cover image Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

Barbara Mertz. William Morrow & Company, $26.95 (410pp) ISBN 978-0-06-125274-7

When Mertz first published this book in 1966, she was among the first of the ""new breed"" of scientific archaeologists using sophisticated, detailed mapping and analytical techniques. The torrent of data produced by this new wave over the past 40 years has given Mertz plenty of material with which to update her works on Egypt (including the recently republished Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs). Mertz's style remains informal and down-to-earth, and her impeccable scholarly credentials never lead her to overstate or dogmatize; she is candid about what is still unknown and what's speculative, and organizes carefully the evidence against discredited theories. Though much of what is known about ancient Egyptians concerns those wealthy enough to have built elaborate tombs, the excavation of Deir el Medina, a workers' village near Thebes, has revealed much in recent decades about craftsmen, laborers, peasants and slaves. Mertz's description and analysis of architecture, wall paintings, sculpture, personal artifacts and papyrus manuscripts (religious texts, inventories, magical recipes, correspondence and even fiction) illuminate vividly the way ancient Egyptians ate, worked, dressed, behaved, entertained, made war, made love and prepared for death. With this thorough update, Mertz may once again inspire a new generation of archaeologists.