Even though the author discusses entire pyramid complexes, there is never any question that the familiar triangular stone structure is the focus of his book. The everlasting human quest for immortality becomes evident from the ancient Egyptians’ concern with the afterlife. Monarchs built pyramids in which their mummified bodies might be protected for eternity from human view and sacrilege. Unfortunately, the plunder of these burial sites over the centuries has removed much of their contents, and deterioration from the weather has added to the damage. Enough has been preserved, however, to make the pyramids an archaeological and artistic treasure trove.
A great amount of time, materials, and labor went into producing the pyramids and thus into preparations for the afterlife of the high and mighty. Pyramid complexes have also been found to contain the furniture, clothing, jewelry, boats, and other accessories—as well as the human and horse skeletons—of those destined to continue serving their royal masters after the kings’ final exits.
Edwards points out the intricacies of the pyramid structures themselves by describing their entrances, passages, and chambers, including the sepulchral chambers. Among other things, he mentions the difficulty in balancing masses of stone on top of these excavated hollow places. The author manages to present a considerable amount of scholarly material over which he has complete mastery in simple, lay language. Furthermore, he adds some interesting details about individual monuments throughout the text, such as how huge blocks of rock were moved...
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The body of Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards’ publications covering the years 1939 to 1991, when the fourth revised edition of The Pyramids of Egypt appeared in paperback in Britain, has set standards in the field. The other works of this Cambridge-trained author and renowned Egyptologist—such as three publications on King Tutankhamen—have much to do with his seminal effort. While competing books in this relatively crowded field—for example, John D. Clare’s Pyramids of Ancient Egypt (1992) or James Putnam’s Pyramid (1994)—may dwell more on the details of daily life in ancient Egypt or other aspects, Edwards’ book does not run the risk of being dethroned any more than the Egyptian pharaohs whose burial cenotaphs are discussed so absorbingly.
Young readers are interested in learning about piles of stone and their ancillary complexes because they are the relics of an ancient and fascinating era and as such have historical value. Studying the pyramids also opens doors to the understanding of the skill and dedication of ancient people working with primitive tools and ingredients and yet managing to build these structures of size and beauty, often containing the well-preserved remains of royalty who died ages ago. To the extent that humans are the sum total of everything that has gone before, getting into the minds of these creative ancient people through their monuments, artifacts, customs, beliefs, and rituals may help modern people understand themselves better.