Nearly a decade ago, archaeologists at Wadi al-Jarf on Egypt’s Red Sea Coast found a cache of papyrus fragments dating from the reign of the 4th Dynasty King Khufu (Cheops), he of the Great Pyramid at Giza, dating from 2633-2605 BCE. These fragments appear to be the “oldest written documents” ever found (document meaning material approximating paper as opposed to some other material); more interesting perhaps is that they are from logbooks—tasks, travel, supplies, rations—of an official called Inspector Merer, who ran a work gang who also transported stone blocks destined for the Great Pyramid.

One would think that comparing civilizations as far removed in time and space as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China might not reveal much. Yet Professor Tony Barbieri’s Ancient Egypt and Early China: State, Society, and Culture gleans much from a deeply-researched comparison of political structures, diplomatic relations, legal systems, ideas of the afterlife, and other aspects.

Many years ago a Parisian dance act from Pigalle received an invitation to play at a nightclub on Cairo’s Pyramid Road. Like “costumes” at the Crazy Horse today, the dancers’ body stockings left nothing to the imagination. The audience of worldly Cairiotes, the tarbouche-wearing musicians with their lutes and durabukas, the indefatigable army of busboys, gazed on this spectacle of female nubility with a mix of indifference and condescension.

 John Greaves, Pyramidographia and Other Writings, with Birch's Life of John Greaves", John Anthony Butler (ed) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2018)
John Greaves, Pyramidographia and Other Writings, with Birch’s Life of John Greaves”, John Anthony Butler (ed) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2018)

This is a modern-spelling edition of John Greaves’s Pyramidographia (1646), together with some miscellaneous travel-writings, letters and a biography of Greaves by Thomas Birch. It includes a full scholarly introduction and detailed notes. This book is the first of its kind in English, and undertakes a scientific evaluation of the pyramids through metrics, using state-of-the-art instruments and drawing on both ancient and modern authorities, amongst which is included Arab and Persian writers as well as Western sources.