Sacred Symbols: Ancient Egypt
(Thames & Hudson, 1995)

Sacred Symbols is a part of a series by Thames & Hudson designed to explore the symbols of various cultures of different ages. Overall, it's not too shabby.

The book gives a very generalistic overview of the main symbols of ancient Egypt. It describes various symbols, from various deities and their representations, to symbols of kingship, to the sacred animals, and to the symbols of the afterlife. This book is not to be used in serious in-depth research of ancient Egyptian symbology, but, for a few dollars, it is a nice book for the coffee table or for guests to simply peruse for light reading.

Yet, while the definitions and descriptions of the various symbols are generalistic, there are some mistakes made. The discrepencies are mostly regarding images and pictures of various gods. For instance, in the description of Nut, the sky goddess, the book refers to a very atypical depiction of Nut being held up by her father, Shu, over her husband Geb. However, in the description, they reverse the roles of her father and brother.

In another example, they completely misrepresent the goddess Tefnut (goddess of moisture). Tefnut is often depicted in a lion-headed god or as a full female. In Sacred Symbols, the book refers to a picture of Khnum, a ram-headed god with curling horizontal horns, as Tefnut. Yet in another example, a picture of the ram-headed god Atum (a ram with horns curled around his ears), is referred to as Set, the god of thunder and storms.

For a novice to ancient Egypt, these mistakes might not be noticed. However, to a person studying Egypt in depth, these mistakes scream editorial/proofreading mistakes. Normally, Thames & Hudson produces very good quality books on Egyptology, so it makes me wonder how these very simple mistakes were able to bypass the editorial or proofreading staff.

[ by Jade Falcon ]

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Also check out The Celts in the same series!