By Helen Whitehouse (Oxford, United Kingdom: Ashmolean Museum, 2009), xxvi + 148 pp., £16.95 (paperback)
Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum has displayed Egyptian artifacts since its inauguration in 1683—more than 120 years before Champollion announced the decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1822, thereby launching Egyptology as an academic subject. The introduction to this catalog is titled “Egypt in Oxford,” but it could just as easily have been called “Oxford in Egypt,” as it recounts British travels, explorations and excavations over the centuries that have contributed to one of the finest collections of Egyptian antiquities outside of Egypt.
Published as a celebration of the redesign and reinstallation of the Ashmolean’s core gallery devoted to Dynastic Egypt (now the Sackler Gallery of Egyptian Antiquities), this catalog—as well as the permanent exhibit on which it is based—offers a glimpse at countless attractive and intriguing artifacts from Egypt and Nubia that had previously been relegated to storage rooms. Spanning from Predynastic Egypt (c. 5300 B.C.) to the Arab Conquest (641 A.D.) and beyond, the pages of this volume are filled with color photos of finely carved statues, reliefs and amulets, as well as painted vases, sarcophagi and much more. A series of Coptic Christian tapestry-woven textiles from the eighth–tenth centuries depict colorful scenes from the Bible, including episodes from the Joseph story in Genesis (apparently a local favorite due to its connection with Egypt) as well as a roundel of the creation of man in Genesis 2:7.
With helpful maps, timelines and a glossary of terms, this catalog offers a fascinating survey of ancient Egypt’s long, rich history.—D.D.R.
Ancient Egypt and Nubia
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