Can't afford to buy your sweetheart a pyramid this Valentine's Day? How about Miroslav Verner's The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture, and Science of Egypt's Great Monuments (New York: Grove Press, 2001; $35.00) or Martin Isler's Sticks, Stones, & Shadows: Building the Egyptian Pyramids (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001; $29.95) instead? Verner, head of the Czech excavations at Abusir, presents an overview (chapters on origins and construction, as well as burial and mortuary cult) and comprehensive catalog of pyramids. Silly ideas--like the claim the Giza pyramids were built in 10,000 B.C. rather than around 2500 B.C.--are dismissed in an epilogue. Isler (a sculptor and president of a New York graphics firm) draws on his 30 years of studying the pyramids to develop thought-provoking solutions to questions about the mechanics of their construction. Not one to work solely on paper, Isler conducts interesting field trials, such as testing the effectiveness of lubricants--thin layers of mud and banana peels--in moving large stone blocks.
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