Barbara Mertz revises Barbara Mertz

Barbara Mertz first published Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt in 1964. She published a significantly revised and updated edition in 2007. As she writes in her foreword to the second edition,

Not only have (good heavens) forty years passed, but they have been years full of new discoveries and new interpretations, and even new characters in the story of ancient Egypt, some of whom were not known when I wrote this book.

It’s fun to try to figure out which passages are from 1964 and which are from 2007. For example, I’d have guessed that her comments about goofy scholars were from the 1960s, but the prime candidate for goofy scholarship would probably be Erich von Däniken
but Chariots of the Gods? wasn’t published until 1968.

How about this great passage on revisionism?

A prominent political figure once referred to “revisionist historians” in a manner that implied: (1) he had coined the phrase; (2) these people were doing something underhanded. Neither is true. Revisionism is an essential process in history (and of course other disciplines). Like most things it can be used improperly — shaking things up just for the hell of it, or to get newspaper headlines. We see a certain amount of that in Egyptology. But new discoveries and new interpretations require a reassessment of the evidence — revisionism, as I like to call it. That’s what history is about, and you’ll find plenty of it in this book. Without apologies.

I’m going to guess that Mertz added that section in 2007. After all, Bush Jr. blasted "revisionist historians" in 2003.


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