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Tutankhamen : the life and death of the boy-king
Christine El Mahdy
Adult Nonfiction DT87.5 .E4 2001

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From Publishers' Weekly:

When British archeologist Howard Carter first opened King Tutankhamen's tomb in November 1922, his patron, Lord Carnarvon, standing behind him, impatiently asked if he saw anything. In one of the great moments in archeological history, Carter, dumbstruck, could only utter, "Yes, wonderful things." Briskly written by Egyptologist El Mahdy, this book is also a wonderful thing. El Mahdy seeks to shift attention away from the headline-grabbing elements of the tomb and toward the historical figure of Tutankhamen himself. Despite immense interest in his tomb, our knowledge of Tutankhamen's life, including who his parents were and how he died, is sparse. In fact, El Mahdy maintains, the accepted story of Tutankhamen is marred by inaccuracies and misperceptions. By scrutinizing the evidence from his tomb (which was full of intriguing anomalies), she reconstructs a spate of long-hidden details about his life and death. Examining Tut's mummy, El Mahdy argues that he was not murdered, but died suddenly of natural causes, probably a tumor. This is significant because his sudden death could easily have led to a power struggle and political crises in Egypt. Instead, it led to a cover-up: Tutankhamen was secretly buried by his successor, the author argues, in order to ensure order in Egypt. Accessible and informative and full of the author's enthusiasm for her subject, El Mahdy's book provides some long-absent historical context to the life of the famous king. Although at times she overextends herselfÄas when she posits that homosexuality did not exist in ancient EgyptÄEl Mahdy has, generally speaking, produced a concise and lively account of life in ancient Egypt and a balanced historical discussion of Carter's discovery. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Biographies can be controversial even when based on richer documentary sources than a small corpus of often fragmentary inscriptions, decorative temple reliefs, tomb paintings, funerary equipment, and mummies from the 14th century B.C.E. El Mahdy (Egyptology, Liverpool Univ.) employs the fallacious premise that "we now have incontrovertible archaeological evidence for the true story of Tutankhamen, and can recreate the events of his life and death." Previous biographies of the short-lived king include Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt's classic Tutankhamen: Life and Death of a Pharaoh (1990) and Bob Brier's highly imaginative and sensational The Murder of Tutankhamen: A True Story (LJ 12/97). El Mahdy' s work fits somewhere in between and includes all of the evidence currently available for analysis. The author provides an introductory primer on Egyptian culture during the Eighteenth Dynasty and outlines the 1922 discovery and subsequent clearing of Tutankhamen's tomb. Unfortunately, El Mahdy includes totally speculative commentary, e.g., that Nefertiti and her purportedly half-sister Mutnodjme "regarded each other as full sisters" and that "it seems that Nefertiti was the more beautiful of the two." To her credit, she includes as appendixes the complete texts of Tutankhamen's Restoration Stela, Akhenaten's Hymn to the Aten, Amenhotep III's commemorative scarabs, and Thutmose IV's Dream Stela. El Mahdy rejects the "murder" of Tutankhamen as "out of the question" based on the lack of evidence but proceeds to accept Julia Samson's theory that there was no ephemeral King Smenkhkare but rather Nefertiti as coregent using that name. Most of this same material is handled more judiciously by Joyce Tyldesley in Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen (LJ 2/15/99). If only one book is to be purchased, Tyldesley's is the most "factual." To appreciate the complexities of the archaeological puzzle, the books by Brier and El Mahdy offer the lay reader interesting alternative conjectures.DEdward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Sys., Ft. Pierce, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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