Egyptology, and Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies | University of Oxford

Egyptology, and Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies

The ancient civilizations of Egypt and of the Near East - Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia - are foundations of the modern world. Understanding these unique cultures presents a rewarding intellectual challenge. The undergraduate degree in Oxford integrates the translation and analysis of original sources in the ancient languages and writing systems (eg hieroglyphs and cuneiform) with the study of archaeological and artistic materials.

BA in Oriental Studies (Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies)

The three-year BA course in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies offers two distinct routes of study, one concentrating on Egyptology and the Egyptian language, and the other on Ancient Near Eastern Studies and the Akkadian language of Babylonia and Assyria.

Both routes offer a wide range of options for the study of the history, material culture, language and literatures of ancient Egypt and/or the Ancient Near East. No prior knowledge of Egyptian, Akkadian, or any other Ancient Near Eastern language is expected.

Egyptology route

In the first year, Egyptian is studied intensively in the Middle Egyptian phase (c. 2000-1400 BCE). The course for the final examination is started in the second year, when students learn a second language chosen from the following: Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac, Classical Greek, Coptic, Hebrew (Biblical and Mishnaic), Old Iranian, Hittite, or Sumerian. As an alternative to a second language, it is also possible to take Archaeology and Anthropology as a second subject, with Egyptology as the main subject. The second language is treated in a broadly similar fashion to Egyptian, with work both on language and texts and on history and culture. Taking Archaeology and Anthropology involves broad training in these disciplines through lectures and weekly tutorials. During the second and third years Egyptian is continued with more advanced work in Middle Egyptian, as well as Old and Late Egyptian. Students also take classes in the Ashmolean Museum during these years to develop their understanding of Egyptian material culture, and archaeological method and practice in Egypt. In the third year of the course students choose their own areas for more detailed study and research, including a dissertation. Dissertations and special subjects are often centred on historical, archaeological, or artistic topics, and may include additional areas of language or texts.

Near Eastern Studies route

In the first year Akkadian is studied intensively in the Old Babylonian and Standard Babylonian dialects. The course for the final examination is started in the second year, when students learn a second language chosen from the following: Egyptian, Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac, Classical Greek, Coptic, Hebrew (Biblical and Mishnaic), Old Iranian, Hittite, or Sumerian. As an alternative to a second language, it is also possible to take Archaeology and Anthropology as a second subject, with Ancient Near Eastern Studies as the main subject. The second language is treated in a broadly similar fashion to Akkadian, with work both on language and texts and on history and culture. Taking Archaeology and Anthropology involves broad training in these disciplines through lectures and weekly tutorials. Akkadian is continued during the second and third years with more advanced work in Standard Babylonian, as well as material in at least one other dialect and phase of cuneiform script. Students also take classes in the Ashmolean Museum during these years to develop their understanding of the material culture of the Ancient Near East and to allow them to work with original textual sources (cuneiform tablets). As part of the third-year course students choose two areas for more detailed study and research. One course option involves reading texts of particular interest, which can come from an additional category or time period not covered by the rest of the syllabus. The choice of dissertation topic can centre on historical, archaeological, or artistic topics, and may include additional areas of language or texts.

BA in Classics and Oriental Studies

Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies can also be studied as a main or second subject in the joint degree of Classics and Oriental Studies, alongside Latin and/or Greek. The ancient societies of Egypt and the Ancient Near East had close relationships with the Greek and Roman worlds, thus this degree allows detailed perspectives across the ancient world to be developed.

Egyptology or Akkadian as a second subject

Students taking a BA in Oriental Studies with Arabic or Hebrew as a main subject may choose to take Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies as a second subject, specialising in either Egyptian or Akkadian.