One of the most vexing problems in Egyptology is the question of establishing reliable chronologies, whether through relative methods such as stratigraphy and the dating of artifacts or through more absolute time horizons established by astronomical ephemera or radiometric dating. In this overview of ancient Egypt--meant for advanced students, but accessible to general readers with an interest in the area--Ian Shaw and 13 contributors pay close attention to issues of chronology, reconciling conflicts of dating that mark older scholarship.
While doing so, they address other problems in the study of ancient Egypt, such as the lack of material evidence of early humans in the region and the increasing destruction of sites in the face of contemporary urban growth. Elsewhere, they remark on the principal developments that distinguish periods in Egyptian prehistory, such as the Old Kingdom's use of large-scale building projects to consolidate power and "remind people of the greatness of pharaonic civilization," and the Middle and New kingdoms' apparent openness to foreigners, which lent Egypt a cosmopolitan, multicultural air that persisted for centuries during long periods of domination by outside powers such as Persia and Rome. Highly useful as a reference and survey, this handsomely illustrated book is a fine addition to any Egyptophile's collection. --Gregory McNamee [via]