Thursday, 16 February 2012

Old Books

I was talking with Michael on the roof about old books in our collection and how at one and the same time they show how Egyptology has moved on as a science and how much we have lost.

Sir J Gardener Wilkinson – The Ancient Egyptians : Their Life and Customs 1836
There are many pictures of inscriptions and tombs that are now lost to us, some for every. Indeed this early record is sometimes the only one of significant monuments. Read what he has to say about Akhenaton, practically unknown at this time. After talking about the ‘shepard Kings’ Hyskos he says

“Towards the latter end of this dynasty, some “Stranger kings” obtained the sceptre, probably by right of marriage with the royal family of Egypt; and Egypt again groaned under a hateful tyranny. They even introduced very heretical changes into the religion, they expelled the favourite God Amun from the Pantheon, and introduced a Sun worship unknown in Egypt’ Their rule was not of very long duration; and having expelled, their monuments, as well as every record of them, were purposely defaced.” Pg 308

In 1897 if you did a package holiday with Thomas Cook you were given a beautifully bound “The Nile - Notes for Travellers in Egypt” by Wallis Budge! A fantastic snapshot of Egyptian history at that time. With king lists, history, places and Egypt of that time this is also a valuable reference both of the times but honestly with very little updating valuable for today’s travellers. According to this there are 40 tombs in the valley of kings. In the historical summary pg 14 the period gets a little more about it “Amen-hetep IV, or Chu-en-Aten (“brilliance, or glory of the solar disk”), the founder of the city of Chupaten, the ruins of which are called Tell el-Amarna, and of the heresy of the disk worshippers. He was succeeded a few kings who held the same religious opinions as himself.”

Then one of my books in 1908 Ethel Hayman was awarded a book on Egypt or Typewriting by the London County Council. The Story of the Nations – Egypt by George Rawlinson. The Amarna period gets a whole chapter by now but the successors are not even mentioned by name. “The peculiar views of Khuen-Aten, or Amenhotep IV, were maintained by the two or three succeeding kings, who had short and disturb reigns”.

So next time you are buying your umpteenth book on Tutankhamen, Ay, Horemheb, Smenkhare, Akhenaton just remember how much we have learnt about these people as Egyptology has advanced and raise a glass to the Egyptologists of the past who recorded what they knew and saw and left us with a great legacy.

No comments: