Homage to Hatshepsut – a remarkable female pharaoh

Following on from the volume in which he discussed the Middle Kingdom, John Romer’s new book considers the ancient Egyptian New Kingdom from 1550 BCE to 1070 BCE. This is generally romanticised as one of the great ‘golden ages’ of ancient Egyptian history in which the state reached its pinnacle of power. In this period of increasing prosperity, Egypt established an empire through a series of campaigns under kings such as Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Seti I and Ramesses II. At the beginning of the book, Romer takes us to the site of Tell el-Dab’a in the Nile delta, where excavators upended a whole series of assumptions about the early

The truth about the curse of the pharaohs

George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, was bitten on the cheek by a mosquito some time in early March 1923. The bite became infected. By April he was running a high fever, had pneumonia in both lungs and his heart and respiratory systems were failing. He died in a Cairo hospital on 5 April. His death came less than six months after Howard Carter, the Egyptologist whose excavations Carnarvon was funding, first discovered evidence that there was an undisturbed tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. That was on 4 November 1922 – 100 years ago this month. A few days later, Carter, Carnarvon and his

The scholars who solved the riddles in the sands

In 1835 the first two Egyptian antiquities were registered in the British Museum: a pair of red granite lions from Nubia. Each bore the name of Tutankhamun — not that anyone had ever heard of him. All serious understanding of the millennia-spanning Nilotic civilisation had disappeared before the last hieroglyph was carved in 394 AD. In the mid-18th century the most advanced ‘scholarship’ on the subject consisted of ‘pinpricks of insight in an enveloping fog of misapprehension’, and by the early 19th century the Egypt of the pharaohs was still largely buried in the sand. The word ‘Egyptology’ did not exist. Yet within 100 years Egypt would no longer be