As the title would imply, this list is meant to do two things which are perhaps just slightly at odds with one another. On the one hand, it’s simply a bibliography, a list of the sources I used in my research. On the other, it’s meant to provide the reader who would like to continue to explore the history of ancient Egypt and Egyptology with a list of books that bear directly on one or both of the subjects, are relatively contemporary, aren’t too dry in tone, and yet are factual (with the exception, that is, of the one novel I’ve included). I’ve set these recommended books apart from the others by underlining them and making them into links to Amazon. If you are an Amazon customer, I would hugely appreciate it if you could buy them through these links; that way, a few pennies of the purchase price will come to me. But then, if you’d prefer to support your local brick-and-mortar bookseller, that’s a noble cause as well…
The best current single-volume history of ancient Egypt which I know of is Toby Wilkinson’s The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt. That might be a good place to start. In the end, though, all of the linked-and-underlined books are worthy and enjoyable reads. By all means, explore wherever your interest has been piqued!
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The Greek Plays. Edited by Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm. New York: Modern Library, 2016. Kindle edition.
Annesley, George. Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt. 3 vols. London: W. Bulmer, 1809.
d’Athanasi, Giovanni. A Brief Account of the Researches and Discoveries in Upper Egypt Made under the Direction of Henry Salt. London: John Hearne, 1836.
Bahn, Paul. Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. 2nd ed. Oxford: University of Oxford, 1996/2012.
Baines, John and Jaromir Malek. Atlas of Ancient Egypt. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 1980/2002.
Barnes, Michael, Robin Brightwell, Adriana von Hagen, Mark Lehner, and Cynthia Page. Secrets of Lost Empires: Reconstructing the Glories of Ages Past. New York: Sterling, 1997.
Bauman, Zygmunt. Mortality, Immortality, and Other Life Strategies. Cambridge: Polity, 1992.
Belzoni, G. Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia. London: John Murray, 1820.
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. Translated and edited by Richard F. Burton. 17 vols. Burton Club.
Boorstin, Daniel J. The Discoverers. New York: Vintage, 1983.
Brück, H.A. and M.T. Brück. The Peripatetic Astronomer: The Life of Charles Piazzi Smyth. Bristol and Philadelphia: Adam Hilger, 1988.
Burckhardt, John Lewis. Travels in Nubia. London: John Murray, 1819.
Burleigh, Nina. Mirage: Napoleon’s Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt. HarperCollins. Kindle edition.
Caffery, Jefferson. “Fresh Treasures from Egypt’s Ancient Sands.” National Geographic, November 1955.
de Camp, L. Sprague. The Ancient Engineers. New York: Ballantine, 1960/1962/1963.
Carne, John. Letters from the East: Written During a Recent Tour through Turkey, Egypt, Arabia, the Holy Land, Syria,and Greece. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London: Henry Colburn, 1826.
Caviglia, Giovanni. Letter to the editor of the Journal des Voyages. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle 90 (April 1820): 347-348.
Cottrell, Leonard. The Mountains of Pharaoh: 2,000 Years of Pyramid Exploration. London: Robert Hale, 1956.
von Daniken, Erich. Chariots of the Gods?: Was God an Astronaut? Translated by Michael Heron Berkley. London: Souvenir Press, 1968/1969. Kindle edition.
Dash, Glen. “The Great Pyramid’s Footprint: Results from Our 2015 Survey.” AERAgram 16, no. 2 (Fall 2015): 8-14.
Dash, Glen. “New Angles on the Great Pyramid.” AERAgram 13, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 10-19.
Denon, Vivant. Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt. Translated by Arthur Aikin. 3 vols. London: T. Gillet, 1803.
Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York and London: W.W. Norton. Kindle edition.
Drower, Margaret S. Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology. 2nd ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1985/1995. Kindle edition.
Durant, Will. The Story of Civilization, Volume I: Our Oriental Heritage. New York: Simon and Schuster. Kindle edition.
Ebers, Georg. Richard Lepsius: A Biography. Translated by Zoe Dana Underhill. New York: William S. Gottsberger, 1887.
Edwards, Amelia B. A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. London: Longmans, Green.
Fagan, Brian M. The Rape of the Nile: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt. 3rd ed. Oxford: Westview, 1975/1992/2004. Kindle edition.
Fagan, Garret G., editor. Archaeological Fantasies. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006.
Findlen, Paula, ed. Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything. New York and London: Routledge, 2004.
Fitzclarence, Lieutenant-Colonel. Journal of a Route across India, Through Egypt, to England. London: John Murray, 1819.
Foreign correspondence from Cairo. The Athenaeum 829 (September 16, 1843): 844.
Fritze, Ronald H. Invented Knowledge: False History, Fake Science, and Pseudo-Religions. London: Reaktion, 2009.
Greaves, John. Miscellaneous Works of Mr. John Greaves. Edited by Thomas Birch. 2 vols. London: J. Hughs, 1737.
Halls, J.J. The Life and Correspondence of Henry Salt. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London: Richart Bentley, 1834.
Hancock, Graham. Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization. New York: Three Rivers, 1995. Kindle edition.
Hancock, Graham and Robert Bauval. The Message of the Sphinx: A Quest for the Hidden Legacy of Mankind. New York: Three Rivers, 1996. Kindle edition.
Hancock, Graham. The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. New York: Crown, 1992. Kindle edition.
Harrison, Robert Pogue. The Dominion of the Dead. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2003.
Hassan, Selim. The Great Sphinx and Its Secrets: Historical Studies in the Light of Recent Excavations. Cairo: Government Press, 1953.
Hawass, Zahi. Mountains of the Pharaohs: The Untold Story of the Pyramid Builders. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 2006.
Hawass, Zahi. The Secrets of the Sphinx: Restoration Past and Present. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 1998.
Hennessy, Henry. “Standard of Measure.” The Anthenaeum 1697 (May 5, 1860): 617-618.
Herodotus, The History of Herodotus. Translated by G.C. Macaulay. London and New York: MacMillan, 1890.
Herschel, J.F.W. “British Modular Standard of Length.” The Athenaeum 1696 (April 26, 1860): 581-582.
Herschel, J.F.W. “Standard of Measure.” The Athenaeum 1697 (May 5, 1860): 617.
Herz-Fischler, Roger. The Shape of the Great Pyramid. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University, 2000. Kindle edition.
Howitt, William. “The Pyramids of Egypt.” The Athenaeum 860 (April 20, 1844): 358-360.
Lehner, Mark Edward. “Archaeology of an Image: The Great Sphinx of Giza.” PhD diss., Yale University, 1991.
Lehner, Mark. The Complete Pyramids. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 1997.
Lepsius, Richard. Discoveries in Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Peninsula of Sinai, in the Years 1842-1845. Translated and edited by Kenneth R.H. Mackenzie. 2nd ed. London: Richard Bentley, 1853.
Lepsius, Richard. Letter reprinted from The Prussian Gazette. The Athenaeum 803 (March 18, 1843): 268-269.
Mandeville, Sir John. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville: The Version of the Cotton Manuscript in Modern Spelling. London and New York: Macmillan, 1900.
Manley, Deborah and Peta Rée. Henry Salt: Artist, Traveller, Diplomat, Egyptologist. London: Libri, 2001.
Marchant, Joe. “Cosmic-ray Particles reveal secret chamber in Egypt’s Great Pyramid.” Nature online news. Last modified November 6, 2017. https://www.nature.com/news/cosmic-ray-particles-reveal-secret-chamber-in-egypt-s-great-pyramid-1.22939.
Mariette, Auguste. Outlines of Ancient Egyptian History. Translated and edited by Mary Brodrick. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1892.
Mayes, Stanley. The Great Belzoni: The Circus Strongman Who Discovered Egypt’s Treasures. London: Tauris, 1959.
Miatello, Luca. “Examining the Grand Gallery in the Pyramid of Khufu and Its Features.” PalArch’s Journal of Egypt/Egyptology 7 (2010): 1-36.
Milton, Giles. The Riddle and the Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville, The World’s Greatest Traveller. New York: Picador. Kindle edition.
Morell, Virginia. “The Pyramid Builders.” National Geographic, November 2001.
Moscati, Sabatino. The Face of the Ancient Orient: Near Eastern Civilization in Pre-Classical Times. Mineola: Dover, 1960. Kindle edition.
News from the Syro-Egyptian of London. The Athenaeum 1699 (May 19, 1860): 687.
Norden, Fredrick Lewis. Travels in Egypt and Nubia. Translated by Peter Templeman. London: Lockyer Davis and Charles Reymers, 1757.
“Observations relating to some of the Antiquities of Egypt, from the Papers of the late Mr. Davison.” The Quarterly Review 19, No. 38 (April 1818): 391-424.
O’Grady, Patricia F. Thales of Miletus: The Beginnings of Western Science and Philosophy. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
Perring, J.S. “On the Construction of the Pyramids.” The Athenaeum 854 (March 9, 1844): 221-223.
Perrottet, Tony. Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of the Ancient Roman Tourists. New York: Random House. Kindle edition.
Peters, Elizabeth. Crocodile on the Sandbank: An Amelia Peabody Mystery. New York: Grand Central, 1975. Kindle edition.
Petrie, W.M. Flinders. The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. Revised ed. edited by Zahi Hawass. London: Histories & Mysteries of Man, 1883/1990.
Petrie, Flinders. Seventy Years in Archaeology. New York: Henry Holt, 1932.
Petrie, W.M. Flinders. Ten Years’ Digging in Egypt, 1881-1891. New York and Chicago: Fleming H. Revell.
Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: University of Oxford, 2004. Kindle edition.
Pococke, Richard. A Description of the East and Some Other Countries. 2 vols. London: W. Bowyer, 1743.
Ray, John. “Fact, Fantasy, and ‘Pyramidiots.'” Times of London, July 23, 2003.
Reisner, George Andrew. A History of the Giza Necropolis, Volume I. Cambridge: Harvard University, 1942.
Review of Belzoni’s Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs, and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia. The Quarterly Review 24, No. 47 (October 1820): 139-169.
Review of Taylor’s The Great Pyramid: Why Was It Built? And Who Built It?. The Athenaeum 1676 (December 10, 1859): 772.
Richardson, Robert. Travels along the Mediterranean, and Parts Adjacent. 2 vols. London: T. Cadell and W. Blackwood, 1822.
Rigano, Charles. Pyramids of the Giza Plateau: Pyramids Complexes of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2014. Kindle edition.
Roberts, David. “Age of Pyramids: Egypt’s Old Kingdom.” National Geographic, January 1995.
Robinson, Andrew. Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-Francois Champollion. Oxford: Oxford University. Kindle edition.
Romer, John. The Great Pyramid: Ancient Egypt Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2007.
Romer, John. A History of Ancient Egypt : From the First Farmers to the Great Pyramid. Kindle edition.
Romer, John. A History of Ancient Egypt, Volume 2: From the Great Pyramid to the Fall of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Thomas Dunne, 2016. Kindle edition.
Russell, Terence M. The Discovery of Egypt: Vivant Denon’s Travels with Napoleon’s Army. Stroud: History Press, 2005. Kindle edition.
Shalev, Zur. “Measurer of All Things: John Greaves (1602-1652), the Great Pyramid, and Early Modern Metrology.” Journal of the History of Ideas 63, no. 4 (October 2002): 555-575.
Siliotti, Alberto and Zahi Hawass. The Illustrated Guide to the Pyramids. Translated by A.B.A., Milan. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 1997.
Smith, John Thomas. A Book for a Rainy Day or Recollections of the Events of the Years 1766-1833. Edited by Wilfred Whitten. London: Methuen, 1905.
Smyth, C. Piazzi. Life and Work at the Great Pyramid During the Months of January, February, March, and April, AD 1865. 3 vols. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1867.
Smyth, C. Piazzi. On the Antiquity of Intellectual Man, from a Practical and Astronomical Point of View. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1868.
Smyth, Piazzi. Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid. 4th ed. London: Wm. Isbister, 1880.
Steger, Manfred B. Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. 4th ed. Oxford, University of Oxford, 2003/2009/2013/2017. Kindle edition.
Stille, Alexander. “The World’s Oldest Papyrus and What It Can Tell Us about the Great Pyramids.” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2015.
Strathern, Paul. Napoleon in Egypt. Bantam. Kindle edition.
Taylor, John. “Ancient Standard of the British Inch.” The Athenaeum 1701 (June 2, 1860): 758.
Taylor, John. The Battle of the Standards: The Ancient, of Four Thousand Years, Against the Modern, of the Last Fifty Years — The Less Perfect of the Two. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1864.
Taylor, John. The Great Pyramid: Why Was It Built? And Who Built It? Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1859.
Thompson, Jason. Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology, Volume 1: From Antiquity to 1881. Cairo: American University in Cairo, 2014. Kindle edition.
Turner, William. Journal of a Tour in the Levant. 3 vols. London: John Murray, 1820.
Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress. Hartford: American Publishing, 1875.
Vyse, Howard. Operations Carried on at the Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837. 3 vols. London: James Fraser, 1840.
Walpole, Robert. Memoirs Relating to European and Asiatic Turkey. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1817.
Wild, James W. Letter to the editor. The Athenaeum 800 (February 25, 1843): 189-190.
Wild, James William. “Pyramids of Lower Egypt.” The Athenaeum 868 (June 15, 1844): 549-550.
Wilkinson, Gardner. A Handbook for Travellers in Egypt. London: John Murray, 1867.
Wilkinson, Toby. The Nile: Travelling Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present. New York: Vintage, 2014. Kindle edition.
Wilkinson, Toby. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt. New York: Random House, 2010. Kindle edition.
(This series's cover art is by KennyOMG, and is utilized under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)
8 Comments for "Bibliography and Suggested Further Reading"
If suggestions are allowed, there’s Lehner and Hawass’s massive book about Giza, titled Giza and the Pyramids: The Definitive History (2017), from University of Chicago Press.
Suggestions certainly are allowed, and appreciated!
There’s also The Pyramids of Egypt by I. E. S. Edwards, which in its various editions (1947, 1961, 1975, 1985, 1993) seems to have been the most authoritative book on Egyptian pyramids in general for most of the late 20th century, although to judge by the comments of Jason Thompson (listed above) , it’s not especially readable. Miroslav Verner’s book The Pyramids (2002) is similar in scope to Lehner’s Complete Pyramids. Jason Colavito is publishing a book next year titled Legends of the Pyramids, about how the medieval legends about the Great Pyramid emerged and how they shape fringe history to this day.
The biggest collection of information about Giza online is the Giza Archives Project Library (http://www.gizapyramids.org/static/html/library.jsp), which contains an enormous number of books and studies free for download. Most of it is too abstruse for the average reader to be interested in, but it’s such an amazing resource, I feel obligated to mention it.
Last suggestion, I swear. Giza: The Truth (slightly revised edition 2001), by Ian Lawton and Chris Ogilvie-Herald, is the best guide to the Giza controversies of the 1990s, and it explains in detail how Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval became the most influential alternative Egyptologists today.
At first, I thought the Nature online article (filed in the list under “Marchant, Joe”) was no longer accessible, because the link gave me an error. When I searched by title and found the article, I noticed that the link was the same, except your link has included the period at the end, so clicking on it doesn’t link to the right place.
Fixed now. Thanks!
First of all, a HUGE thanks to you for both doing the research and putting this together in a very, very gripping adventure story.
As for my own two cents, they are as follows:
1) Belzoni was truly an engineering mastermind. I know it is irrelevant to the work he did with the Pyramids, but his excavation of sand and dirt from Abu Simbel was a truly colossal and magnificent undertaking. I am truly sorry that nobody in his day was interested in recreating how the pyramids were built (or obelisks raised, etc) as it seems Barzoni was much more in touch with “ancient” ways of moving heavy things than anyone else in the modern era.
2) I heartily second your recommendation of reading “The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt” as a superb book chronicling the known history of Egypt.
3) One of the curious byproducts of associating “red” with death in Ancient Egypt was that they abhorred iron and never used it for tools, weapons, etc. As far as I am aware, only a few small pieces of meteoric (rather than mined/smelted) iron have ever been found in Ancient Egyptian sites. This is of pretty significant importance since, as far as “official academic thought” goes, the Ancient Egyptians were quarrying and sculpting all of those tons of granite purely with COPPER tools (or balls of dolomite rock). I’ve yet to see any convincing demonstration of how copper tools (and the other techniques like temperature cracking the rock) were really up to the job of building ALL THOSE MASSIVE THINGS, including the Pyramids.
4) Long before mummies were intentionally created, the people of Egypt had to have noticed that dead animals (and people) remained remarkably well-preserved in the arid conditions of that country (indeed, many other cultures outside of Egypt with dry climates also adopted mummification practices of one type or another). They must’ve been finding well-preserved remains for centuries before any “cult of the dead” began, and it’s likely that the discovery of “everlasting” bodies in the ground contributed to the belief in an eternal afterlife that later became more embellished and baroque.
5) Another contributing factor to mummification and “the cult of the dead” is the fact that, when Egypt’s climate went from wet to dry is that a number of lakes dried up, creating large deposits of a special salt called “natrum.” This salt seems to have been PARTICULARLY well suited for preserving meat (similar to the way the salt in Colonial Virginia led to a flourishing of the salted ham industry), so it isn’t much of a step to using the salt to preserve “human meat” aka the bodies of pharaohs and other VIPs. Interestingly, the exact technique of how to mummify someone EFFECTIVELY got lost over the years to the point that even New Kingdom pharaohs were not mummified very skillfully. Even today, nobody is quite sure exactly how to mummify a body (although a few rather horrifying experiments have been tried on animals).
6) That natrum, btw, also played a huge role in Egypt’s other superior technology (besides building monumental architecture), which is the art of creating faience glass. Natrum gives the glass a deep blue color that is known even today as “Egyptian Blue” and was a huge “money maker” for Egypt in their international trade networks.
6b) BTW, one other interesting fact about natrum is that, if you mix it with oil, it provides a smokeless form of illumination (oil lamp). This may explain how the Egyptians managed to do so much tunneling and carving underground without scorching the ceilings and walls as the European visitors in the 19th century later did.
7) Another interesting and vital fact about the Nile is that while the water flows from south to north, there is a consistent wind that blows the OPPOSITE direction (still true today). This means you can float south using the river’s current and sail north with ease (indeed, sailing is faster than floating). Without this wind, it would’ve been practically impossible to unite the country or to transport all those mega tons of cargo (food, blocks of stone, etc).
8) Literally everyone has a theory about the Sphinx, even though we don’t even know what the Ancient Egyptians called it, but mine is that the head was a natural outcropping of harder rock that got sculpted by the wind into a roughly head-looking shape. That plus the fact that water seems to collect near the Sphinx (as evidenced in one of your chapters with a European explorer hit by a freak rain storm) leads me to think that the rough shape of the Sphinx (little head plus big long body) was naturally formed and then later sculpted and added onto by human engineers and artists. What’s always struck me as odd is the description of it being a “lion” when it looks for all the world to me like a dog. The length of the forelegs is simply out of whack for it being a feline, in my mind, anyway. The tail does look feline, but it was elaborated upon far later.
9) Like many other tourists, I’ve been inside the Great Pyramid, and it is exceedingly weird that there is not a single hieroglyph or painting or anything else. It simply boggles the mind that the greatest engineering feat in the history of humankind had no marks or carvings whatsoever when every other thing in Egypt (right down to the pots and pans) all do. I wish I had an explanation for it, just like the “air shafts” that aren’t air shafts, but it seems that the Big 3 pyramids will eternally remain a source of mystery.
10) I’m glad you mentioned the eye diseases that were (and in some parts still remain) such a problem. Life in Ancient Egypt was pretty effing bad – a diet consisting almost entirely of bread and beer (and the “beer” was a thick porridge type material drunk through a straw rather than the golden pure liquid we think of as beer today) and onions/leeks/garlic and mustard. Almost everyone was partially or wholly blind by adulthood, and few folks lived past 30. It was a BRUTAL lifestyle.
11) One of the weird features of Ancient Egypt’s “cashless society” was that, indeed, all taxes were paid for in the form of foodstuffs. Likewise, most “jobs” were paid in food as well as other essentials like “make-up” specifically the black kohl worn around the eyes. Indeed, the first known strike in history was from AE workers who were toiling away at a gold mine and hadn’t been paid their “ration” of eye make-up. Not quite sure whether the kohl was good at reducing the glare of the sun (similar to how NFL/MLB players paint the areas under their eyes black today), kept away the flies, or both/something else, but the “makeup strike” is an interesting historical event.
12) Ancient Egypt and Sumer started out similarly but then diverged in a spectacular way, all due to the building materials in the two countries. Egyptians built from stone (after “graduating” from mud bricks) because there was plenty of stone around, but they wrote on papyrus, a fragile material made out of river reeds. Sumerians, on the other hand, had almost no stone and no trees, so their buildings were made from organic materials and have long since melted into nothingness. On the other hand, Sumerians wrote on clay, which when baked, lasts almost forever. As a result, we have TONS of preserved documents from Sumer and TONS of preserved buildings in Egypt, but almost no written records from Egypt or buildings from Sumer.
12b) My understanding is that some of the pre-Narmer buildings were, indeed, built according to Sumerian architectural styles (involving a large gate at the entrance, etc) but then soon branched off into their own style. This link, though, may show how Sumerian writing kickstarted the written Egyptian language, especially as both languages (in their earliest forms) used pictures to represent syllables.
13) The Pyramids are awesome and, of course, the subject of this wonderful collection of essays. It is also worth noting just how frigging many tunnels and underground rooms/shafts the Ancient Egyptians dug out of the rock as well (including under the pyramids, esp Saqqara). As you superbly documented, just clearing those tunnels of rubble was a MASSIVE undertaking. The pyramids, whatever their purpose, can at least been SEEN by people. What motivated them to dig so many enormous underground labyrinths and a seemingly infinite number of “dead-end shafts” and “empty rooms”? No idea.
14) Last but not least, one of the weirder facts about Egyptian pyramids is that, while there are several hundred known to have been built, almost all of them have fallen to pieces EXCEPT for the Big 3, and the Red Pyramid, to a lesser extent. Truly remarkable how quickly Egyptian engineers (or their political masters) lost the skill of making them.
Thank you again for such a wonderfully told story about one of humanity’s most mysterious and impressive buildings!
You’re welcome! Thanks for this. I’m sure future readers will find it very interesting indeed.
I didn’t know much of it myself. I’m especially sheepish to admit that I didn’t know one could move both ways on the Nile without having to paddle.