Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Fortifications of Ancient Egypt

Egyptologist Carola Vogel has written a good, if short, book entitled "The Fortifications of Ancient Egypt, 3000-1780 BC". This slim volume (only 64 pages in length)  primarily discusses the Middle Kingdom fortifications the Egyptians built in what is now the Sudan.

The construction and architecture of the forts is covered, as is the life of soldiers of the garrison. The book also includes a "tour" of the major fortresses, Aniba, Buhen, Uronarti and Semna-West, describing the defenses and locations of each fort within the overall defensive scheme the Egyptians used at the second cataract.

The book is profusely illustrated with 74 photos, line drawings and paintings, all of very high quality. At $18.95 the book may seem a bit pricy for it's size, but it is well written and informative. If the subject interests you, I would definitely recommend the book.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Old Books and Modern Technology

When I was very young I had to do a research project on the Greek and Persian wars. My parents took me to the public library where I came across a copy of James Breasted’s History of Ancient Egypt, and on that day my lifelong fascination with Egyptian history began. Breasted’s re-telling of the story of Tuthmose III’s military campaigns fired my imagination. I also found it fascinating to think that Tuthmose found the Levant to be so different from Egypt that he ordered representations of the plants and animals he saw there to be carved on to the walls of the temple of Karnak. Years later, I would go to Karnak and see those carvings for myself. 

Levantine Plants in Karnak Temple - Reign of Tuthmose III
Unfortunately, the library was in what could be politely referred to as the bad part of town, so I could not go to the library to take the book out anytime I wanted to read it. I spent the better part of twenty years trying to find a copy of the book to add to my library and was finally able to do so after moving to New York City.

I recently decided to re-read the book again, even though it is now over a century old and badly out of date. Carrying a copy of a heavy hardcover book around in the same briefcase I am carrying a laptop in was not too appealing however. So I decided to see if there was an electronic version of the book available and, sure enough, I found a copy on Amazon. Unlike my first attempt to find a copy of the book, this search took less than five minutes and I was able to buy and download it while commuting to work.

I would like to believe that Professor Breasted would be thrilled to think that people are still reading his book 110 years after he wrote it, and I wonder what he would think of how I got my latest copy!

Photo Copyright 2012 by John Freed