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Egyptian Archaeology at Cardiff

Over the last few years potential students have expressed a wish for a greater number of modules dealing with the archaeology of Ancient Egypt, and in having them from the very start of their course. In response to this demand we introduced a Part 1 (First Year) module: Ancient Egypt.

This module looks at ancient Egypt from the standpoint of the Egyptians themselves, and sets the archaeology of Egypt in context. The module therefore serves as a background for the study of ancient Egypt later in the degree scheme, as well as providing a 'taster' for students who want to get a feel for what Egyptian archaeology is about, but who may wish to study non-Egyptian modules later in the course.

Studying Egyptian Archaeology at Cardiff

Many students and prospective students ask about the opportunities to study ancient Egypt during their archaeology degree course. This section is designed to give some idea of what is on offer at Cardiff.

Why study Ancient Egypt?

Cardiff graduates at the Giza pyramids en route to the Amarna Expedition

Cardiff graduates at the Giza pyramids en route to the Amarna Expedition

Ancient Egypt was, for much of its history, a super-power of the Ancient World, ruled by a living god, and commanding great wealth. It had a sophisticated system of writing, and a highly developed religious life, not to mention its achievements in technology. The study of ancient Egypt therefore gives us a snapshot of life in one of the world's great early civilisations. More than this, it provides an excellent introduction to the study of ideology, state formation, communication, trade and exchange and many other fundamental aspects of archaeology.


Why isn't the module called 'Egyptology'?

Cardiff students excavating at Memphis. Images courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society

Cardiff students excavating at Memphis. Images courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society

This question is commonly asked by students, and the answer is that, traditionally, Egyptology has focussed heavily on the ancient language of Egypt and on the various scripts - hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic -with which the Egyptians recorded aspects of their daily lives. As a result the subject has been taught in Faculties of Oriental Studies, or sometimes with Classics.  Many traditional Egyptologists had few archaeological skills but over the last few decades the balance of courses has moved more toward archaeology. Egyptology needs trained archaeologists as much as it needs linguists, and as part of a School of History, Archaeology and Religion we are well placed to provide those skills to our students. The chances of undertaking fieldwork in Egypt with good archaeological skills are probably greater than for those students who have specialised in language.






So, how many modules in Egyptian Archaeology can I take at Cardiff?

At the time of writing you can take:

Part I (First Year): Ancient Egypt (10 credits)
This is backed up by the Great Discoveries in Archaeology module (10 credits) which though not specifically Egypt-based covers major figures in the subject. Similarly the Greece and Rome module (10 credits) complements aspects of this one.

Part II (Years 2 and 3): In year 2 all students must undertake an Independent Study (10 credits). This is a short dissertation, a first exercise in independent research, and many students choose an Egyptian topic for this. You may choose an Egyptian topic irrespective of whether you are a BA or BSc student.

In year 3 you have the option of taking the Dissertation module (20 credits) which can also be based on an Egyptian topic.
In addition there are currently two part II modules specifically on ancient Egypt. These are cycled so that two of the three will be offered during your two final years. The choice is between:

Egyptian Funerary Archaeology (20 credits) which looks at funerary beliefs and practices and how we can reconstruct them from archaeology.

Pharaohs of the Sun (20 credits) looks at the development and collapse of the 'Amarna Age' the period from Amenhotep III to Horemheb, and focussing especially on Akhenaten and Tutankhamun.

Modules on Aegean archaeology are also offered which complement the Egyptian courses, and within the Ancient History part of the History Department of the School of History, Archaeology and Religion there are courses on the Ptolemies, which include Egypt. Similarly, many of the other archaeology modules, such as Technology and Materials (10 credits) and Archaeological Science (10 credits), make use of Egyptian material for their examples. Consequently there are many opportunities for students to build up their understanding of Egyptian archaeology.

Full list and details of current archaeology modules.


Will my degree certificate specify Egyptian Archaeology?

Studying pottery at Saqqara, the pyramids at Abusir in the background. Image courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society

Studying pottery at Saqqara, the pyramids at Abusir in the background. Image courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society

Because archaeology covers such a wide range we do not specify Egypt, or any other region on our certificates (in common with most Universities). Instead you will receive a B.A. or BSc. in Archaeology AND a transcript which makes clear which modules you took and how many credits they were worth. So, if you have chosen all the possible modules dealing directly with Egypt, plus Independent Study and Dissertation you would have taken 80 of your 360 credits specifically in Egyptian archaeology, not to mention those other modules which complement it or include aspects of it, thus:


Part I: Ancient Egypt (10)
Part II: Egyptian Funerary Archaeology (20), Pharaohs of the Sun (20)
Independent Study (10), Dissertation (20)

Total: 80 credits over 3 years. (To which you can then add any Aegean and relevant Ancient History Modules). Since the degree is classified on the 240 credits taken in years 2 and 3 ancient Egypt can make up almost one-third of your honours scheme (70 credits) and a third of the degree overall (80 credits).


The Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings

Can I study ancient Egypt outside Cardiff School of History, Archaeology and Religion whilst at Cardiff?

Yes. The extra-mural department (Lifelong Learning) sometimes offers modules in Egyptian history and some students have attended these for their own interest.

Do I have to do Egyptian Archaeology at Cardiff?

No! If your interest is in the archaeology of Britain and Europe then you need do no Egyptian modules at all, they are completely optional. They are provided for the growing number of students who want to include Egyptian archaeology in their degree.


Who can I contact for further information?

For information on Egyptian archaeology contact:

Prof Paul Nicholson

Position:Professor in Archaeology
Dr Paul Nicholson
Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 74582Extension: 74582
Cardiff student at the Ramesseum at Thebes (modern Luxor)

Cardiff student at the Ramesseum at Thebes (modern Luxor).