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Gifts from The Pharaohs: How Ancient Egyptian Civilization Shaped the Modern World [Hardcover]

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Item description for Gifts from The Pharaohs: How Ancient Egyptian Civilization Shaped the Modern World by Christiane Desroches Noblecourt...

In this scholarly yet accessible work, Desroches Noblecourt substantiates how the fundamental ideas, principles, and beliefs on which Western civilization is based originated in ancient Egypt. From the symbol of the lion as king of the animals to the design of Greek columns, she traces the evolution of ideas back to the pre-Christian era in Egypt. Anubis, with his head of a black dog, is an earlier form of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, while Saint George mounted on his horse slaying the dragon echoes Tutankhamen launching his harpoon. Even the customary kiss on New Year's Day was first practiced by the Egyptians. Egyptian innovations continue to affect our lives through medical practices still common today, including pregnancy tests, pills, inhalations, eye drops, and over four hundred drug names. Even cultural and leisure pursuits were derived from ancient Egypt: the harp is an elaboration of the Egyptian lyre, and the royal wife Nefertari played chess. Gifts from the Pharaohs is a fascinating exploration of how the ancient and modern worlds converge.
Christiane Desroches Noblecourt is honorary curator of Egyptian antiquities at the Louvre where she had a long and illustrious career as a curator and researcher. With UNESCO, she spent twenty years preserving endangered Egyptian temples. She organized exceptional exhibitions on Tutankhamen and Ramses II, and organized and directed the renovation of the Valley of the Queens. She has written dozens of books about Egypt and has been widely translated.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   288
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10" Width: 7.32" Height: 1.18"
Weight:   2.69 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 17, 2007
Publisher   Flammarion
ISBN  208030562X  
ISBN13  9782080305626  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Africa > Egypt > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > Egypt
3Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > Egypt
5Books > Subjects > History > World > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Gifts from The Pharaohs: How Ancient Egyptian Civilization Shaped the Modern World?

Presentation over Substance  Aug 2, 2007
For many years I read and enjoyed books about the ancient Egyptian civilization written in or translated into English. Undoubtedly the contributions of many French scholars have been immense. It was a treat to read Egyptology books originally written in French, though at times the translation made reading more of a chore than a pleasure. Reading the translated books however, was often compensated by fresh substance and different perspectives. Truth in advertising leads this reviewer to indicate that he is in fact, an American from Christian Egyptian, Coptic, heritage, a true descendant of the Pharaohs, and very proud of the contributions of ancient Egypt to civilization and humanity at large. I have read "The Gifts from the Pharaohs: How the Egyptian Civilization Shaped the Modern World" written the French Egyptologist C. D. Noblecourt and translated from French into English by J.Sly. I would like to salute Dr. Noblecourt for her work and many achievements in Egyptology, especially for her role in the international rescue efforts of the ancient monuments of Nubia in the 1960's. In my view, she also deserves a lot of credit for writing about the debt of Western civilization to the ancient Egyptian civilization. In this respect, she is in good company with many other writers and scholars. The ancient Greeks and the Romans made no secret of their debt to the ancient Egyptian civilization. I would add that the translation into English seems quite satisfactory and the presentation of the book includes many photos and useful illustrations.
However, as much as I was enthusiastic about the topic of the book, in all candor, I was disappointed by the lack of references, which could have helped the readers understand whether the views expressed were facts, opinions or speculations. Unfortunately, some of the views presented tend to oversimplification and wide-brush generalizations. The author seems to admit resorting to fiction and speculations to convey her point, as she writes on page 258 "In the symbolic world, one cannot help but dream sometimes and let one's imagination roam. Sometimes, however, fiction encounters reality this way."
For example, to present the influence of the ancient Egyptian writing system on other writing systems such as Greek and Latin, a good theory that several Egyptologist have forwarded before, the book attempted to illustrate it as an outcome of the interactions between Egyptian mining expeditions and Bedouins at Sinai. There are no references cited to verify such specific interactions. It further tends to generalizations such as "most Bedouins were known to be peaceful, endowed with healthy curiosity ..etc". This generalization seems to be an exception for interactions that lasted thousands of years alternating between the peaceful and the hostile. The French Egyptologist, Pierre Montet, described this complex relationship more accurately as peaceful at times, however there were other Bedouins who had no thoughts for anything but pillage (1). Furthermore, the ancient Egyptian literature known as the instructions to Merikare, advises caution in dealing with the age-old and treacherous foes of Egypt, the Asiatics or Bedouins. It indicates that "the accursed Aamou (Asiatics).. can never stay still, his feet are always on the move. Since the beginning of time he has fought, never victor, never vanquished; like a man of evil intent he never says when he will strike..." (2).
Though, the book's major theme is the influence of the ancient Egyptian civilization on the Western civilization, it seems to devote quite a bit of effort to paint some Christian beliefs and/or practices with the supposed brush of influences of ancient Egyptian mythology. The presentation again lacks sources to substantiate its claims, and tends, and I hope to be mistaken, to be influenced by neo-pagan views. These suppositions and claims against Christian beliefs are not new, and have been used by pagans from the early centuries after Christ, and seem to be recycled every now and then. Christian beliefs are based on the revelations of the One True Ever-living Triune God, and Christians past, present and future believe because the words of God are not the reflection of suppositions of men, including the sages of ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians were known for their keen observations and reflections. King Akhnaton attempted to establish monotheism during his reign. Essentially he, like the Greeks later on, invented his own God Aton, but that did not last for long. Though we may credit Akhnaton with vision, and perhaps a strong desire to find the true God of the universe, his suppositions, like those of other mortals, have perished.
The book includes several sections such the medicine, architecture and wisdom of ancient Egypt. It seems to be interesting reading, and provides a good presentation including photos and illustrations, however it suffers from the lack adequate sources which might have enabled the readers differentiate among facts, opinions, speculations and fiction.

(1) Everyday Life in Egypt in the Days of Ramesses the Great by Pierre Montet, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1981, page 176.
(2) Everyday Life in Egypt in the Days of Ramesses the Great by Pierre Montet, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1981, page 239.


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