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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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A gorgeously illustrated story about a family of Egyptian embalmers that will enthrall kids with its mummy-making details and brilliantly painted pages.

From artist and Egypt specialist Tamara Bower comes her third, gorgeous book about Ancient Egypt. Using the classic style of Egyptian art, the book is painstakingly accurate in facts and illustrative style. Artifacts, funerary customs, kid-loving gory details of the mummification process, hieroglyphs, and details of life in ancient Egypt are told through the eyes of Ipy, whose father is embalmer to the King. Yuya, father of the Queen, has died and Ipy must help his father in the mummification process. Yuya is an actual mummy and the discovery of his tomb is an entertaining story in itself, with the archaeologist Theodore Davis fainting at the sight of so much gold, and the portly Gaston Maspero getting stuck while trying to climb into the tomb. Yuya's tomb was a spectacular discovery in the Valley of the Kings that was later overshadowed only by the discovery of King Tut, Yuya's great-grandson. 

The book features sidebars of hieroglyphs and their meanings, a map, and an afterword telling more about the life of Yuya, of the burial process, and ancient Egypt in general. While there are a number of children's books on mummies, none are told from the point of view of the embalmers themselves, and none are illustrated with the meticulous eye of Tamara Bower.

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“A charming and well-researched book with vivid, engaging, exquisite original artwork by Tamara Bower that brings ancient Egypt to life. A delight for children, aficionados of ancient Egypt, and scholars. It is definitely on my Christmas present list!”

“Spectacular! The art is fabulous. The text is fascinating. This is going to be a classic.”

“Award-winning author and illustrator Bower reveals the process of Egyptian embalming in a colorful and informative manner. The narrative follows the death and embalming of Yuya, an official of the royal court whose tomb was discovered in 1905 near the Valley of the Kings. The text begins with the historical context of embalming in ancient Egypt, followed by a description of the soul’s journey to and judgment at the court of Osiris. The majority of the content thereafter concerns the process of embalming in greater detail and burial. Bower’s training in archaeological illustration is evident in the book’s stylized figures, all painted in classical Egyptian form. Solid earth tones guide readers through the narrative, and many illustrations are beautifully rendered. In this uniquely Egyptian style, Bower depicts the journey into the afterlife, the embalming priests, the colorful funerary processions, and hieroglyphics. The text is just as hearty as the artwork, the embalming process detailed in a respectful manner. Bower explains the process without dumbing down or sanitizing the material, describing the priests’ careful incisions and the removal of organs. The culture of embalming is also examined. For instance, readers learn that the priest who made the abdominal incision was a specialist. After this priest made the incision, he was, by tradition, cast out by the other attending priests (with a wink and a nod), because it was wrong to cut a human body. Bower appends a useful article discussing the discovery of Yuya and his wife Thuya’s tomb. Much like David L. Weitzman’s Pharaoh’s Boat, this offering succeeds in illuminating a specific element of ancient Egyptian life. VERDICT An artful and informational book on a high-interest topic.”

blog — October 19

Tamara Bower on the Secret of Mummification

Ever wondered how exactly the Ancient Egyptians preserved their dead? So have we. Problem is that those storied embalmers never wrote down their secret. But with the help of some ancient texts and modern experiments, we have a rough idea. Tamara Bower, author of The Mummy Makers of Egypt, breaks it down.

From The Mummy Makers of Egypt author Tamara Bower:

Mummification was a closely guarded secret and never written down by the embalmers. We do have descriptions of the mummification process written down by ancient Greek authors; and we have the research and experiments done by Egyptologists such as Bob Brier and Salima Ikram, which have given us a good idea of the embalming process.
 
The body was washed, then the brain and the internal organs were removed, as they contain much moisture that will cause the body to rot. The body was then packed with rags and bags of natron to restore its shape. Natron is a chemical similar to baking soda, which dries the body out. The body is then entirely covered with natron for about 35-40 days, until it is completely dry. Dryness is what preserves the mummy. 
 
Once the mummy is dried, it is washed again, and then wrapped with strips of linen. Some of the strips were from torn clothing, other strips were made especially for the mummy, and sometimes inscribed with prayers.
 
As the linen was wrapped around the body, amulets were inserted to magically protect the mummy. Then the bandages were sealed with molten resin. The resin usually came from the sap of the pistachio tree. This resin was a sacred substance and was also used on wooden coffins and other wood objects. It tends to turn yellow or brown over time.
 
Once the resin hardened, a gold mask was put over the mummy's head, and straps around the body. Then the mummy was placed in the inner coffin. Yuya, the mummy in this book, had 3 coffins; one within another, as did King Tutankhamen. This was because Yuya was the father of the Queen, an important man. Some noblemen only had one or two coffins.

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TAMARA BOWER has been fascinated by ancient Egypt since she was a child and dressed up to play as ancient Egyptians with her friends. She studied fine art in college and was trained in archaeological illustration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she worked as a staff illustrator in the Department of Egyptian Art. She has also served as the technical illustrator for archaeological digs in Egypt, Turkey, Spain, Belize, and California. Bower is the author of three children's books about ancient Egypt: How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt (winner of the ALA Amelia Bloomer Award for Nonfiction Picture Books, the Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award, and the Africana Book Award for Young Children), The Shipwrecked Sailor and, most recently, The Mummy-Makers of Egypt. She lives in New York City.