Wilkinson’s ambitious focus is the hundred years of Egyptology between Jean-Francois Champollion’s groundbreaking deciphering of the Rosetta stone in 1822 and Howard Carter’s sensational discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922 ... The quiet yet salient revelation of Wilkinson’s study — and what makes the story of 19th-century Egyptology relevant now — is how the Anglo-French obsession with Egypt’s past and their frantic bid for control of its future gradually spurred the downtrodden modern Egyptians toward a newfound self-awareness ... All the fascinating giants of Egyptology appear here ... This is a riveting, sometimes appalling story. I think it’s important to say that Wilkinson’s prose style is so smooth and straight and unadorned as to be nearly nonexistent ... Wilkinson is a consummate historian ... Rarely do facts speak this clearly.
A World Beneath the Sands tells a gripping story by means of all the wayward eccentrics and heroic archaeologists who devoted their lives to uncovering the world’s most ancient and dazzling monuments from beneath unimaginable depths of windblown sand ... The story zips along as they race against each other ... In 1923 Arthur Weigall complained about the arid scholarliness of many of his fellow Egyptologists ... He would have loved this book.
...colorful ... The story that strings these wonderful characters together is the steady professionalisation of Egyptology — the shift, as Wilkinson puts it, from 'scoundrels to scholars' ... A more significant absence is a sense of Wilkinson’s ultimate attitude to all that western 'collecting' ... beyond the admiration and the scholarship, the imperialism and the looting — all skilfully and entertainingly plotted here — there is surely another story to tell.