The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt has proved to be my fundamental source. Ian Shaw, the Editor, has whipped together thirteen different authors to form a coherent period by period narrative, while the Oxford University Press has produced a cut-down version in a small fat volume with a text that is nevertheless still perfectly legible.
The bible of modern Egyptology is Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization by Barry Kemp, Professor of Egyptology at Cambridge and excavator of the abandoned town at Amarna. The author wrestles to apply Cambridge theory to ancient Egypt, but fortunately he does not really believe in Cambridge theory, only the good bits of it. He is also a superb draftsman, and the way he draws and explains Egyptian sculpture and bas reliefs make the book an essential quarry from which lesser scholars derive their new ideas. Anyone who wishes to study Egyptology at all seriously must wrestle with this complex book.
An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt by Kathryn A Bard from Boston University provides a splendid American contribution. This is designed as a university text book with numerous boxes to fill in the background and on t he whole succeeds in combining a text book with an account for the general reader.
A History of Ancient Egypt by Nicolas Grimal is a French contribution to Egyptology, translated by Ian Shaw and is a very valuable correction to the Anglophone version of Egyptology. The trouble is that he rather ignores the archaeology and is too dependant on extracting every last bit of juice from the texts – it needs more archaeology.
A History of Ancient Egypt is by John Romer who is what one might call the leader of the non-academic students of Egyptology. This two volume account of Ancient Egypt is invaluable to providing the background to the way that the history of Egypt has been built up, a background so often neglected by academic archaeologists.
Egypt of the Pharaohs by Sir Alan Gardiner was the first book on Egypt that I read. It was published originally in 1960 by the doyen of Egyptology and still provides a fundamental background to the story of Egypt.
Egypt before the Pharaohs by Michael Hoffman is one of the great tragedies of Egyptology, for the author, a brilliant young American was born in 1944, but died in 1990 at the age of only forty five. By this time he had already directed the new excavations at the predynastic site of Herankopolis, and this book takes the story of the prehistory up to the time of the pharaohs. Inevitably much is now outdated, but it is brilliantly written, giving the stories behind the discoveries and the excavators who made the discoveries. One grieves to think of what we have lost from his early death.
The Archaeology of Early Egypt is the first book of David Wengrow and is based loosely on his doctoral thesis. It is a little theoretical from my point of view, but he has since gone on to study civilisation generally as Professor of Comparative Archaeology at UCL.
Chronicle of the Pharaohs by Peter Clayton was one of the early pioneers of the Thames & Hudson’s series giving a reign by reign record of the rulers and dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Peter Clayton is here on top form and all too often provides the basic information that one is looking for, and of course it is splendidly illustrated.
The Complete Pyramids is by Mark Lehner, an American who has devoted his life to the study and excavation of the Great Pyramids. Here he has joined up with Thames & Hudson and their superb illustrations department to produce a complete account of every aspect of the Great Pyramids.
The Complete Cities of Ancient Egypt by Steven Snape (Liverpool University) sets out to do what I thought was almost impossible, that is to provide an account of the most neglected aspects of Egyptian archaeology, the cities and towns. Here there is not only Amarna but also what remains in Elephantine, Thebes, the Memphite region, and particularly in the Delta – an invaluable account
Atlas of Ancient Egypt by two of the Oxford Egyptologists John Baines and Jaromir Malek and published by the Phaidon Press is a funny sort of book. The text by two of the leading Oxford archaeologists is magisterial and the layout of the book with its numerous colour illustrations is by one of our leading publishers, though there are not nearly enough maps. But text and book do not really fit together and the result often surprises, but sometimes disappoints.
Abydos: Egypt’s First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris is by David O’Connor, the Director of the Pennsylvania Museum excavations at Abydos. Although beginning with the temple of Sety I and the cult of Osiris, it deals mostly with his own work on the early Royal tombs, and also the work of the German team.
Ancient Egypt: A Social History by Bruce Trigger, Barry Kemp, David O’Connor and Alan Lloyd was originally prepared for publication for Cambridge History of Africa. It was written in the full flood of the ‘new’ archaeology, but many of the ideas appear in a more mature form in Barry Kemp’s Ancient Egypt.
Village Life in Ancient Egypt: laundry lists and love songs by Andrea McDowell is an account of Deir el-Medina, the village of the workmen who built the royal tombs. The writings they left behind on ostraka provide our basic information on the real economics of ancient Egypt and have been massively studied. This is a superb synopsis of all this work, and my chapter on Egyptian Economics is based on it.
The Cairo Museum Masterpieces of Egyptian Art is a massive work originally put together in Italy and published in the UK by Thames & Hudson. The photographs by Araldo De Luca are superb and the texts by leading authorities were edited together by Francesco Tiradritti.
Avaris: the Capital of the Hyksos, by Manfred Bietak is the fundamental work in English on this major site. It is based on a lecture given at Oxford in 1966 and published by the British Museum Press. It is now somewhat outdated by the author’s continuing excavations, but it is very well illustrated with numerous plans and photos and provides a splendid introduction to this very important site.
A slightly later account of Avaris is given in Cities and Urbanism in Ancient Egypt: Papers from a Workshop in November 2006 at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Most of the papers are in English, and those by Manfred Bietak and his successor at the Austrian Academy, Irene Forstner-Mueller are particularly valuable.
Egypt After the Pharaohs is an early book by Alan Bowman who has gone on to become Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford. This was written in the 1980s when theory was still fashionable, but underlying it is a sound appreciation of late Egypt under the Ptolemies and the Romans.
Egypt’s Sunken Treasures (Prestel) is a gorgeous book put together by Franck Goddio for a travelling exhibition to celebrate his underwater exploits around the mouth of the Nile, partly mapping the underwater harbour at Alexandria, but mostly celebrating his discovery of the town that the Egyptians called Thonis, and the Greeks called Heracleion, that was the predecessor to Alexandra at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile.
Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs is a catalogue of the British Museum’s exhibition to celebrate the three faiths that have existed in Egypt in the Roman period and later – the Jewish, Christianity and Islam.
The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt 300 BC to AD 700 by Judith McKenzie, (Yale University Press) is a magnificent heavyweight volume by a scholar who contrives to be both scholarly and readable, investigating the architecture of Alexandria (now mostly lost), with the help of the evidence from the rest of Egypt.
There are numerous books on Egyptian art.
Foremost are two books by Jaromir Malek, a political refugee from Czechoslovakia who has become one of the hidden treasures of Oxford. Egypt: 4,000 years of Art is a masterly survey of the art, period by period, illustrated by numerous coloured plates. He then went on to produce an unashamedly gorgeous picture book, Egyptian Art with 350 pages of colour pictures of Egyptian art accompanied by masterly descriptions of each picture.
Egyptian Art by Cyril Aldred is an older generation book in black and white, produced by Thames and Hudson in its glory days when Glyn Daniel was their editor and written by the acknowledged master of its subject.
The Painted Tomb-Chapel of Nebamun by Richard Parkinson was produced by the British Museum to celebrate its renovation and redisplay of the tomb-chapel of Nebamun which is one of the museum’s greatest treasures.
The Art of Ancient Egypt is by Gay Robins, an American author who provides a fine run through of Egyptian art period by period. It is published by the British Museum who provide a number of the photos.
Master Pieces of Ancient Egypt is a picture book of 200 odd objects in the British Museum, each magnificently displayed in colour. It is written by Nigel Strudwick, a former Curator at the Museum who contrives to make this both an official book, and a personal view.
Art and Architecture of Egypt by Matthias Seidel and Regine Schulz is a translation of a German book which goes through Egypt from north to south illustrating the sites mostly from their art, but particularly for its architecture with many useful plans of the different sites.
Egyptian Art by Bill Manley: in Egyptian art Bill Manley sets out to explain not only what but why of Egyptian art. Stimulating!