Joyce Tyldesley
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Buy *Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King* by Joyce Tyldesley online

Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King
Joyce Tyldesley
Basic Books
336 pages
March 2012
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Joyce Tyldesley has written many books on Egyptology, one of which was an excellent book on Nefertiti. When I saw that her latest book, Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King, was available, I had to have it. Tyldesley's current book does delve into Tutankhamen's history a bit, but it more addresses the archaeology of Howard Carter's immensely important find and the aftermath than it does the boy-king's actual life. Part of that is because so little is known, and part of it is because the story of the discovery and excavation of the tomb makes an excellent story in itself. While the book is slightly muddled, overall it's a very good tale of early 20th-century archaeology.

Tyldesley begins with a description of Egyptian burial practices, pyramids and tombs, and also gives readers a little bit of information on other archaeological work Carter had done. She often goes back and forth between discussing modern archaeology and the extensive lengths to which contemporaries of Tutankhamen had to go in order to safeguard the royal tombs from grave robbers. It's not only in the modern day that the greed for burial treasures occurs.

Tyldesley's transitions easily from one to the other as she describes what Carter and his team found and the efforts to safeguard the tomb so that they could fully excavate it, then harkens it back to what the royal guards had to do thousands of years ago. Occasionally this contributes to the muddled feel of the book, as it seems to bounce all over the place. Most of the time, though, the transitions are fairly seamless.

Mixed in with it all is as much information as is known about just who Tutankhamen was, including an extensive chapter on his family and all of the possibilities regarding who his mother was. This has never been confirmed, but the speculation is enjoyable. Tyldesley gives her reasons for why the various suspects are likely, possible, or unlikely. Even his father and brother are undetermined.

The last few chapters of Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King are called "Life After Death," and basically tell the story of the aftermath of his tomb's discovery. Tyldesley debunks the supposed "curse" that was laid on everyone in the party that discovered the tomb. She also talks about the stories that came out about the boy king, fictional and supposedly nonfictional. She even talks about how mummies were purchased and kept as collector's items (and sometimes buried with their owners, which she admits would make an interesting scenario when future archaeologists come upon those bodies).

In one standout chapter, Tyldesley takes everything that she knows about Tutankhamen and puts together an elaborate theory about his life and his death. She prefaces this by informing readers of a few basic assumptions, but she also assures readers that she is not putting this forth as fact. She even states that she will not be using footnotes for this section, as this is all just her own speculation. As in Nefertiti, Tyldesley is very reluctant to posit anything as "fact" that she can't document, an admirable trait in a historian or archaeologist.

All in all, Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King is a wonderful book for anybody interested in archaeology or even just the king himself. It has something for everybody.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Dave Roy, 2012

Also by Joyce Tyldesley:

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