Title: Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist
Author: Donald P. Ryan
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5
In this memoir, archaeologist Donald P. Ryan gives readers a snapshot of his career as an archaeologist. He discusses his work in Egypt, delivering tantalizing glimpses of what his profession is like.
I love reading books on history and archaeology, and ancient Egypt has fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. As a result, the second I heard Beneath the Sands of Egypt was coming out, I knew I wanted to read it. I haven’t read a good Egypt archaeology book since Kent Weeks’ The Lost Tomb (which has since gone out of print – a travesty in my opinion), so I was itching to pick up this book.
The main thing that struck me about Beneath the Sands of Egypt was how different it was from Weeks’ book. The Lost Tomb was about a single discovery; Ryan’s memoir, on the other hand, is an overview of his career as an archaeologist. He takes us through his schooling and the different projects he’s worked on, stripping away some of the romance surrounding archaeology. He makes it clear how scarce jobs are, how even the most accredited archaeologists resort to teaching middle school or courses at the local community college in order to pay the bills.
That’s not to say this is a depressing book though. Ryan has plenty of incredible adventures, and it made me realize how varied the life of an archaeologist really is. Ryan works on so many different projects in various areas. His enthusiasm is infectious and his passion for history and archaeology is clear, no matter what his current undertaking is. The chapters are divided into different periods of his life, different tasks he worked on, such that the reader really gets a sense of how erratic the life of an archaeologist is. However, the fact that the book isn’t about one single project or excavation also has a down side – the book is never really building to anything. That’s not to say it’s ever boring, just that urgency is lost because of that.
Beneath the Sands of Egypt also has a lot of information on ancient Egypt, enough to satisfy even the most ardent history buff. Ryan is clearly very knowledgeable, and shares his wealth of information with the reader. He has a way of making even the most mundane information seem fascinating.
If you’re a fan of archaeology or Egyptology, don’t hesitate to pick up this book. If you do, you’ll be sorry. Even if you’re not a non-fiction reader but are interested in the subject, you should consider Beneath the Sands of Egypt. It’s an intriguing read that I definitely recommend.