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216 × 138 mm
216 pages
46 illustrations, 31 in colour
01 Jul 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.

Egypt has meant many things to many different people. 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, like 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.

‘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

‘Christina Riggs’ monograph entitled Egypt in the new Lost Civilizations series traces the fascination with ancient Egyptian culture and its reception in the present day. This book is a particularly good fit: the purpose of this series is not only to consider the rise and fall of great ancient civilizations in terms of their culture and history, but also their lasting legacies and their relevance to the modern world . . . Riggs’ erudite and illuminating work will be particularly useful for those working on Egypt in terms of ethnicity and reception. It is essential reading for those interested in considering ancient Egypt’s importance not only in modern Egyptian culture, but also in the rest of the world.’ – Classical Journal

‘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

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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).