Studying Egypt and the Ancient Near East at Oxford

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. Deciphering original sources in the ancient languages and writing systems is integrated with the study of archaeological and artistic materials.

The B.A. in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies is a three-year degree course offering a wide range of options in the civilizations, history, and literatures of Egypt and/or the Ancient Near East. At undergraduate level Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies can also be taken as a second subject with Arabic, Hebrew, or Classics. Graduate degrees in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies offer varied paths to advanced research.

The core of the teaching is in the Egyptian and Akkadian languages and ancient written sources. The objective is to illuminate Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern civilizations as a whole and to use texts as the point of departure for studying a wide range of phenomena, such as history, religion, law, economy, and archaeology, in addition to language itself. The skills involved in Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies are comparable with those needed for other language-based courses in the humanities. No prior knowledge of the ancient languages is expected at undergraduate level. The M.Phil. degrees are open both to newcomers to the field and to those with undergraduate experience.

Detail from the Standard of Ur

Sumerian soldiers. ‘Standard of Ur’, Iraq c. 2500 BC. British Museum. Photo: Philip Binns.

Oxford has unrivalled library resources for Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern literature, languages, history and archaeology in the Sackler Library, including Akkadian, Egyptian, Coptic, Sumerian, Hittite, Elamite, Old Persian, Hurrian, Ugaritic, and other fields. The Ashmolean Museum has an extensive collection of Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian antiquities and is a key resource for research and teaching. The Griffith Institute (opened in 1939 and now housed in a wing of the Sackler Library complex) houses the world’s most extensive archive of Egyptological papers and records, including the excavation records from Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, as well as Assyriological papers. It is also the home of a publication series for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.