complete assemblage of these items, leading to a greater understanding of ritual burial.

The second chapter deals with descriptions of the prime gods in Egyptian mythology, the gods of creation and chief Netherworld deities who would welcome the king into the Afterlife.

The remaining chapters of this book, and its main theme, are devoted to the fabulous paintings on the walls of various royal tombs illustrating, in incredible detail, the Duat, the land of the beyond and the passage of the king through the Netherworld towards resurrection. …