256 pages, Thames & Hudson, ISBN-13: 978-0500050842
Like its author, this book is completely devoted to the Pyramids of Egypt. The major premise – that the archaeological record bears witness to an evolution of pyramid design, construction and function from beginning to end of the Pyramid Age – is demonstrated brilliantly and completely. It explains without exhausting the religious significance of the conceptual Pyramid Complex, and then concentrates on the brick and mortar aspects of its subject. An informative review of explorations at the pyramid sites throughout the ages is equally as interesting as the detailed descriptions of the pyramids themselves that follows in a section fittingly titled The Whole Pyramid Catalogue. This catalogue, comprising fully half the volume, is a description of each individual Egyptian Pyramid Complex presented (chronologically) with such clarity of detail that it dispels all ambiguity created by several lifetimes of sensationalist and speculative journalism surrounding its subject. In its latter pages the author discusses the role of the Pyramid Complex as administrative center and landlord in later antiquity, and gracefully addresses the more controversial of topics, including the ubiquitous “how did they do it” question, along with his own speculations on some unanswered sociological questions: the size of the work force and logistics. Quite reasoned and well-informed estimates lead him to conclusions that will in their own right prove controversial. One notable unintended consequence of this volume is that many artifacts, presented elsewhere as Art, assume their appropriate contextual venue and so now hold much more meaning for this reader. The Narmer Palate as declarative stellae in a walled courtyard at Nekhen is one example; the gilded yet austere canopied boudoir of Hetepheres is another. The text is very well written and easily read. Heavily illustrated, the photographs are appropriate, of excellent quality and are well placed; line drawings are used throughout to clarify and supplement photographs. With this volume Dr. Mark Lehner joins the ranks of Egypt's most celebrated archaeologists, and surpasses them all in understanding and presentation of the facts concerning the Pyramids.