Distributed for Reaktion Books
From Roman villas to Hollywood films, ancient Egypt has been a source of fascination and inspiration in many other cultures. But why, exactly, has this been the case? In this book, Christina Riggs examines the history, art, and religion of ancient Egypt to illuminate why it has been so influential throughout the centuries. In doing so, she shows how the ancient past has always been used to serve contemporary purposes.
Often characterized as a lost civilization that was discovered by adventurers and archeologists, Egypt has meant many things to many different people. Ancient Greek and Roman writers admired ancient Egyptian philosophy, and this admiration would influence ideas about Egypt in Renaissance Europe as well as the Arabic-speaking world. By the eighteenth century, secret societies like the Freemasons looked to ancient Egypt as a source of wisdom, but as modern Egypt became the focus of Western military strategy and economic exploitation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its ancient remains came to be seen as exotic, primitive, or even dangerous, tangled in the politics of racial science and archaeology. The curse of the pharaohs or the seductiveness of Cleopatra were myths that took on new meanings in the colonial era, while ancient Egypt also inspired modernist, anti-colonial movements in the arts, such as in the Harlem Renaissance and Egyptian Pharaonism. Today, ancient Egypt—whether through actual relics or through cultural homage—can be found from museum galleries to tattoo parlors. Riggs helps us understand why this “lost civilization” continues to be a touchpoint for defining—and debating—who we are today.
208 pages | 25 color plates, 25 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2017
History: Ancient and Classical History
Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards
"It is Riggs’s apparently inexhaustible fund of examples, and the well-targeted deployment of her material, from the physical remains of ancient Egypt itself to the iconography of the Arab Spring, that engages and carries the reader through this lively and informative survey. Tracing her story from the Roman period to the present day, Riggs guides us through the influences this 'lost' civilization has exerted, and the numerous reactions it has provoked. . . . Accessibly written, assuming no prior knowledge on the reader’s part, it has an engaging tone, and never patronizes."
Times Literary Supplement
"Rigg’s Egypt is one of Reaktion Books’ accessible and informative Lost Civilizations guides. It is, however, much more than a chronological survey of ancient Egypt; it is also an elegant and intriguing thematic interpretation of that civilization’s grip on our imagination ever since."
"Riggs shows that ancient Egypt is whatever we want it to be. Importantly, many of our assumptions are just that – assumptions, and so ought to be acknowledged as such. . . .There is no doubt that this will be a genuinely eye-opening read for many. The fundamental point is inescapable; for those with an unproblematic, romantic vision (‘enjoyment’) of ancient Egypt—i.e. most interested people—this will be a surprising and not-altogether-pleasant jolt. Therefore, for the numerous consumers of ‘pop’ Egyptology (and I write this as a frequent peddler of such), members of special interest societies and readers of this magazine, this is an absolutely essential antidote to the gloss and the glitz. Modestly priced, this book is highly recommended."
Ancient Egypt Magazine
"With this book, Riggs admirably achieves the objectives of the publisher's Lost Civilizations series, which looks at the rise and fall of a civilization and assesses its artistic and cultural legacy, and explains why it remains relevant for readers today. Riggs concludes that ancient Egypt has been gone for two thousand years, and so is lost. While many remains from ancient Egypt have survived, she asserts that each culture, society, or generation interprets them differently. . . . For those seeking a brief introduction, Riggs's book, including its chronology and bibliography, is perfect. . . . Essential."
“This refreshingly different and beautifully written account of ancient Egypt goes beyond the ancient civilization itself to explore the ways in which it can be said to be ‘lost’ and rediscovered.’”
Gay Robins, Emory University