Age of the Pharaohs


There is enough published knowledge on Ancient Egypt these days to fill the old Alexandria library many times over. A great deal of it, however consists of outdated and “academically-unsound” books, articles and websites. Reader beware.

So where do you start – or continue your scholarly or general-interest readings?

Ancient Egypt Alive recommends the following respected resources to give you a solid foundation. While you may only get to a few, these are all strong choices, based on your interests and knowledge level:

  • The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson (London, 2010). – One of the best accounts of the great march of Egyptian history, very readable for the layperson!  The Age of the Pharaohs course follows most closely this account.

  • The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, edited by Jaromir Malek (Oxford, 2000) — a great survey of ancient Egyptian history used by Egyptology Students

  • Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs, A Popular History of Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz (Peter Bedrick Books, 1978) – although almost 40 years old, still a well-loved standard

  • An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (2nd ed.) by Kathryn Bard – Recommended if you are specifically interested in the archaeological sites of Egypt

  • Egypt: 4000 Years of Art by Jaromir Malek – fabulous book on the art of Ancient Egypt with lavish pictures

  • The woman who would be King, Dr. Kara Cooney (about the rise to power of Hatshepsut – fairly newly published)

  • Ancient Lives: The Story of the Pharaohs’ Tombmakers (Paperback)
    by John Romer – A wonderful storyteller, be sure to watch his Ancient Lives documentary series too.

  • Ancient Egypt, Anatomy of a Civilization by Barry Kemp (New York, 2006) – the definitive textbook for Egyptology students. Warning: not a light and breezy read but an extraordinary masterwork that breaks down the society and ideas in depth.

  • ‘The City of Akhenaten & Nefertiti: Amarna and its People’ by Barry Kemp (Thames & Hudson, 2012) – Prof. Kemp’s newest book is a must-read for those fascinated with the Amarna period

  • Archaic Egypt, Walter Emery, – a wonderful small paperback by a leading British archaeologist of the 1950s who worked at the 1st and 2nd dynasty Abydos tombs. Hidden gem.

  • ‘Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt’ by John Baines and Jaromir Malek (Facts on File, 1989) – an exceptional visual resource on ALL the sites and timelines. Highly recommended!

  • ‘The Complete Pyramids’ by Mark Lehner (London, 1997) – Highly recommended! very best resource on the pyramids bar none (outside of the actual archaeology site reports)

  • ‘The Complete Valley of the Kings’ by Nicholas Reeves and Richard Wilkinson (Thames & Hudson, 1996) – a fabulous resource for travellers wanting an understanding of the tombs of the kings during the New Kingdom.

  • Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids by Dorothea Arnold et al; (Metropolitan Museum in New York, 1999) – a fabulous large hardcover packed with in-depth articles and gorgeous art on the Old Kingdom. Definitive reading on the Old Kingdom

  • ‘Death and Burial in Ancient Egypt’ by Selima Ikram (AUC Press, 2003) – Great book to understand Egyptian mummies and burial practices – she is one of the leading authorities

  • ‘Ancient Egyptian Religion’ by Stephen Quirke (London 1980)

  • ‘Egyptian Art’ by Cyril Aldred (British Museum Press, 1992)

  • Reading Egyptian Art, A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture by Richard H. Wilkinson (Thames and Hudson, 1992)

Other great Egypt reads

  • ‘Ancient Egyptian Literature’ by Miriam Lichtheim (Berkeley press, 1975) – the definitive translation of Egypt’s great literary works
  • ‘A Thousand Miles up the Nile’ by Amelia Edwards (an historical travel novel from the late 19th century by the intrepid female founder of the EES who, as a lone woman, traveled the Nile in the 1870s)
  • ‘The Cairo Trilogy’ (beginning with “Palace Walk”) by Naguib Mahfouz – Cairo’s Nobel Prize-winning fiction writer – Fantastic work to immerse you in Cairo life between the wars.
  • ‘The Lost Tomb’ by Dr. Kent Weeks – the Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of Ramses sons (largest in the valley) Great lighter reading!
  • ‘Under the Sands of Egypt by Donald Ryan – the Egyptologist who discovered Hatshepsut’s tomb. Very lively read – a romping adventure!

New recommended releases

  • Amarna Guide to the Ancient City of Akhetaten – Anna Stevens, 2021
  • Nefertit, Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt, Her Life and Afterlife, Aidan Dodson, 2020
  • Sethy I King of Egypt, Aidan Dodson. 2021
  • Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization Revised, Barry Kemp 2020
  • Giza and the Pyramids, the definitive history – Mark Lehner, Zahi Hawass –  2021
  • The Pyramids (New and Revised): The Archaeology and History of Egypt’s Iconic Monuments Hardcover – Miroslav Verner, Illustrated, Jan. 5, 2021