iPad Book Review: Pyramids 3D (Primary Author: Dr. Zahi Hawass) Review
Published by TouchPress
Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Human beings are a complex mass of emotions and ideas, and often, the point of origin of our particular interests and predilections are not clear to us. Why do we like what we do? Why do we appreciate a certain culture? It's very hard to say, sometimes...
However, in the case of Pyramids 3D, I can pinpoint with laser accuracy the birth of my interest in anything Egypt-related. It was late one night, I was ten years old at the time, when my dad pulled me out of bed (there was school the next day, so this was even more memorable!) and sat me down with him in the living room to watch my first Mummy movie. Boris Karloff, as good as he was as Frankenstein, fascinated me even more as the Mummy and as the doomed Im-Ho-Tep. The incredible set designs and the unique story taking place before my eyes made me a life-long enthusiast of Egyptian lore and history. Later on, the story of Tutankhamun's tomb, and the grand adventures of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon only added fuel to the fire and sent my imagination soaring. How would it be to actually set foot in the pyramids and experience what these men had so many decades ago?
Of course, with readings and documentaries, I came to appreciate in a much deeper way the true wonders of Egypt, but the mystique of the pyramids still remains to this day. That's why I was so excited to hear about the Pyramids 3D book published by TouchPress. If I was never able to actually make it to Egypt in person, I could at least visit the Giza Plateau virtually, and "explore" the pyramids myself!
I'm pleased to say that the publishers have done a great job of it. The book is marvelous to look at. There are three main sections to explore: Places, Objects and Book. Each section can be accessed by a navigation bar at the bottom of the book's welcome pane.
The "Places" section gives you a 3D overhead view of the Giza Plateau, which can be rotated 360 degrees. You can tap the screen to make the labels for each pyramid and tomb appear and disappear, so you get a clear view, while still being able to indentify what you're looking at. Taping a particular building brings you closer, and you can then choose to enter that building straightaway by yourself and explore, or you can choose to hear an expert introduction, giving you great details about what you are seeing in the building. The narrations are well done, and are well worth listening to. You can also tap the Info button to read more facts and historical details about each place. At the top of the screen, you will also find a "Quick Tips" tab, to get instructions that help you navigate the building easily.
It was incredible fun to "visit" the Great Pyramid, and all the other locations at Giza. The amount of details in the reconstructions is amazing, and getting around the virtual pyramid is very fluid. Apart from banging into some walls when I was backing up (very probably due to my own clumsy finger fumblings); I found no issues with navigating around. Tapping on various labels inside the pyramid takes you to specific locations instantly, and once there, you can see photographs of the actual rooms, in addition to the virtual recreated room, so you can get a really good idea of how things actually look. A little map at the bottom right corner, reminiscent of the kind you see in role-playing games, also helps in keeping your bearings as you walk around. The whole navigation system is impressive, really quite well done. If this was all that Pyramids 3D offered, it would already be worth the price of admission.
But there are two more sections! Pyramids 3D is definitely content-rich and the next portion of the book is equally fascinating. This is the section called "Objects". Here, you can view and manipulate a collection of over three dozen artifacts, including statues, masks, pottery and more. The collection is presented as small 3D icons all on one page, with related objects grouped together under different headings; such as Activities, Family Groups, Royal Statues and Individuals, to name just a few. You tap each small icon to access the object you want to look at in detail. This can be rotated 360 degrees, as well as flipped up and down on its axis, so you can see the top and bottom of each item, as well as the back and sides of it. Tapping on the name brings up a few important details, as well as hyperlinks to more detailed info in the main body of the book. By pinching out two fingers, you can zoom in and get an incredibly detailed close up view and give the item a thorough going over; something you could never do with the real thing. Anyone with an interest in Egyptology or Art History will find this section particularly rewarding.
The final section is the "Book", the meat of Pyramids 3D, as it were. In this extensive text-based part, readers will find information on the following topics: the history of Ancient Egypt, the rulers of the Fourth Dynasty, the Giza pyramids, the builders of those pyramids, the tombs found on the Giza Plateau and the Sphinx. Focusing on more recent times, the book continues with chapters concerning the legacy of Giza and the explorers and excavators who worked on the various sites around the plateau. The book concludes with two very interesting chapters, entitled "The Mystery of the Queen's Burial" and "The Discovery of the Solar Boats", and a short postscript from the author, Dr. Zahi Hawass.
The book contains numerous photos, lots of timelines, and many links to the Objects collection, which allows you to connect each object with the time in which it was made. This gives the reader a welcome sense of context, as he or she stops to examine each artifact in turn. The information provided in each chapter is quite extensive, but it is very accessible to the lay reader. You don't have to be an expert Egyptologist to read this work; the publishers have made excellent work of taking a very complex topic and presenting it in a clear and logical fashion.
I only wish something like this would have been available when I was a student. The materials in Pyramid 3D makes Ancient Egypt come alive in a way that a paper book never could. Any Middle School or High School History teacher should incorporate Pyramids 3D into the curriculum - I guarantee it will engage their students immediately. And hey, who knows? Maybe they will inspire a life-long interest in Egypt in one of their students just like my Dad did for me all those years ago!
It was a joy to read through each chapter of this book and to go through all the audiovisual materials it contains. I recommend Pyramids 3D heartily to anyone who is interested in history, architecture or art. You will find a treasure trove of information; enough to keep you entertained for many hours. I will go back to this book time and again; it's definitely one of the best iPad books I've ever come across.