Thursday, May 17, 2018

Discovering Tutankhamun: From Howard Carter to DNA 1st Edition by Zahi Hawass (The American University in Cairo Press)

This is an interesting book that I can almost heartily recommend. It should be of value to the general reader and is also a nice book for those whose studies are more specialized. Of course, a lot of the information regarding the tomb of Tutankhamun has already been published way too many times. However, much of the generally available information is now hopelessly out of date, and many so-called facts and interpretations and theories have recently been disproved. This book does include virtually all of the latest discoveries. For instance, the latest information on the fate of Nefertiti, both in a historical sense and in an archaeological sense, is included.

The information is clearly stated and easy to read. It is intended for a general audience and more technical information is absent.

The photographs are generally of good quality, but they are spread out across the page, overlapping each other. In many, the backgrounds have been Photoshopped out, leaving some odd edges. I suppose this is intended to look modern and interesting, but a more static layout would have better served the details and the aesthetic appearance. This is a small complaint, assuming you already own one of the many beautifully presented books detailing the objects in Tutankhamun’s tomb.

I purchased this book primarily because of the DNA reference in the title. The original DNA test results were expertly published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, that article was not all inclusive. I had expected to find in this new book all the results and interpretations of the DNA material of all the related mummies. This book does deal with the examination of Tut, the two female fetuses in the tomb, the body in KV 55, Amenhotep III, Yuya and Tuya, the two ladies from KV 21, and the two ladies from KV 35. Whereas the JAMA article gave the scientific evidence, this book simply gives the general results as interpreted by the team. I was very disappointed to find that this book does not include all the results, as it is stated that the study of “mtDNA and other genetic data” is still in progress and a new publication will provide that information. It also will “address the issue of DNA decay.” That seems to make the publication of this book a bit premature. I’m not sure why Hawass didn’t wait until all the information was available. I suspect it was either to fulfill a contract or just a moneymaker.

The book title is also a bit misleading in that several parts of the book do not deal directly with Tutankhamun. A few of those chapters are very interesting, especially the one on KV63 and KV64 and other recent excavations in the Valley of the Kings. Although that chapter’s title, too, is a misnomer as it also deals with the discoveries outside of the Valley, such as at Kom el-Hitan and Medinet Habu.

Chapter titles are as follows:

The Golden Age of Egypt: Dynasty 18
Religion and Life After Death
Robbers in the Valley of the Kings
The Tomb and its Treasures
Tutankhamun’s Mummy
The Discovery of the Family of Tutankhamun
The Valley of the Kings and Finds after the Discovery of Tutankhamun
The Curse of Tutankhamun

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