BA in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies: Ancient Near Eastern Studies Route


An early Mesopotamian contemplates the future. Figurine from Tell Asmar, east central Iraq (c. 2400 BC)

The Ancient Near Eastern route in the BA in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies is designed to be both wide-ranging and flexible. It is a three-year course covering all principal aspects of the study of the field and at the same time allowing concentration on areas of particular interest. While the core of the teaching is in language and texts, the objective is use written sources where appropriate as the point of departure for studying a wide range of phenomena. Moreover all the texts that are studied are preserved on ancient surfaces recovered through fieldwork and are archaeological artefacts in their own right.

Course Content

In the first year Akkadian is studied intensively in the Old Babylonian and Standard Babylonian dialects. After studying Old Babylonian grammar and the cuneiform script system, students begin to read ancient texts in the latter part of their first term. Laws of Hammurabi are followed by literary texts, including part of the Gilgamesh Epic, and royal inscriptions. There are general courses on Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian civilization and history. Related topics are studied in detail through essay work and tutorials.

Picture of ivory stag

Ivory stag. Arslan Tash, Syria 9th - 8th century BC. Musée du Louvre. Photo: Philip Binns.

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, Coptic, Hebrew (Biblical and Mishnaic), Old Iranian, Hittite, or Sumerian. The second language is treated in a broadly similar fashion to Akkadian, with work both on language and texts and on history and culture. Aspects that relate to Akkadian are studied, but not at the expense of a balanced approach. As an alternative to a second language, it is possible to take Archaeology and Anthropology as a second subject. This combination offers the opportunity to study in greater depth disciplines relevant to much work on the Ancient Near East and Egypt. Students may also choose Classics as a second subject, specialising in Greek or Latin, in the joint degree of Classics and Oriental Studies. Students can apply for this degree or switch to it after Moderations at the end of the first year.

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. In the second or third year students also attend classes in the Ashmolean Museum, which provide training in working directly with artefacts as well as the analysis of material culture. 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.

For further information please see the Course Handbook and Course Background documents, which are available here. The Course Handbook is a comprehensive introduction to all aspects of the BA in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. The short Course Background document provides preliminary information, including some suggested reading: