Books: Theft After Life

THE RAPE OF THE NILE

by BRIAN M. PAGAN

399 pages. Scribners. $14.95.

During the 19th century, an Anglo-Indian tourist decided to make sketches of some bas-reliefs that were on the wall of Pharaoh Amun-Hotpe's tomb. To save himself hours in the hot, stuffy tomb, he chiseled off the bas-reliefs and took them to his boat. When he had finished his sketches, he simply dropped the priceless stones into the Nile.

This anecdote is one of the more outrageous tales that British-born Archaeologist Brian Fagan records in this brisk and knowledgeable history of the...

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