The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis's Gilded Age in the Valley of the Kings

The Millionaire and the Mummies: Theodore Davis's Gilded Age in the Valley of the Kings


By (author) John M Adams

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  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Format: Hardback | 363 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 212mm x 34mm | 500g
  • Publication date: 25 June 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1250026695
  • ISBN 13: 9781250026699
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, maps
  • Sales rank: 867,797

Product description

Egypt, The Valley of the Kings, 1905: An American robber baron peers through the hole he has cut in an ancient tomb wall and discovers the richest trove of golden treasure ever seen in Egypt. At the start of the twentieth century, Theodore Davis was the most famous archaeologist in the world; his career turned tomb-robbing and treasure-hunting into a science. Using six of Davis's most important discoveries--from the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut's sarcophagus to the exquisite s"habti" statuettes looted from the Egyptian Museum not too long ago--as a lens around which to focus his quintessentially American rags-to-riches tale, Adams chronicles the dizzying rise of a poor country preacher's son who, through corruption and fraud, amassed tremendous wealth in Gilded Age New York and then atoned for his ruthless career by inventing new standards for systematic excavation in the field of archaeology. Davis found a record eighteen tombs in the Valley and, breaking with custom, gave all the spoils of his discoveries to museums. A confederate of Boss Tweed, friend of Teddy Roosevelt, and rival of J. P. Morgan, the colorful "American Lord Carnarvon" shared his Newport mansion with his Rembrandts, his wife, "and" his mistress. The only reason Davis has been forgotten by history to a large extent is probably the fact that he stopped just short of King Tutankhamen's tomb, the discovery of which propelled Howard Carter (Davis's erstwhile employee) to worldwide fame just a few short years later. Drawing on rare and never-before-published archival material, "The Millionaire and the Mummies," the first biography of Theodore Davis ever written rehabilitates a tarnished image through a thrilling tale of crime and adventure, filled with larger-than-life characters, unimaginable treasures, and exotic settings.

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Author information

JOHN M. ADAMS is director emeritus of the Orange County Public Library. He has served on the Board and Executive Committee of the American Research Center in Egypt (the professional organization for U.S. Egyptologists) and founded the Southern California Chapter of ARCE and served as its president. He is a regular contributor to "Kmt: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt. " He edited the Egyptological newsletter "Sedjem "for five years. He lives in Winchester, Illinois.

Review quote

"Behind every great fortune is a crime, Balzac once declared. But Theodore Davis's struggle for wealth and power is only one side of the amazing story. The tycoon is a complex character driven by his demons to achieve something noble and unforgettable with his ill-gotten gains. And in the barren wastes of Egypt's Valley of the Kings, Davis achieves just that. Unstoppable, self-educated, kind and tyrannical in turn, Davis embodies the energy of an America just coming into its own. The book is a meditation on the mysteries of the past Davis uncovers as well as a study in the contradictions of human nature. I could not put it down. I loved the anecdotes Adams 'dug up' and held my breath as Davis descended into ancient, sealed tombs. A wonderful book."--Daniel Meyerson, author of" In""The Valley of the Kings" and "The Linguist and the Emperor""A fascinating book: a lively split-screen account of the corrupt rise of a Tweed-ring mogul, Theodore Davis, interlaced with his later distinguished career as an Egyptologist and primary excavator of the Valley of the Kings."--Charles.R. Morris, author of "The Tycoons""A rounded biography. Theodore Davis's work, though overshadowed by later excavations, was revolutionary in its methodical thoroughness, and Adams is similarly scientific in his factual resurrection of Davis's life. Throughout the book, there is a compelling tension between Davis's uniquely American style of self-made wealth and the divinely granted kingships of the ancient Egyptian rulers. It's a fresh look at Egyptology, and the author skillfully dusts off a historic life, presenting his subject as a full-bodied human."--"Publishers Weekly""A fast-paced narrative. Adams brings to life a fascinating individual and his world. Highly recommended."--"Library Journal""It proves to be an extraordinary read, thoroughly and freshly researched, and well written. It is the book everyone interested in the golden age of Egyptioan archaeology has been waiting for, a