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Treasures of the Pharaohs    by Delia Pemberton & Joann Fletcher order for
Treasures of the Pharaohs
by Delia Pemberton
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Flip through this softcover coffee table book on the Treasures of the Pharaohs, and you're immediately struck by the gorgeous photography of stela, statuary, and sites of the tombs and treasures of Thebes (now known as Luxor, and called Waset by the ancient Egyptians). The area, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, has been visited by tourists (and unfortunately by tomb robbers) for two millennia. The book is filled with large color pictures - from a benign Thutmose III on its cover to details of wallpaintings, the inside of burial chambers, and aerial overviews of the region. There are also several black and white pictures of Howard Carter's King Tut discovery. The text puts it all clearly in context.

The author, Delia Pemberton, lectures at the British Museum and the University of London on Egyptology. Dr. Joann Fletcher, listed as Consultant and famed for identifying what is believed to be the remains of Nefertiti, introduces Thebes as the religious capital of Egypt and its royal burial ground for over five centuries. The book begins with a timeline and modern photo of 'Hundred-Gated Thebes', the most powerful city of the ancient world, close to key trade routes. The rulers of the region, and those of their burial sites that are known, are described from the time of nomadic hunter gatherers of the Paleolithic period, to that of the Ptolemies and Cleopatra after Alexander and his armies swept through Egypt. The formation of the Antiquities Service is discussed, along with several spectacular discoveries (including Carter's of the tomb of Tutankhamun) at the turn of the twentieth century, and the recent growing emphasis on conservation.

The volume gives a sense of the immensity and beauty of the burial sites at Thebes, where the stateliness of a tomb often depended on the length of a reign. It also conveys the strong ties between Pharaohs and priesthood (aside from the period when Akhenaten ruled), with the great temple of Karnak celebrating the Theban deity Amun-Ra. I enjoyed learning more about familiar (from Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries) names like Queen Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, and Ramesses II, and found the section on the tombworkers' village at Deir el-Medina especially interesting. If you're an archaeology buff or, like me, long to visit Luxor one day in person, immerse yourself in Treasures of the Pharaohs. It's a beautiful and accessible book.

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