Book Review of The Pyramids of Egypt - History Paper


The Pyramids of Egypt, by I.E.S. Edwards, is a success as a serious and truthful work of history. One of its main purposes is to describe many of the pyramids in great detail and give either facts or opinions on why they were built the way they were. The first 7 chapters are all descriptive of different pyramids. The author also goes through a time line of the development of the techniques used to build the pyramids. One of the first pyramids to be described in detail is the Step Pyramid. All of the major pyramids were described as well as many I hadn’t heard of before.

An interesting feature of Sahure’s pyramid was its elaborate drainage system for his temple. Lion’s heads projected from the tops of the outer walls, and the rain falling from the roof escaped through their heads. The final chapter was the most interesting to me, as it went into a discussion of what might have been the purpose for building pyramids and how they might have been constructed. I have always been told that we don’t know how the pyramids were built. After reading this book I have come to realize that this is a false statement in a sense. We don’t know exactly how the pyramids were built, but we do have enough knowledge to make educated guesses about how they might have been built.

One of the main themes of this book is that a great deal can be learned about ancient Egypt by studying the pyramids. Many of Egypt’s rulers built pyramids for themselves and their pyramids are often filled with knowledge about them. The book states that Imhotep was the first king to use stone buildings rather than brick. It also says that later Egyptians regarded him as a magician, an astronomer, and the father of medicine. His knowledge of stone was used to build the step pyramids. The pyramids also give us our only knowledge of kings such as Sekhemkhet. The book also says that it is highly probably that under Zoser’s reign there was a big advance in the production of sculpture in the round. This was ascertained from the fact that only two royal statues dating from an earlier period were found, whereas many were found from Zoser’s period.

Why the ancient Egyptian kings troubled themselves with building tombs of pyramid shape is another question the author tries to answer. The step pyramids were said to provide the king with a stairway to walk to heaven. The deceased king was said to have eaten three meals in the sky each day and two on earth. Why Egyptians moved to the true pyramid seems to stem from the symbol of the sun god at Heliopolis, which was conical in shape. A conical shaped building would have been impossible for the early Egyptians to produce, so they built the closest thing they could to it. The cone and its architectural form, the pyramid, represented the rays of the sun shining down on the earth.

III. Utility of Importance of the Book
The Pyramids of Egypt is an important book because of several reasons. It contributes to the understanding of a historical problem of some importance by trying to clear up the mystery concerning the pyramids. It gives reasons as to how they may have been built and for what purpose. The way pyramids were built has long been a mystery of history, and a very interesting subject to me personally. The book also contributes to the general education of the reader, giving facts about how many of the pyramids are laid out, how they were built, and the rulers that built them. It tells about how some of them were built one way and were then later added on to. One example of this was the pyramid at Meidum. This pyramid started as a step pyramid, however another layer of stone was added to make this pyramid a true pyramid. Zoser’s pyramid underwent many transformations in form as well.

IV. Style
The style of this book is good for what this book is. Whereas I usually find long highly detailed descriptions of objects I have never seen first hand difficult to understand, I was able to piece together most of what the author was talking about as far as the makeup of the pyramids. There were a few paragraphs I had to read slowly and more than once in order to understand them, but for the most part the style flowed pretty well and was easy to understand.

V. Validity of the Book
This book appears to be quite a valid source of history. A complete separate bibliography is given for each chapter, and includes a wide range of books. I feel that the facts that I.E.S. Edwards has presented to me are in agreement with those facts I already knew. There are not any real inconsistencies on the facts in the book. However different opinions are given from different sources about certain questions that the exact answers to are not known. In most cases Edwards gives other authors’ opinions as well as his own, which makes me believe that Edwards wrote this book without bias or prejudice. He quotes other authors quite frequently throughout the entire book. The only statements that weren’t clarified enough for me were those that the author quoted or stated what Herodotus had said or written. Herodotus as we know, was not always completely basing himself on fact, and the author didn’t always comment on whether what he was quoting from Herodotus was known to be completely true or not.

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