Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

216 × 138 × 19 mm
208 pages
50 illustrations, 25 in colour
01 May 2017
Lost Civilizations

Egypt Lost Civilizations Christina Riggs

From ancient Rome to the present day, ancient Egypt has been a source of fascin­­ation and inspiration in many other cultures. But why? Christina Riggs introduces the history, art and religion of Egypt from its earliest dynasties to its final fall to Rome – and explores the influence ancient Egypt has had through the centuries. Looking for a vanished past, she argues, always serves some purpose in the present.

Often characterized as a ‘lost’ civilization that was ‘discovered’ by adventurers and archaeologists, Egypt has meant many things to many different people. Ancient Greek and Roman writers admired ancient Egyptian philosophy, a view that influenced ideas about Egypt in Renaissance Europe and the Arabic-speaking world. In the eighteenth century, secret societies like the Freemasons still upheld the wisdom of ancient Egypt. This changed when Egypt became the focus of Western military strategy and economic exploitation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The remains of ancient Egypt came to be seen as exotic, primitive or even dangerous, embroiled as they were in the politics of racial science and archaeology. The curse of the pharaohs, or the seductiveness of Cleopatra, seemed to threaten foreign dominance in the Middle East.

Other visions of ancient Egypt inspired modernist movements in the arts, such as the Harlem Renaissance and Egyptian Pharaonism, fuelled by the 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Today, ancient Egypt is ubiquitous in museums, television documentaries and tattoo parlours – wherever people look for a past as ancient and impressive as they come.

2018 Outstanding Academic Title
’ — Choice

‘it is Riggs’s apparently inexhaustible fund of examples, and the well-targeted deployment of her material, from the physical remains of ancient Egypt itself to the iconography of the Arab Spring, that engages and carries the reader through this lively and informative survey. Tracing her story from the Roman period to the present day, Riggs guides us through the influences this “lost” civilization has exerted, and the numerous reactions it has provoked . . . Accessibly written, assuming no prior knowledge on the reader’s part assumed, it has an engaging tone, and never patronizes.’ — TLS

‘Christina Rigg’s Egypt is one of Reaktion Books’ accessible and informative Lost Civilizations guides. It is, however, much more than a chronological survey of ancient Egypt; it is also an elegant and intriguing thematic interpretation of that civilisation’s grip on our imagination ever since.’ — Minerva magazine

‘This refreshingly different and beautifully written account of ancient Egypt goes beyond the ancient civilization itself to explore the ways in which it can be said to be lost and rediscovered.’ — Gay Robins, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Art History, Emory University

‘With this book, Riggs admirably achieves the objectives of the publisher's "Lost Civilizations" series, which looks at the rise and fall of a civilization and assesses its artistic and cultural legacy, and explains why it remains relevant for readers today. Riggs concludes that ancient Egypt has been gone for two thousand years, and so is lost. While many remains from ancient Egypt have survived, she asserts that each culture, society, or generation interprets them differently . . . For those seeking a brief introduction, Riggs's book, including its chronology and bibliography, is perfect . . . Essential.’ — Choice

Show all

Christina Riggs is a Reader at the University of East Anglia, specializing in ancient Egyptian art and the history of archaeology. She is the author of Unwrapping Ancient Egypt (2014) and Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture: A Very Short Introduction (2014).