Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Review of Stories from Ancient Canaan by Michael David Coogan

This accessible and entertaining book recounts several important mythic stories from ancient Ugarit. Ugarit was a Canaanite city state on the coast of the Mediterranean across from Crete in modern Syria. This book introduced me to several interesting concepts. The first was that Ugaritic was a Semetic language like Biblical Hebrew but written with a cuniaform alphabet. Second, the world did not know much about Ugarit until the 1920s when the tablets from this city were found. Third that the many quotes in the Old Testament reflect the competing religion of the Canaanites and cultural exchange backwards and forwards between the Canaanites and Israelites. In this collection you will read the story of Aqat, Kirta, and Baal. The introductions before the translations are especially helpful. The myths while using repetitive langue are helpful in getting a sense for how the stories may have sounded to people steeped in an oral culture. Worth your time if you are interested in the ancient Near East.

Review of Whats on the Other Side by Brent L Top

It has been a few years since the death of my dad and my mom was reading this book. Partially to get a sense for what she was reading, but also for myself, I read this book. This book is really a compilation of two talks by Brother Top given during Education Week at BYU. The book is short and easy to read. I especially liked the chapter on the immortal spirit. Two of the most comforting aspects for me were that my relatives can see and love me. As well as being aware of what I’m doing. Another affirming thought was that no one dies in life before their time even if it is inopportune. If it happens early it could be they are needed for services in the spirit world. This is a helpful book for any LDS reader grieving the loss of a loved one.

Review of The Sungod’s Journey through the Netherworld Reading the Ancient Egyptian Amduat by Andreas Schweizer

Image of the Amduat Wikipedia

This book was not what I expected, but I’m glad I read it. I was looking for the text of the Amduat. Even though this book did not include the text, the author walked the reader through a 12 hour night journey of the Sungod Re using images drawn from the tomb of Thutmose III. As a practicing Jungian psychologist, Schweizer offers interesting and insightful commentary on what these images may have meant to the Egyptians and could mean for modern readers. As a religious reader, I like Jung’s ideas because he does not discount religious ideas or experiences as being a core part of humanity. This is a deep, philosophical book well worth your time if you like Ancient Egyptian texts and Jungian analysis.

http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100316790

Review of Cuneiform by Irving Finkel and Jonathan Taylor

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0714111880/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_bCoCBb4V7DGDY

This is a great book that provides a nice overview of the history of the cuneiform script. I learned that the script was used for at least three different languages. Sumerian, Babylonian (a Semitic language), and Akkadian (a Semitic language). The book describes how the script conveyed consonants and vowels and provides a helpful table of signs so you can write your own. While reading this book I had a chance to go see the Assyrian (Akkadian) Bas-Reliefs at the Bowdoin College of Art. These are from Nimrud and were created for king Assurnasirpal 2 who is described in the book as a soldier and scholar, who added extensive labels called “colophons” to his tablets (p. 54). If you are looking for a brief, well-written introduction to the topic this is the place to start.

A few pictures from Bowdoin

Reading up on the history of Egyptology

I want to read the following books after my current one.

Textbooks:

1. John Wilson. Signs and Wonders upon Pharaoh: A History of American Egyptology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.

Available Online: http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/misc/signs.html

2. Erik Iversen. The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

3. Donald Malcolm Reid. Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museums and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

4. Donald Malcolm Reid. Contesting Antiquity in Egypt: Archaeologies, Museums and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2015.

5. Jason R. Thompson. Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology. Volume 1: From Antiquity to 1881. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2015.

6. Jason R. Thompson. Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology. Volume 2: The Golden Age: 1881-1914. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2015

Signs and Wonders Upon Pharaoh

John Wilson. Signs and Wonders upon Pharaoh: A History of American Egyptology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.

Available Online: http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/misc/signs.html I got this book several Christmases ago. I’m finally finished reading it. Wilson provides interesting pictures of the evolution of Egyptology as a field and especially American involvement. The stories he tells about the famous individuals Petrie, Budge, Sayce, Erman, Breasted, etc. really gives me a sense for how adventurers, thieves, scholars, and governments all interacted to claim pieces of artifacts for themselves.  I was struck by the shift in thinking that occurred from the 1700s to the present day. The key concern moved from treasure seekers to the academic study of Egypt and different claimants on who and where artifacts should be kept. When history is mixed with stories about famous individuals who helped in the development of Egyptology and the political content in which it occurred, I find it fascinating. Here are a few highlights that I enjoyed. Wilson explains that elements of the Amon story got included in Christian and Muslim stories in Cairo. He also shares the example of a Coptic church that kept two images of Rameses on either side of the altar niche. Similarly, a stele of Akh-en-aton became the location of the burial of an Islamic saint and the believed source of fertility for some Egyptian women. The aspects of Egypt that were appealing to the West were the belief that mummy powder was a cure-all and that hieroglyphs contained hidden mysterious knowledge that was purely symbolic. Champollion’s background in Coptic and other languages as well as others work on the Rosetta Stone helped the frenchman to crack the code in 1822. The scholars who adhered to the symbolic interpretation namely Seyffarth and others did not accept Champollion’s discovery and his system was not widely recognized until 1837. There are many other great aspects of this book. If you are interested in an overview of American Egyptology this is the place to start.

 

The Golden Goblet Book Review

The Golden Goblet is an interesting story about a young boy named Ranofer, who after his father dies is taken in by his evil half brother Gebu. Ranofer’s father Thuta was a goldsmith and taught his son some skills like making cups and arm bands. The story follows Ronofer’s experiences working in Rekh’s goldsmith shop as a porter, apprenticeship at Gebu’s stone cutting shop, and his eventual detective work to prove Gebu and his accomplice Wenamon are tomb robbers. I really liked the way the author brought ancient Egypt to life by describing trades like goldsmithing and stone cutting. The author’s descriptions of houses, streets, and the Valley of the Kings at Thebes was believable to me. I also liked that the author described how literacy was rare in ancient Egypt. I liked the way the author wove Egyptian beliefs into the story like the Ba of Ranofer’s father or the Khefts being active at night. I liked the heightened language the characters used when addressing someone from a higher social status like neb (lord) and how it showed how children began learning a trade or skills at very early ages. It also helped me to appreciate the diet that poorer Egyptians may have eaten specifically bread and onions. My only complaints with the story are minor. I felt like the pacing was slow and the characters a little flat. Also having studied some Middle Egyptian I know that we don’t really know how Ancient Egyptian was pronounced. Though this is debated. So Ra-nofer could have been spelled Re-nefer. It would vary depending on if you learned the language from an American or German (R’ = Re) school or from the British (R’ = Ra). All in all a good story but probably too many issues for my 10 year old.