Monday, September 16, 2013

How pottery tells us how much we don't actually know

Book: A History of Ancient Egypt: From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid
Author: John Romer
Published: 2013 (Penguin)
Pages: 395 (not counting end notes)

Not going to lie here, y’all – you need to be already interested in ancient Egypt before you start this book. Otherwise it’ll be hard going. There’s a lot of pottery to sift through.

But that’s the good part; Romer is excellent at talking about what those pottery shards mean and how they, along with other stuff that you might recognize from conventional Egyptology tropes, piece together a very faint picture of an empire everybody thought they knew.

This ain’t your grandma’s ancient Egypt, though. He dissects the modern, Western lens through which we’ve all been trained to look at the pyramids and archaeological finds and basically says that, look, we really have no idea what these mean, and what we’ve been using as facts are actually pretty bad guesses, so here are some better ones that come with giant caveats all meaning DUDES, WE WEREN’T THERE.

I want Romer to do this sort of check on like all known knowledge, just to make sure. He seems really good at it, and his writing is academic but not overly so. And this is just the first motherfucking volume, with another one to come, and I can only hope that he wrote all at one time and split them up because otherwise he’s probably sweating over a laptop with a doomsday clock ticking down on his wall right this second. I don’t wish hard deadlines on anyone, especially dudes who look like Elaine’s dad from Seinfeld and live in Italy (check the bio, yo).

This is a library book (picked fresh from the liberry tree!), so it’s going back, and I don’t think I’ll put it on my to-order list. It was good, I enjoyed reading it, but it took several breaks for lighter fair and never really felt fun enough for a re-read. I may or may not check out volume 2. We’ll see.

I feel like I have to put a disclaimer somewhere that I am not actually a librarian. I work in HR at a library, which is still awesome, and I plan on getting my MLIS eventually, and I can help you look something up on our online catalogue but…not a librarian. I mention this because I tried to distinguish it during a drunken discussion while watching a football game with people on Saturday, and I fear that was the worst possible scenario to get my point across.

But I’ll totally answer to librarian. Miss Bookstacks if you’re nasty, heh.

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