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In ancient Egypt women enjoyed a legal, social and sexual independence unrivalled by their Greek or Roman sisters, or in fact by most women until the late nineteenth century. They could own and trade in property, work outside the home, marry foreigners and live alone without the protection of a male guardian. Some of them even rose to rule Egypt as ‘female kings’. Joyce Ty In ancient Egypt women enjoyed a legal, social and sexual independence unrivalled by their Greek or Roman sisters, or in fact by most women until the late nineteenth century. They could own and trade in property, work outside the home, marry foreigners and live alone without the protection of a male guardian. Some of them even rose to rule Egypt as ‘female kings’. Joyce Tyldesley’s vivid history of how women lived in ancient Egypt weaves a fascinating picture of daily life – marriage and the home, work and play, grooming and religion – viewed from a female perspective, in a work that is engaging, original and constantly surprising.


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In ancient Egypt women enjoyed a legal, social and sexual independence unrivalled by their Greek or Roman sisters, or in fact by most women until the late nineteenth century. They could own and trade in property, work outside the home, marry foreigners and live alone without the protection of a male guardian. Some of them even rose to rule Egypt as ‘female kings’. Joyce Ty In ancient Egypt women enjoyed a legal, social and sexual independence unrivalled by their Greek or Roman sisters, or in fact by most women until the late nineteenth century. They could own and trade in property, work outside the home, marry foreigners and live alone without the protection of a male guardian. Some of them even rose to rule Egypt as ‘female kings’. Joyce Tyldesley’s vivid history of how women lived in ancient Egypt weaves a fascinating picture of daily life – marriage and the home, work and play, grooming and religion – viewed from a female perspective, in a work that is engaging, original and constantly surprising.

30 review for Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt

  1. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    A lot of speculation. Still it's a worthwhile read, concerning that unambiguous evidence is scarce and that the author realizes that many tidbits could be explained in different ways. Q: The difference between the fertile Black Land and the infertile Red Land has always been both clear and extreme, and many visitors to Egypt have noted how it is literally possible to stand with one foot in the desert sand and one foot on the green cultivation. This perpetual reminder of the stark contrast between A lot of speculation. Still it's a worthwhile read, concerning that unambiguous evidence is scarce and that the author realizes that many tidbits could be explained in different ways. Q: The difference between the fertile Black Land and the infertile Red Land has always been both clear and extreme, and many visitors to Egypt have noted how it is literally possible to stand with one foot in the desert sand and one foot on the green cultivation. This perpetual reminder of the stark contrast between the living and the dead, the fertile and the infertile, left an indelible mark on secular and religious thought, and the constant cycle of birth, death and rebirth became an endlessly repeated theme of Egyptian life. (c) Q: Do not spare your son work when you can make him do it… Teach your son to write, plough, catch birds and set traps in case there is a year of low Nile, so that he will be able to reap the benefit of what he has learned. Late Period scribal advice to parents (c) Q: To a people who continually sought out and emphasized the reassurance of links with the past and who at all times felt an unusually deep bond with their ancestors, the realities of an unchanging social structure were not so much stifling as immensely comforting. (c) Q: In a land of exotic and unusual customs, where the king lived as a god, the gods took the form of animals and the entire population appeared obsessed with death, women were acknowledged to be one of the strangest phenomena. Their distinctive exotic beauty, coupled with fantastic rumours of lax Egyptian morals and wanton Egyptian females, simply added to their fascination and served as an inspiration to the authors and poets of Greece and Rome. It is this rather decadent image of Egyptian womanhood which has been perpetuated by more modern authors from Shakespeare onwards, so that even today the names of Nefertiti and Cleopatra conjure up a vision of the ultimate femme fatale. But just how accurate is this portrait of the active, independent and sexually liberated Egyptian lady? (c) Q: Fortunately, the Egyptians have left us two contrasting means of studying their attitude towards women. An examination of contemporary arts (painting, sculpture and literature) can provide us with an idealized view of womanhood by allowing us to study the image which the Egyptians themselves wished to present to the world. At a more down-to-earth level, a consideration of the legal system and its treatment of females gives us an understanding of how, in practice, women were treated within the community. By combining these two very different types of evidence we can go at least some way towards an understanding of the woman’s place in Egyptian society. (c) Q: I am a free woman of Egypt. … Last will and testament of the Lady Naunakhte (c) Q: In addition, a widow automatically inherited a percentage of her husband’s private property and, indeed, some husbands used their knowledge of the legal system to ensure that their partner would receive the bulk of the joint estate by legally transferring property to their wife before death, somewhat as present-day inheritance tax is avoided by those who resign themselves to giving away their goods during their lifetime. A more devious means of preventing brothers or sisters from laying claim to matrimonial property involved the husband adopting his wife as his child; a fascinating Middle Kingdom legal document gives details of the adoption of the woman Nenufer by her husband Nebnufer: ‘My husband made a writing for me and made me his child, having no son or daughter apart from myself.’ This declaration, made in front of witnesses, was legally binding and Nenufer was able to inherit all Nebnufer’s property as she was both his wife and his daughter. (c) Q: There’s nothing better than a book; it’s like a boat sailing on the water. Middle Kingdom Satire of the Trades (с) Q: Very few of the privileged women who received a primary education were able to progress via formal apprenticeships into professional careers. This is not necessarily because there was an official ban on women occupying influential posts and, indeed, no such veto has ever been recorded. Instead, it reflects the fact that a girl would be embarking on her nuptial and domestic responsibilities at precisely that age when her brother might expect to commence his training. Without all the conveniences of modern life, including efficient contraception, the mistress of the house had more than enough work to fill her day, and she would certainly have been unable to take on the commitment of a full-time career. (c) Q: ...it must be remembered that these tomb walls were painted to depict a way of life which was deliberately both idealized and stereotyped: just as upper-class Victorian and Edwardian morality maintained that a woman’s place was in the home, conveniently ignoring the thousands of women who were forced to work for a living, so the Egyptian scenes emphasize that paid work was, quite properly, the prerogative of men. The scarcity of tomb scenes showing women supervising cooking perhaps gives us some indication of the lack of realism in these conventional images. (c) Q: The highest-ranking administrative title ever held by a woman belonged to the Old Kingdom Lady Nebet, wife of Huy, ‘Sole Royal Ornament’ and ‘Hereditary Princess, Daughter of Geb, Countess, Daughter of Merhu, She of the Curtain, Judge and Vizier, Daughter of Thoth, Companion of the King of Lower Egypt, Daughter of Horus’. The vizier held the most powerful and prestigious position in ancient Egypt; a position which was, in theory at least, non-hereditary. As the king’s right-hand man he was frequently a member of the king’s immediate family and, second only in importance to his monarch, he acted as both senior civil servant and chief judge. It would certainly have been very unexpected for a woman to hold such an important position of authority and circumstantial evidence indicates that, although Nebet was clearly accorded the title of vizier, the actual duties of the office were undertaken by her husband, Huy. No other woman was accorded the honour of this title until the 26th Dynasty. (с) Q: A wide variety of perfumed conditioning oils was also available for rubbing into the scalp after shampooing, again with the aim of protecting the hair from the harsh climate. During the New Kingdom this practice was extended to include the fashion, rather bizarre to modern eyes, of wearing perfumed lumps or cosmetic cones of fat balanced precariously on the head during social occasions. These unusual party hats were made from tallow impregnated with myrrh, and were designed to melt slowly as the festivities progressed, releasing their perfume and allowing a thin and presumably refreshing trickle of wax to run down the hair and face. As the heat of the party made the fat melt away it was topped up by a servant. The cones appear to have been provided by the host for both his guests and the attendant servants, and tomb scenes indicate that no dinner party would have been complete without them. They are generally illustrated as white lumps with brown streaks running down the sides, while brown stains shown on the shoulders of white clothing may well represent the greasy drips. No actual examples of perfume cones have survived, and it is now difficult to determine how literally these party scenes should be interpreted. (c) Gosh… I don't want to imagine this. My eyes… Q: A well-stocked cosmetic chest was a prized masculine possession at a time when a well made-up face conveyed a message of high social status rather than effeminacy. (c) Q: I wish to paint my eyes, so if I see you my eyes will sparkle. New Kingdom love poem (c) Uh-huh. So this is why those unfortunate vampires were sparkling all the way…. Q: At first sight the Egyptians have provided us with a great deal of evidence for a study of their clothing. We have a little written information, a few surviving garments and numerous statues, engravings and paintings which combine to provide an illustrated catalogue which may be used to chronicle changing styles throughout the dynasties. However, there are certain problems inherent in relying on this representational type of evidence. By their very nature the illustrations tend to depict the upper echelons of society recorded under atypical conditions. Just as today people prefer to be photographed in their best clothes, we must assume that those affluent enough to be recorded for posterity would choose to display their most elaborate or formal costumes. Clothing shown in depictions of the Afterlife may have had an additional ritual significance which is now lost to us. Given the strict conventions of Egyptian art it is highly likely that the artist chose to depict traditional or stylized garments indicative of femininity rather than those actually worn, and in many cases the subtle nuances of female dress may simply not have been recognized by the male artist who would have painted the majority of his portraits from memory or from a pattern book rather than from a live model. In fact, basing a discussion of garments solely on the types of evidence described above may well be analogous to basing a discussion of contemporary western styles on a collection of formal wedding portraits and ultra-fashion haute couture photographs taken from the pages of Vogue. Nevertheless, and despite inaccuracies in depiction, the clear message which reaches across the centuries from the tomb walls is the sheer delight with which both women and men pose to display their finery. Certainly clothes were important to the Egyptians. (c) Q: We still have no idea how the ancient clothmakers managed to fix their pleats so firmly into the material that some still survive today, but it has been suggested that the long ribbed and grooved boards which have been recovered from several tombs may have played a part in the process. Some form of starch may have been applied to stiffen the material and hold the pleats in place. (c) Q: Beware of loyal subjects who do not really exist! For you will not be aware of their plotting. Trust neither a brother nor a friend and have no intimate companions, for they are worthless. Extract from the Instructions of King Amenemhat I (с) Q: The most famous God’s Wife of this time was Nitocris, the daughter of the Late Period King Psammeticus I, who held the position for over sixty years, using her influence in the south to help her northern family. By this time the nature of the position had obviously changed. The God’s Wife was now a very powerful figure who dressed in the uraeus and other royal insignia, was accorded regal titles and who even wrote her name in a royal cartouche. With the help of trusted stewards and a large bureaucracy she controlled a political office of immense wealth and prestige, including the ownership of over 2,000 acres (about 810 hectares) of fertile land in both Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. Indeed, the God’s Wife eventually took over all the duties of the male First Prophet of Amen becoming, under her more popular title of Divine Adoratrice, one of the most influential women in the country. Locally, her influence exceeded that of the king in the north. Ankhnesneferibre, the daughter of Psammeticus II and niece of Nitocris, was adopted as Nitocris’ successor eight years before her death; she was also created ‘First Prophet of Amen’, an honour not accorded to the other God’s ‘Wives’. Unfortunately Ankhnesneferibre proved to be the very last God’s Wife of Amen, as the tradition was discontinued during the period of Persian rule which started during her ‘reign’. (c) Q: The Heiress, Great in the Palace, Fair in the Face, Adorned with the Double Plumes, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favours, at hearing whose voice the King rejoices, the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, may she live for ever and ever. Titles of Queen Nefertiti. (c) Q: Maat, a broad concept which may be translated literally as justice or truth, was the term used by the Egyptians when referring to the ideal state of the universe. Maat had been established at the beginning of the world but was not permanent and could never be taken for granted; chaos or disorder was always lurking as an ever-present threat to stability. (c) Q: However, during the Amarna period there was a curious blending of styles with both Akhenaten and his queen adopting long unisex pleated gowns. If contemporary illustrations are to be believed, Nefertiti occasionally wore hers completely unfastened to display all her womanly charms. The more fashionable ladies of the court completed their toilette by donning short masculine-style wigs based on the curly haircuts worn by Nubian soldiers. (c) Q: Many of the statues of Akhenaten depict him as sporting the traditional accessories of kingship, the crook and flail, crown and beard, but he is portrayed as a virtual hermaphrodite, with a curiously feminine face, well-developed breasts and what appear to be good child-bearing hips. Why the king should have allowed himself to be immortalized in a way that seems perversely calculated to strike fear into the hearts of his people while inspiring his enemies is not clear. It may be that this was actually how the poor man looked, in which case he must have been suffering from some medical disorder, although it is worth remembering that he did father six daughters with Nefertiti, and she was by no means the only woman to bear his children. It has been suggested that at least some of the more sexually ambivalent statues actually represent Nefertiti in the role of the goddess Tefnut, although this would not quite explain why she was carrying the royal regalia and, indeed, why there should be so many statues of the queen and so few of the king. It may even be that Akhenaten was attempting, under the influence of his new religion, to deliberately and symbolically depict in himself both masculine and feminine aspects of nature. The mummified body of Akhenaten, which could go a long way towards answering some of these fascinating questions, has never been properly identified and would appear to have been destroyed. (c) Q: … the far more dramatic suggestion has been made that Nefertiti may, from this point onwards, have become officially known as Akhenaten’s co-ruler, the enigmatic Prince Smenkhare. (c) Q: All the items associated with childbirth developed a special ritual significance and became invested with particular magical powers, so that even the birthing-stool or birthing-bricks became personified in the form of the goddess Meskhenet, an idiosyncratic-looking lady occasionally illustrated as a tile or brick with a human head but more often shown as a woman sporting a cow’s uterus as her divine headgear. (c) That's one fashionable lady. Q: ‘I will not let you enter through me,’ says the jamb of the door, ‘unless you tell me my name.’ ‘Plumb-bob in the Place of Truth is your name.’ Extract from the New Kingdom Book of the Dead (c) Q: The stela of the Lady Taimhotep… Oh my brother, my husband. My friend and high priest. Do not weary of drink and of food, of drinking deep and loving… The west is a land of sleep where darkness weighs on the dwelling place. Those who live there sleep as mummies. They do not wake to see their brothers, and cannot see their fathers or mothers. Their hearts forget their wives and children… Turn my face to the north wind at the edge of the water. Perhaps then my heart will be cooled in its grief. (c)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Do not tell lies against your mother, the magistrates abhor this (p116) When reading about ancient Egypt I find it easy to imagine myself among reeds alongside the river Nile, a soft breeze, gentle music, sipping beer through a straw, and this book has something of that easy and cosy air. It's downside is that it is more a book about everyday life in ancient Egypt than a book about ancient Egyptian women. As Tyldesley makes clear our knowledge is skewed by the Egyptians' burial practice. Vivid to Do not tell lies against your mother, the magistrates abhor this (p116) When reading about ancient Egypt I find it easy to imagine myself among reeds alongside the river Nile, a soft breeze, gentle music, sipping beer through a straw, and this book has something of that easy and cosy air. It's downside is that it is more a book about everyday life in ancient Egypt than a book about ancient Egyptian women. As Tyldesley makes clear our knowledge is skewed by the Egyptians' burial practice. Vivid tomb paintings give a picture of life that is not only idealised but also repeats stereotypes. Couples are always happy, clothes always white, the wife always plays a supporting role to her husband, the focus of these images is to show what the afterlife will be like rather than how life actually was, with abscesses (view spoiler)[ sand got into the bread so teeth tended to be abraded (hide spoiler)] , irascibility, and colourful garments. I would have expected that Tyldesley to have tempered this with more evidence from skeletal remains, but apart from the buck-teeth that ran through several generations of royal women, that isn't something that is brought into her account. Writings from the settlement at Deir el-Medina are also unhelpful, but in their own way, for learning about everyday life because the village was for the Pharaohs' tomb-makers and was unusually literate and sophisticated (at least in terms of material culture. Tyldesley peppers her text with quotes from scribal advice such as lend a hand to an elder drunk on beer, respect him as his children should (p116) or he who spits in the sky will have spittle fall on his head (p116), perhaps this picks up on generally held attitudes, but then again scribes were a literate elite, they did things that most Egyptians didn't - such as travel (view spoiler)[ and write (hide spoiler)] . But still, this is a comfortable and fascinating journey though life in Egypt until the Persians took over (view spoiler)[ and after them the Macedonian Ptolemies (view spoiler)[ and after them the Romans (view spoiler)[ and after them the Arabs (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] . The author is clear that Egypt was an unusually cheerful place for the ancient world, its afterlife was a happy one (provided you were good enough to make it there) and the degree of equality of status was striking - in Tyldesley's opinion this was because unlike the Greeks and the Romans the Egyptians had no concept of citizenship - everybody was subject to Pharaoh who was a god. And I suppose the concept of citizenship functions on the basis of giving rights to a few while excluding others, monarchy is at least an inclusive idea, underneath the top dog everybody is equally subserviant. However because of this it is all the more curious that women on the whole did not hold positions of authority, one lady has been found who held high office for the Pharaoh in Old Kingdom Egypt - but the duties appear to have been carried out by her husband. She discusses the six women who to differing degrees were (or may have been) either co-rulers or sole rulers. Six is not many over the 2500 years considered in this book, although it compares favourably maybe with Ancient Rome where female Emperors numbered none. Women were expected to have roles related to the household, the convention in art was to depict women as lighter skinned than the men in deference to the idea that they spent most of their time in doors, brewing and bread making, or supervising brewing and baking if they were of higher class. However from tomb paintings we see that women were also involved in all types of farmwork apart from ploughing. Outside of the home in terms of professional occupations women were musicians and mourners. While upper class women might have a role supervising others on behalf of Pharaoh or one of the many gods. Among the curious habits of the Egyptians is that they were keen shavers, using flint razors and both men and women of the upper class cut their hair short or shaved their heads and wore wigs, which apparently helped them keep cool during the day and warm at night. Delightfully there was a specialisation in craft-work in producing tissue thin jewellery for the grave, this was too thin and delicate to be worn in life, but the belief seems to have been that the same magic that would revive the dead into the happy after-life, give life to the statues of farm animals in the tomb, would also bulk up that jewellery into robust pieces suitable for everyday wear and enjoyment. Again as is always the way, the Amarna period, when the Pharaoh Akhenaten with his wife Nefertiti sponsored a radically different style of art as part of their switch to the sole worship of the Aten stands out as exceptional. Perhaps because is so different in the context of Egyptian history that it can be discussed as a separate period. In the context of this book we notice it partly because of the depiction of the Pharaoh who for unknown reasons (view spoiler)[well unknown beyond that was what he wanted (hide spoiler)] was depicted sometimes in a feminine manner with wide child bearing hips, while his queen, Nefertiti, appeared at least once in the male role of smiting Egypt's enemies, and in part because of a new fashion of short curly wigs among the ladies of the court - which imitated the hairstyles of Nubian soldiers. To my surprise there is not much in the way of Pharaonic palaces. The Pharaohs travelled about their kingdom, so apparently their palaces tended to be relatively poky mud brick places, although they did have a permanent harem - the translation is debated - but in any case a distinct place where many of the Pharaoh's womenfolk were located, the unmarried sisters, daughters, aunts, lesser wives, attendant children, their wig-makers, brewers, and bakers. The business of sibling marriage is also something that gets lost in translation, the ancient Egyptians did not have a great many words for gradations of kin, so Tyldesley argues that some sisters may have been half sisters at best. Everybody, irrespective of consanguinity, liked pyramids. For parties bread might be baked in a pyramid shaped mould, women might wear triangular shoulder pads, and guests could wear cones of pomade on their hair (view spoiler)[this made their clothes greasy, but I suppose if somebody else was going to scrub them for you in the waters of the Nile you might not be so inclined to worry about that (hide spoiler)] . Finally Tyldesley discusses religion. A difficulty is knowing how people actually practised their faith as opposed to which gods dominated the landscape with their temples. The famous national gods developed out of a messy mass of originally purely local gods. I imagine there was a lot of scope for local cults or belief in local gods to continue on an unobtrusive level. Tyldesley throughout quotes a Victorian woman who recorded her impressions of Egyptian village women at the turn of the nineteenth century to cast light on the kind of ritual practices and believes that can exist at the household level. And for many, apart from the absence of beer and the replacement of linen by cotton, their lives would not have have been very different from those of their distant forebears. there is nothing better than a book; it's like a boat sailing on the water (p121)

  3. 5 out of 5

    7jane

    The time of Ancient Egypt here means 3000 BC to 332 BC, a time of great independence (and being influential if you were royal) for women living there, very different from the status of women in other countries like Rome and Greece. The daily life varied a bit with changes over time, and also according to the class the women belonged to. There are two photo sections in this book, plus some maps, and at the end there is a simple timeline of historical events, notes, and selected bibliography. There The time of Ancient Egypt here means 3000 BC to 332 BC, a time of great independence (and being influential if you were royal) for women living there, very different from the status of women in other countries like Rome and Greece. The daily life varied a bit with changes over time, and also according to the class the women belonged to. There are two photo sections in this book, plus some maps, and at the end there is a simple timeline of historical events, notes, and selected bibliography. There are quotes from ancient texts in the main part of the book. Of course, the knowledge here is from the time of the book's release (c.1993), so there must've been some new information found later on, but in general what this book tells us hasn't changed much (nor the life of the poorer end of people living on the banks of Nile now, though their religious beliefs have changed). The class pyramid back then was quite rigid but accepted, but there was also suprising freedoms within it. I'll write here what the contents of the chapters are like (cut for length):(view spoiler)[ 1. What the view on women was in the arts and the law; art was strictly within rules and things were presented as the ideal was. On statues, personal writing (mostly men's). The medical papyri tells a lot: life was short and full of the risks of diseases. Women lacking in stories. Law-wise lots of equal rights. 2. marriage, motherhood and childhood (no teens): marriage age for girls (8 to 14 years), marriage process, daily life, divorce. Sexual things in art and tombs. No killing of girl babies. Dangers of birth and purification after. Naming, breastfeeding (wet-nurse work). 3. housework and food: extended family living under the same roof; house styles and building materials; country life preferred; pests, lack of sanitation, trash heaps; doing laundry, little furniture; cooking ovens; style and amount of food; food as payment (bread, beer); making bread; beef was only for the upper classes; banquets; the type of beer (thick, sweet, low on alcohol). 4. work and play: schooltime, women working on husband's behalf or helping some; outside-home work for women; music and instruments; weaving work; being a servant; lack of currency; tax collecting; market life; freetime activities (incl. board games and tomb picnics). 5. good grooming: cosmetics for all; hair removal, bathing; lavatories, period cloths; oral hygiene lacking; body oils (and the one they put on top of the head at parties in cone form); hairstyles, wiges; tattooing; nudity acceptance; clothes styles; sandals; jewelry; mirrors (hand- only, for upper classes). 6. the royal 'harem': not what one migth assume at first - incl. relatives, wives, concubines, children, nurses, personal attendants. burial place; receiving (but not giving) foreign princesses; traveling and in-place; plots, treason, intrigue; one top wife with privileges; brother-sister/father-daughter marriages; titles of importance. 7. female pharaohs: not many (the author lists six known at the book-release time); the rule often brief; things from their rule effaced or destroyed later; the six here each get a short biography. 8. religious life and death: much variety and the layers: the official ones, the regional and family cults, and lower-level tradition (magic, superstition, witchcraft). The pharaoh or priest(s) communicated with gods; religion more stability than spirituality-meaning; no creed, no fixed morals; temple front spaces open to the public only on festival days (for watching the processes); biggest gods Osiris, Re, and Amen (of goddesses: Isis, Hathor, Bast, Bes...); honoring the dead at home + death preparations; death at home; objects and actions against death; afterlife beliefs; body preservation styles; funerary practices; grave objects; letters to the deceased; the funerary stelae writings. (hide spoiler)] There is no conclusion chapter - I don't mind though it would've been nice. I wonder a bit what the author would think of any new findings, but here is already plenty. It does feel like the most one can get has been said here, of what can be found of what remains. You can see clearly what in the life of these women at this point of time was good and what was worse than it is today (at least illness and hygienic conditions-wise). Very enjoyable and interesting, I'm glad that I picked this book up to read now.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Iset

    Tyldesley's book is the perfect mid-range level for the amateur academic. Referring to material and theories that are more in-depth than the casual reader might expect, yet covering the topic in a reasonably broad manner without the lengthy exploration of detailed obscure evidence that a specialised professional academic might expect from the literature, "Daughters of Isis" is perfect for the beginner or undergraduate with existing partial or broad knowledge seeking to learn more about Egyptolog Tyldesley's book is the perfect mid-range level for the amateur academic. Referring to material and theories that are more in-depth than the casual reader might expect, yet covering the topic in a reasonably broad manner without the lengthy exploration of detailed obscure evidence that a specialised professional academic might expect from the literature, "Daughters of Isis" is perfect for the beginner or undergraduate with existing partial or broad knowledge seeking to learn more about Egyptology, feminist theory within archaeology, or both. The book begins by covering the geographical and historical background, an introduction which sets the scene for the explored topic of the book, which was both useful and accessible. The meat of the book then begins by studying the images of women in Ancient Egypt. This is perhaps the obvious place to start as the surviving images are where we can draw much of our clues about the lives of Egyptian women. This is followed with chapters examining women's roles as wives, mothers, and work both running the household and seeking employment outside of it. After a brief look at the importance of grooming for both female and male genders in Ancient Egypt, Tyldesley finishes with an exploration of the lives of higher-ranking women in society, and some of the more notable Queens Consort and Regnant. It would have perhaps been better from a story-telling point of view to place these chapters on individuals first in the book, as they are more engaging and tell more of a story than the chapter on how we can interpret the roles of Egyptian women from the surviving images - some readers may find it a little difficult to get into the book due to the dryness of the first chapter. All round, a good read for student academics or those with an existing interest in ancient Egypt. Not the most gripping read in the world, but informative and educational. Overall a good read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt has a slightly misleading sub-title. It probably should be Life in Ancient Egypt instead. The author admits that not much is really known about the daily living of the women in this ancient civilization beyond what can be inferred from the archaeology and that tells of the Egyptian's everyday life in general. However, the book does have a goodly amount of information and presents it in way that is accessible to the general reader who has an interest in a Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt has a slightly misleading sub-title. It probably should be Life in Ancient Egypt instead. The author admits that not much is really known about the daily living of the women in this ancient civilization beyond what can be inferred from the archaeology and that tells of the Egyptian's everyday life in general. However, the book does have a goodly amount of information and presents it in way that is accessible to the general reader who has an interest in ancient Egyptian culture.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Daughters of Isis is an accessible, well-written, fascinating social history of ancient Egypt that not only discusses women's lives but all the aspects of life of which women were a part. If you were going to read just one book about ancient Egypt, this is the one I'd recommend. Daughters of Isis is an accessible, well-written, fascinating social history of ancient Egypt that not only discusses women's lives but all the aspects of life of which women were a part. If you were going to read just one book about ancient Egypt, this is the one I'd recommend.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stacie

    There's a lot of good information here about ancient Egyptian life but most of the author's conclusions about the lives of ancient Egyptian women seem to be complete speculation. She makes statements not because there is evidence to support them, but because there is no evidence to contradict them. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as she states over and over that there is no hard evidence to support her interpretations. I think, however, that she does have a rosier view of human natur There's a lot of good information here about ancient Egyptian life but most of the author's conclusions about the lives of ancient Egyptian women seem to be complete speculation. She makes statements not because there is evidence to support them, but because there is no evidence to contradict them. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as she states over and over that there is no hard evidence to support her interpretations. I think, however, that she does have a rosier view of human nature than I do and that's why I found it hard to accept her conclusions without evidence to support them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juan Ruiz

    The back cover of the book reads "Egypt was undoubtedly the best place to have been born a women in the whole of the Ancient World". For this reason I thought this book was going to reveal something unexpected about the place of women in society in Ancient Egypt. This was not the case. The book does a good job at giving you some idea of what Egyptian society was: religion, marriage, households, entertainment, etc. However, trying to explain all these different aspects in less than 300 pages, cov The back cover of the book reads "Egypt was undoubtedly the best place to have been born a women in the whole of the Ancient World". For this reason I thought this book was going to reveal something unexpected about the place of women in society in Ancient Egypt. This was not the case. The book does a good job at giving you some idea of what Egyptian society was: religion, marriage, households, entertainment, etc. However, trying to explain all these different aspects in less than 300 pages, covering more than 2000 years of history, is quite ambitious, and the only way to do this, is by doing rough generalisations. From what I read, I didnt feel that being a woman in Ancient Egypt was any better or worse than being a woman in Ancient Persia, India, China, or Greece. While the book is easy and fun to read, I feel that it gives you information that could be also read in Wikipaedia in a good article about Ancient Egypt.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy Vicary

    This was an enlightening read into the society of Ancient Egypt. While a little fact heavy at times, the author did a commendable job of providing insight into the history of a society heavily influenced by the Royals, with little recorded of the "everyday" occurrences which majority of their population lived daily. Occasionally there is deviance from the title of the book, being that little information is known in some cases of a woman's life, so the author instead focuses on other facets of li This was an enlightening read into the society of Ancient Egypt. While a little fact heavy at times, the author did a commendable job of providing insight into the history of a society heavily influenced by the Royals, with little recorded of the "everyday" occurrences which majority of their population lived daily. Occasionally there is deviance from the title of the book, being that little information is known in some cases of a woman's life, so the author instead focuses on other facets of life. Interesting nonetheless of course, however some chapters contain little details into the actual life of a woman, although this is due to the small amount of recorded information available rather than the author's own discretion. This reader feels the book was more a general view of Egyptian society with a strong focus on the role of women rather than focusing on women exclusively.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    A very informative book. There were times when I felt that the author was either drawing conclusions from thin air or repeating information to pad the book but these offenses are out numbered by the many fascinating illustrations and quotes from ancient texts.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    A fascinating look into what the record can - and can't tell us about the lives of women at all levels in ancient Egypt. A fascinating look into what the record can - and can't tell us about the lives of women at all levels in ancient Egypt.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)

    Very interesting read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Clodia Metelli

    An interesting and readable overview of the topic. Despite the insistence of the author and of general received wisdom, going back to Herodotus, I didn't get a strong impression from this survey that Egyptian women were much more liberated than say Roman or Hellenistic women. It's true for example that women were able to manage their personal affairs without the help of a guardian, but by the time of the late Roman Republic, guardianship was becoming close to a formality for those Roman women wh An interesting and readable overview of the topic. Despite the insistence of the author and of general received wisdom, going back to Herodotus, I didn't get a strong impression from this survey that Egyptian women were much more liberated than say Roman or Hellenistic women. It's true for example that women were able to manage their personal affairs without the help of a guardian, but by the time of the late Roman Republic, guardianship was becoming close to a formality for those Roman women who were confident and competent to manage their own affairs. Egyptian women seem to have been excluded from the scribal schools where all important literacy was taught and so learned at home if at all. There were no glimpses in this account of business women, doctors and so on such as there seem to have been a share of in the Greek and Roman worlds. Outside the home, most women's sphere of operations seems to have been confined to the roles of entertainer, prostitute and domestic servant, while within the home they seem to have been universally portrayed as subordinate to their men.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kajal

    I didn't like this book very much. I thought it was a book of facts, and frankly, I'm more of a fiction type of girl. I did have to read a book for History, and I chose this one of the list. Although I enjoyed learning quite a bit about Egyptian society, I wasn't exactly as excited and motivated to read it as I could have been. Still, I do recommend it to all the History lovers out there, because it's actually not terrible - just not my taste. The one thing that bothered me most was the author's I didn't like this book very much. I thought it was a book of facts, and frankly, I'm more of a fiction type of girl. I did have to read a book for History, and I chose this one of the list. Although I enjoyed learning quite a bit about Egyptian society, I wasn't exactly as excited and motivated to read it as I could have been. Still, I do recommend it to all the History lovers out there, because it's actually not terrible - just not my taste. The one thing that bothered me most was the author's repeated saying that there was not enough information or artifactual evidence of Egyptian women...but still managed to write a 300page+ book. Surprising. Not a terrible book, just not for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This is a comprehensive look at the lives of women in Ancient Egypt from the most famous female pharaohs to the peasant women who look after their families along the banks of the Nile. Tyldesley has separate each aspect of Egyptian life into separate chapters, beginning each with a summary of the general state of things and then detailing how this applied to women, or how it was different. She writes in an easy to read manner and so you don't need background knowledge of the Egyptian society to This is a comprehensive look at the lives of women in Ancient Egypt from the most famous female pharaohs to the peasant women who look after their families along the banks of the Nile. Tyldesley has separate each aspect of Egyptian life into separate chapters, beginning each with a summary of the general state of things and then detailing how this applied to women, or how it was different. She writes in an easy to read manner and so you don't need background knowledge of the Egyptian society to follow her words. She also shows how things changed as the Greeks and Romans began to dominate Egyptian society and how these changes affected Egyptian women.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meltha

    This is a good, solid, well-researched scholarly source on ancient Egypt that covers as well as possible the lives of women during the time period. Granted, it's impossible to say for certain exactly what happened with anything in particular, but Tyldesley is very good about noting when there simply isn't enough proof to say something absolutely. The text does feel a little dated, though, in terms of examples given and a general sense of this belonging to an earlier age of scholarship, which rea This is a good, solid, well-researched scholarly source on ancient Egypt that covers as well as possible the lives of women during the time period. Granted, it's impossible to say for certain exactly what happened with anything in particular, but Tyldesley is very good about noting when there simply isn't enough proof to say something absolutely. The text does feel a little dated, though, in terms of examples given and a general sense of this belonging to an earlier age of scholarship, which really isn't a negative per say. The book itself did feel a little fragile, though.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Tyldesley produces a surprisingly thorough book on ancient women in Egypt--suprising in the sense that the time period she discusses is thousands of years ago, but Tyldesley manages to discuss the women so that they are relevant and fully-formed, even if information may be scarce at times. Occasionally Tyldesley's works can be dry and didactic, but this work is one of her best ones (along with Nefertiti). Tyldesley produces a surprisingly thorough book on ancient women in Egypt--suprising in the sense that the time period she discusses is thousands of years ago, but Tyldesley manages to discuss the women so that they are relevant and fully-formed, even if information may be scarce at times. Occasionally Tyldesley's works can be dry and didactic, but this work is one of her best ones (along with Nefertiti).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    I think that Tyldesley balances fact and speculation nicely. Since I've read a number of histories recently that went overboard on speculation, I appreciated this. Though the book is ostensibly about the women of Ancient Egypt, it teaches a lot about life in Ancient Egypt in general. It is a good readable history without being at all dumbed down. I think that Tyldesley balances fact and speculation nicely. Since I've read a number of histories recently that went overboard on speculation, I appreciated this. Though the book is ostensibly about the women of Ancient Egypt, it teaches a lot about life in Ancient Egypt in general. It is a good readable history without being at all dumbed down.

  19. 5 out of 5

    SixBeforeLunch

    Really interesting book about the lives of women in Ancient Egypt. I liked that it focused on the lives of ordinary women as opposed to talking only about the ruling classes. A good read, especially for Stargate geeks. ;)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This book is a decently comprehensive look at everyday life among women in ancient Egypt. I would have given it a higher rating had the author not editorialized and made frequent comparisons to modern Western society.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fatma

    Joyce Tyldesley is an amazing Egyptologist. somehow she found the balance between history and good story telling. I thought reading about ancient Egypt would be more like reading a text book at school but her books makes it so enjoyable!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justyna

    The book was ok, but I had to give it minus stars for: * lots of inadequate quotations that were confusing and pointless * telling about some interesting stories in a very vague way (e.g. Ramesses III assassination, Ankhesenamun's story) * speculation The book was ok, but I had to give it minus stars for: * lots of inadequate quotations that were confusing and pointless * telling about some interesting stories in a very vague way (e.g. Ramesses III assassination, Ankhesenamun's story) * speculation

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    An excellent and incisive examination of women in Ancient Egypt. Tyldesley covers not only the elite (including the few female monarchs) but also what life was like for the everyday Egyptian woman. Well done and a worthwile read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cymric

    I was inspired to read this book by the Egypt exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal. The subject matter is a bit dry, and I got through it by reading bits of it when travelling here and there by bus and metro.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elli

    This is one of my fave books - Ancient Egyptian women had it pretty darn good compared to the rest of the ancient world.

  26. 5 out of 5

    G. Lawrence

    Excellent book, wonderful research and an engaging read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katie Tillwick

    A fascinating read filled with details both common and obscure. Written more to entertain, not a text book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    I really enjoyed this book. It provided a lot of the depth and context I was looking for.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sybil Johnson

    Lots of interesting information on the life of women in Ancient Egypt.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hope Gillespie

    Awesome resource, really vital to my thesis

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