Originally posted on LJ on May 19, 2010
I just finished reading a book called “Red Land, Black Land” that was written by Barbara Mertz, and can be found here. At first, I was nervous to buy the book. While flipping through it, I couldn’t tell how accurate it would be- since it seemed more like a novel than research. However, I was wrong.
The book is somewhat unique in the sense that it speaks in laymens terms. It’s made for people who don’t have a background in Egyptology, so it’s written plainly, and you can tell that she uses a more novel based approach (she is an author of novels as well). What is the coolest part (to me) is that it feels like she’s talking to you- its very laid back.
However, the information inside is great. I learned a lot of new stuff, which is hard to say for me. The book itself was geared to the everyday lives of the ancient egyptians. And she does a good job at painting them as real people- not just faceless statistics. I also enjoyed that she was frank about what she knows and what she doesn’t know. She offers multiple theories about certain topics, and does a good job at keeping rather objective about the situation. And my favorite part?
That she mentions frequently that nothing is certain- that things change all the time in Egyptology.
Which is something I think needs to be said more. Most of the things I learned were small facts- I learned about toiletries, the set up of houses, clothing styles, and the fact that the reliefs only show a tiny tiny portion of what we’ve found on actual people. Clothes had far more variety than the reliefs would lead us to believe. Which is cool. I also learned some interesting things about pharaohs- like that Thutmose should be Djehutymose- that we use part Greek translation of Thoth and the Egyptian word Mose. I also found out that Ramesses’ hair was dyed red, and we’re not sure of his real hair color. Also learned a bit about mummification. She also addresses the concept of there being a completely matriarchal society in prehistoric countries- that women were revered as goddesses for their birthing abilities, and that men took over. She more or less explains how that is more than likely NOT the case. Ironic, considering how many Wiccan books start with that exact train of thought. She also addresses the concept of the Set vs. Heru thing being started with a war. I’ve read many books that totally negate this possibility- and that it wasn’t really a possibility.
On a side note, she talks about the Contendings. And unlike *most* people, she views them as something that is more humerous in nature, than it is to be taken seriously. I also found out that Heru apparently cuts of Aset’s head because she accidentally helped Setekh. Interesting. It has spawned me to want to read the translations for myself. So we’ll see where that goes. It should also be noted that in general, she likes to try and keep mysticism out of stuff. She usually offers up more mundane explanations as to why something might be the way that it is. Makes sense to me. Both sides are important.
On the downside (which there isn’t much) I had to read about Ahkenaten again. AGAIN. I’m so tired of reading about him. I don’t like him, and he serves no purpose to my individual study. Yet everyone seems to feel the need to address him. Also, you can tell that she has a thing against Ramesses II and a thing for Amenhotep III. Just as a warning, if you read. Also, you can tell she’s not into the magical based stuff, so if you believe in magic and heka, you might find her section on that a bit annoying. But really, she does try to see things from the ancient’s point of view, which I can appreciate.
I think the book was great, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in the people of AE, not just the monoliths, reliefs, tombs and temples of AE. I really enjoyed the book.