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The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs

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The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs

The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs
Harvard University Press | ISBN: 0674012119 | October 30, 2003 | PDF | 15 Mb | 528 Pages

"Writing a history of the development of the ancient Egyptian mind," wrote the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt a century and a half ago, is "an impossibility." Today, observes Jan Assmann, we know "infinitely more about Egypt" than did the scholars of Burckhardt's day. But, even so, the ancient Egyptian mind continues to elude us.

Turning to what he calls "the hidden face of history," Assmann explores the meaning of the Egyptian past to the ancients themselves. For them, history, that chronicle of pharaohs and empires, began with the recognition that humans, not gods or demigods, controlled earthly affairs. From the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the time of the Ptolemy dynasty, the idea of the state was central to Egyptians' view of themselves in the world. With this centralized power, Assmann argues, grew other ideas, such as the notion that the stone of the pyramids was "an eternalized form of the body" and that our short time on earth was "something more akin to a dream than to reality." Full of learned discussions on such matters as the origins and development of hieroglyphic writing and the evolution of funereal architecture, Assmann's book offers a fascinating view of ancient history, and of ancient ways of thinking. –Gregory McNamee


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