The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (Oxford Illustrated Histories)

by Ian (ed) Shaw

Paperback, 2002



Call number




Oxford University Press (2002), Paperback


The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt uniquely covers 700,000 years of ancient Egypt, from c. 700,000 BC to AD 311. Following the story from the Egyptians' prehistoric origins to their conquest by the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, this book resurrects a fascinating society replete with remarkable historical information. It investigates such subjects as the changing nature of life and death in the Nile valley to some of the earliest masterpieces of art, architecture, and literature in the ancient world. The authors--an international team of experts working at the cutting edge of their particular fields--outline the principal sequence of political events, including detailed examinations of the three so-called 'intermediate periods' which were previously regarded as 'dark ages' and are only now beginning to be better understood. They also examine cultural and social patterns, including stylistic developments in art and literature. Addressing the issues surrounding this distinctive culture, vividly relating the rise and fall of ruling dynasties, exploring colourful personalities, and uncovering surprising facts.--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Neutiquam_Erro
The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt is really more of an encyclopedia than a narrative history. Each of its 15 chapters is written by a different author, presumably an expert in the particular time period under study. This lends itself to a disjointed style as each author presents an overwhelming
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welter of archeological facts in an effort to deal with their own view of the controversies in the assigned area. While no doubt providing the experienced Egyptologist with fine details is important, the casual reader will find the book a dense and confusing read. The details of stone-age arrowhead manufacture or the various types of thrown pottery in the First Intermediate Period tend to obscure the bigger picture. As a prerequisite for reading this book I would recommend something lighter and more cohesive such as "A History of Ancient Egypt" by Grimal.

That said, the book is definitely a significant resource for anyone interested in Egyptian history. It covers the Egyptian state from prehistory through its incorporation into the Roman empire. Three chapters cover the pre-dynastic period including one on the Paleolithic period, one on the Naqada period and one entitled "Emergence of the Egyptian State" (Dynasties 0-2). Subsequent chapters for the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms (2 chapters for the last of these) and the Intermediate Periods follow. A rather strange and slightly redundant chapter, entitled "Egypt and the Outside World" is located just prior to the article on the Third Intermediate period. Its insertion here seems an afterthought as it covers the material of several preceding chapters using a topical, rather than chronologic, approach. Finally, several shorter chapters cover the Late Period, the Ptolemaic Period and the Roman Period. The book has a substantial further reading list and glossary as well as a tabular chronology, and index. It is well illustrated, with many black and white pictures, extensive maps and approximately 40 colour plates. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between the written material and the plates and pictures, leaving the reader confused as to their purpose.

I would definitely recommend this book as a scholarly or reference resource due to its detailed approach but I would suggest it not be the first book you read if you are a casual reader, interested in understanding the sweep of Egyptian history.
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LibraryThing member sereq_ieh_dashret
Really packed with facts. A must-read for the Ancient Egypt fan
LibraryThing member belgrade18
A good resource, and well-written in its way. While I wouldn't call it an "encyclopedia," as many here have, it is almost overloaded with facts and factoids to the point that it is difficult to digest the whole thing if you try to read it straight through (which I did in preparation for a trip to
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Egypt). Some of the writing is dry and academic, especially in the first few chapters: okay, we don't know many things for sure, but the authors of those early chapters (and some later ones too) seem more concerned with being called out by colleagues for not ultra-qualifying every single statement than they are with making sense to a lay person and just giving us something to go on. Yet, I got a lot out of it and plan to keep it as a reference. The edition I read dates from the year 2000 or so, and I wonder if there haven't been DNA studies that tell us more about how the many bodies found in the royal tombs were truly related to each other and who some of the general populace were- did the first Egyptians to put down permanent roots come from the East, West, or South, or were thy there all along? And who were the Hyksos?
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LibraryThing member deusvitae
A survey of Egyptian history from prehistory until the supremacy of Christianity in the middle 300s.

A lot of archaeological detail is given for the discoveries of prehistory and for the Second Intermediate Period in the north. Otherwise the narrative focuses primarily on what is known from funerary
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and temple monuments, a bit from Manetho, and whatever may exist from parallel records from other lands.

To this end a lot of the story is about kings and the things they built. It's a bit disappointing that more was not made of the Deir el-Medina community and what could be known about the life of the artisan class based on these resources. One chapter focuses on the relationships with other nations. But it's mostly rulers and what large-scale developments can be perceived through material remains.

This is a very accessible introduction to the history of ancient Egypt.
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Original publication date


Physical description

552 p.; 9.8 inches


0192802933 / 9780192802934
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