Monday, December 7, 2015

A New Book on the Old Kingdom

I received in the mail today the first volume of the new series, Harvard Egyptological Studies: Towards a New History for the Egyptian Old Kingdom: Perspectives on the Pyramid Age, ed. Peter Der Manuelian and Thomas Schneider (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2015). As expected from Brill publications, the book is beautifully produced.

I do have an essay in the volume ("Did the Old Kingdom Collapse? A New View of the First Intermediate Period" pp. 60-75) but I wanted to highlight two other contributions in the volume.

Miroslav Bárta ("Ancient Egyptian History as an Example of Punctuated Equilibrium: An Outline" pp. 1-17) counters the idea that the Old Kingdom was a static place. He depicts it as having times of stability punctuated by major periods of change. In other words, history actually occurred.

My late friend, Harold Hays ("The Entextualization of the Pyramid Texts and the Religious History of the Old Kingdom" pp. 200-226), takes on the theory of the democratization of the afterlife. Mark Smith, Harco Willems, and others, including myself, have pointed to major problems in the theory and it is great to have Harold's contribution to add to the growing list of refutations of it.

There are several other good essays in the collection that I might recommend another time. I am only disappointed that, for whatever reasons, Ann Roth's and Manfred Bietak's contributions to the conference did not appear in the volume.