Review: Before the Pharaohs by Julian Heath #NonfictionNovember

Posted November 17, 2021 by Stephanie in 3 Stars, History, Nonfiction, Review / 4 Comments

Title: Before the Pharaohs: Exploring the Archaeology of Stone Age Egypt
Author: Julian Maxwell Heath
Publication: September 30th 2021 by Pen and Sword History
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo
Rating: 3/5

The remarkable archaeology of pharaonic Egypt continues to captivate countless people worldwide but evidence for Egypt’s prehistoric or Stone Age past has been relatively neglected. This is perhaps understandable, as the archaeology of Stone Age Egypt often seems crude in comparison, and the number of works published on the subject is diminutive compared to those dealing with the revered ancient civilization that emerged in the Nile Valley some five thousand years ago. However, although less spectacular, the numerous remnants of prehistoric life found throughout Egypt represent an important chapter in the story of humanity’s distant past. They also cast compelling light on the shadowy Stone Age peoples who lived in the Nile Valley and surrounding deserts, long before the mighty monuments of the pharaohs ever existed.

This book examines the fascinating archaeology of stone Age Egypt, from its very beginnings, when early members of the human species arrived in Egypt from sub-Saharan Africa, to its end, when the impressive Naqada Culture emerged, setting in motion the processes that led to the formation of one of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations.

I’ve been obsessed with ancient Egypt ever since I was a kid but I haven’t read too many books that go into the history of Egypt before pharaonic times so that’s why I decided to buy Before the Pharaohs and read it. It sounded really fascinating from what I could tell from the title and synopsis. The Stone Age period in general has always been a interesting topic for me as well.

I enjoyed this book for the most part but never fully came to love it, unfortunately. It went quite a but up and down for me, I have to admit. The book had fascinating chapters for sure but there were also chapters that I found slow going and a little uninteresting in the way that it was written and explained. It was one of those books that relied heavily on numbers which after a while started becoming dull.

I did enjoy looking at the photographs that were included because it’s always nice to see the artifacts that the author talks about in the book. I especially liked the chapters about the oldest art in Egypt and desert megaliths and burials. It was fascinating learning more about those kind of things and obviously it was all very well-researched as a book like this should be.

In nonfiction that goes into history, especially prehistoric times, you have the ones that are written in an engaging way but sadly enough I can’t count Before the Pharaohs by Julian Maxwell Heath a part of those. I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t looked into stone age Egypt before but I do think if you’ve already been reading about the topic you might enjoy it more than I did. I’d say it was an okay read but nothing spectacular.

About the author:

Julian Heath was educated at the University of Liverpool where he studied Archaeology and Egyptology. He has since gone on to write and illustrate several books such as Archaeological Hotspots Egypt: Unearthing the Past for Armchair ArchaeologistsStories from Ancient Egypt (with Joyce Tyldesley) and Warfare in Neolithic Europe. He has also worked on archaeological excavations in both Europe and Egypt, and taught archaeological illustration at the University of Liverpool.


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