Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Beneath the Sands of Egypt by Donald P Ryan

In the case of Beneath the Sands of Egypt by Donald P Ryan, the subtitle of Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist is pretty much spot on. This fascinating book serves Ryan's memoir, as he recounts the winding path that brought him to Egypt and the many adventures he had there, not only digging in the sands but also participating in the filming of documentaries. As an added bonus, he also shares how he came to cross paths with the legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl and ended up helping this legend with his own research. That's quite a career, and Ryan himself shows that not only does he possess a lively curiosity, but he delivers the account of exploits in an engaging fashion with somewhat wryly humorous observations.

In listening to this audiobook, beautifully narrated by Paul Boehmer, I also inadvertently also learnt a lot more about the importance of fibre technology in ancient Egypt than I expected I would (!!!) – and I love it when books deliver such seemingly inconsequential factoids. Yes, there is an Egypt Papyrus Museum, and yes, I want to go there one day. 

Ryan offers a perfect blend of archaeological research and amusing anecdotes, so there is never a dull moment in this book. I was quite sad when I reached the end, and I'm happy to report that I've since picked up two copies of his other publications. Perhaps one of the highlights for the read was Ryan describing how they staged the scenes where he and a television presenter encountered bats in old tombs. Ryan also reminds me why although I love all things Egypt, I'm rather glad that I'm able to indulge in my passion without trying to monetise it. While many people may have a desire to embark on careers in Egyptology, the opportunities to make a career of it are far and few between. 

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