Originally posted on LJ on May 3, 2010
I finally finished Barry Kemp’s “AE: Anatomy of a Civilization“, and I must say, it’s one of my favorite books. Ever.
It was a book that I wasn’t sure I’d want to get- I felt that perhaps it’d be too deep for me, or very complex, since it focuses more on the civilization and anthropology than anything else. However, I ended up falling in love with it. Why? Because it questions. So many times, Egyptologists throw things out there, without a whole lot of after thought, and people accept it as absolute truth. However, this book takes some of the common thought processes, and attempts to challenge them. He is also very good about keeping what he knows to specific eras of Egypt- not citing things from the LK and thinking it’s absolutely the same way in the OK. He also goes into many things you never see in books- things like how the administration runs, how buildings and cities were set up, and into the life of the king- behind the pomp and circumstance that you’d normally see him in. He shows Egypt for what it really was- people- some good, some bad- and we’re talking people that weren’t completely unlike us. I mostly appreciated reading about his theories of tying the kingship to the religious aspects, and why it needed (or could have needed) to been done as such. Overall, I’d recommend the book to any Kemetic. I know many Kemetics don’t care about the way Egyptians practiced the religion that we’ve sorta taken over, but I think it is worth it- because in order to fully understand the religion, you need to understand the contexts in which is was originally practiced. And this book goes into a lot of the details that you never see anywhere else.
After reading the book, I think there are a few points that we made that all Kemetics need to realize/understand/keep in mind:
-We don’t know anything about AE that is 100% without a doubt correct. there is the potential for error in everything we “know”.
-The pharaoh, and the priests were people like us- they bled, they died, they weren’t always model citizens.
-You can’t take a fact from the Ptolemy era and assume that it was the same way in the Old Kingdom. Really, we can’t assume that anything transfers from one era to the next.
-We shouldn’t be afraid to look at the religious movements and ideas, and see if there is also a mundane reason for why things were done, as opposed to “The Gods say so.”
And so on. That’s it for now. I loved this book, and I’d definitely recommend it.