Among the New Books
James, N., Antiquity
Ancient Biomolecules Initiative
Ancient Biomolecules 2:2-3. A Special issue marking the conclusion of the N.E.B.C. Thematic Programme, Ancient Biomolecules Initiative (A.B.L): papers presented at the A.B.L Grand Finale held at the Natural History Museum, London 7th January 1998. 184 pages, figures, tables. 1998. ISSN 1358-6122 paperback.
Ancient Biomolecules has reported on 13 of the 18 projects in the UK Natural Environment Research Council's Ancient Biomolecules Initiative (1993-8). The scheme was designed to investigate scope and methods for tracing the history of life, with particular emphasis on DNA. Likely to be of greatest interest to archaeologists are the papers on charred wheat (T.A. Brown et al.), on sorghum from Qasr Ibrim (W.J. Deakin et al.), on cattle extant and extinct (C.L. Turner et al.), on horse domestication (A.M. Lister et al.), and on methods of preparing bone for extracting collagen (M.J. Collins & P. Galley). Also included is C. Renfrew's address on 'Applications of DNA in archaeology', in which he considers research on human population movement, ethnic and kin affinities, and domestication of plants and animals.
See also BARHAM et al. in 'Bones', below.
Egypt & Palestine
DOUGLAS J. BREWER & EMILY TEETER. Egypt and the Egyptians. xviii+218 pages, 81 figures, 3 tables. 1999. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 0-521-449847 paperback [pounds]35, $54.95.
ERIK HORNUNG. The ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife (tr. David Lorton). xxiv+188 pages, 95 b&w figures, 1 map. 1999. Ithaca (NY) & London: Cornell University Press; 0-8014-8515-0 paperback $16.95.
GUILLEMETTE ANDREU, MARIE-HELENE RUTSCHOWSCAYA & CHRISTIANE ZIEGLER (ed.). Ancient Egypt at the Louvre (tr. Lisa Davidson). 260 pages, 130 colour photographs, 2 figures. 1999. London: I.B. Tauris; 1-86064-043-5 hardback [pounds]35 & FF260.
BERNADETTE MENU. Ramesses the Great: warrior and builder. 160 pages, b&w and colour illustrations. 1999. London: Thames & Hudson; 0-500-30089-5 paperback [pounds]6.95.
BREWER & TEETER present a balanced, helpful and approachable summary of ancient Egyptian history and daily life for the general reader and novice student. The core of the book comprises chapters on urbanism, government, religion, social conventions, language and writing, architecture, and arts & crafts. The presentation is systematic, the writing lucid, and the plans, maps and tables adroitly composed and distributed and clearly designed, although few of the photographs match that standard. The bibliography is ample but not daunting, and there is an aptly selected glossary.
Prof. HORNUNG points out that the ancient Egyptian Books of the Netherworld or Afterlife have received less attention than the spells in the Book of the Dead. The former describe the afterlife beneath the revivifying course of the Sun through night. Painted on the walls of tombs, they are rich sources on ideas of the cosmos and the soul. After summarizing the principal features of the Pyramid and Coffin Texts, the Book of the Dead, and the Books of Breathing, Prof. HORNUNG treats the form and contents of the nine main texts on the Netherworld in the presumed chronological order. He explains the change of symbolic emphasis following the Amarna period. The iconography is illustrated extensively with line drawings and a few photographs (the latter less clear, whether or not on account of the paper). He also provides a brief treatment of the Litany of Re, the Book of the Heavenly Cow and the Book of Traversing Eternity.
ANDREU et al. give a splendid impression of the Louvre's great collection of sculptures, wall paintings, bronzes, textiles, pottery etc. The text is arranged around the superb photographs. It is long enough, on each page, to provide both helpful remarks on the piece or pieces shown and a little background that helps to explain their significance. …