The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy by Jo Marchant
|The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy by Jo Marchant|
|Reviewer: Louise Jones|
|Summary: Jo Marchant delves into the history surrounding one of the greatest discoveries of all time and looks to science to answer some of the big unanswered questions about Tutankhamen.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: June 2013|
|Publisher: Da Capo Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Now, if I'd known
They'd line up just to see him,
I'd taken all my money
And bought me a museum.
These lyrics, taken from a popular Steve Martin song, perfectly epitomize a phenomenon first described in the New York Times, February 1923. The craze came to be known as Tut-Mania and even now, ninety years later, there is something about the boy-king with the golden mask that ignites the imagination and curiosity of each subsequent generation.
In The Shadow King Jo Marchant, an award-winning science journalist, seeks to view the events from a fresh perspective, using her investigative skills and expertise in genetics to try and uncover what really happened to the king. She scrutinises the history and science in order to sift through a myriad of theories and speculations to uncover critical nuggets of truth.
I loved Marchant’s writing style. It is chatty and informal. Reading her work is like reading a letter from an old friend, albeit one who is an expert on science and history! She never talks down to her readers and is adept at translating difficult concepts into ideas that the layman can easily understand.
The first part of the book concentrates on the discovery of the tomb itself, but also looks at the broader picture, discussing some of the other finds that took place in the preceding years. This is real Indiana Jones material. For example, Italian explorer Belzoni wrote of his tunnel excavations in 1817:
It was choked with mummies, and I could not pass without putting my face in contact with that of some decayed Egyptian...I could not avoid being covered with bones, legs, arms and heads rolling from above.
Marchant then goes on to introduce us to Tutankhamen’s extended family, including the enigmatic Elder Lady, a rather dignified looking mummy with regal features and beautiful long, wavy hair.
With the development of technology has come new ways to investigate the bones of these long-dead kings and queens. With each fresh examination comes a plethora of new theories about how Tutankhamen died. The initial crude post mortem gave way to the era of the X Ray, CAT scan and later DNA analysis, leading to theories as diverse as murder, malaria, tuberculosis and even a hippo attack as possible causes of death. Marchant is open-minded about each theory and concludes that we may never know the truth about the boy-king’s death as the recent political upheaval in Egypt has rendered further study impossible for the time being.
We are introduced to a murky world of cover ups, conspiracy plots and smear campaigns, with scientists divided into believers and non-believers when it comes to the feasibility of successfully analysing DNA from a mummy thousands of years old.
The book concludes with a poignant audience with the king himself, as Marchant visits Tutankhamen’s tomb to see his bones, which she worries may disintegrate completely within the next few decades.
The Shadow King reads like an adventure/murder mystery story with plenty of twists and turns. This is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated in the history of Egypt.
Those interested in Egyptian history will enjoy Egyptian Dawn: Exposing the Real Truth Behind Ancient Egypt by Robert Temple and The Rosetta Stone by John Ray
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy by Jo Marchant at Amazon.com.
The Shadow King: The Bizarre Afterlife of King Tut's Mummy by Jo Marchant is in the Top Ten History Books of 2013.
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