Monday, January 26, 2015

The Millionaire who Hunted Mummies

     The Millionaire and the Mummies is the story of Theodore Davis, who is best known for finding more tombs in Egypt's Valley of the Kings than any other explorer before or since. But Davis' rise to fortune is a classic story of financial shenanigans that involved making money from an association with "Boss" Tweed and from the hard work of liquidating (looting?) an insolvent bank.

     Davis knew poverty as a child and was determined to become rich. And so he did. He was also the subject of three congressional investigations, from which he escaped totally unscathed (how much money was paid to various members of Congress is unrecorded).It would be easy to label him a greedy thief, but quite contrarily he was generous with his friends and relatives. And today he is best known for spending large amounts of money looking for the burials of ancient Egypt's royalty.

     Davis' expeditions found the tombs of Yuya and Thuya, Horemhab and many others, but it is the discovery of Tomb 55 that Davis is best known for. To this day we are not sure who was actually buried there. Davis insisted for ages that the body was that of Queen Tiye, (even though the doctor who examined it claimed that the body was male). Unlike many of his predecessors, Davis felt that most of his finds belonged in Egypt and he actually took far less for his personal collection than his agreements with the Antiquities Service allowed him.

     John M. Adams has done a great job of writing this book. He has skillfully moved back and forth between Davis' rise to wealth and power as a young man and his adventures in Egypt as a retiree. He paints a fascinating picture of Egypt in the early twentieth century and America in the Gilded Age (late 1800's). The book is well written, nicely paced and is easy to read. Anyone who is interested in Egyptian Archaeology will find this book fascinating.

No comments:

Post a Comment