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Egyptology and Assyriology

The Department of Egyptology and Assyriology is designed to explore the histories, languages, cultures and sciences of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and their neighbors. These regions, sometimes known collectively as the Ancient Near East, have a long history stretching back to the formation of the first complex societies and the invention of writing. As a field of higher learning, Egyptology and Assyriology are represented at most of the world’s great universities. Their establishment at Brown, beginning the 2005-06 academic year, is a product of Brown’s Plan for Academic Enrichment, a commitment to higher learning in the humanities and the sciences. 

Faculty in the department teach undergraduate and graduate courses in Egyptology, Assyriology and the History of Ancient Science.

For additional information, please visit the department's website:

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ASYR 0300. Babylon: Myth and Reality.

From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the Tower of Babel to Babylon 5, the city of Babylon in ancient Iraq holds an important place in contemporary culture. But how much of what is commonly known of Babylon is true? In this course we will explore the ancient city of Babylon through its texts and archaeological remains and investigate the ways Babylon has been viewed over the past two thousand years. Enrollment limited to 19 first year students. Instructor permission required.

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ASYR 0310. Thunder-gods and Dragon-slayers: Mythology + Cultural Contact - Ancient Mediterranean and Near East.

This course is an exploration of the mythological imagination in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. From cosmic origins to epic battles, mighty queens to baneful monsters, mythological motives and narratives crisscrossed the ancient world, bypassing seemingly rigid geographic and cultural boundaries. Particular attention will be devoted to the study of the dynamic reinterpretation of myths in situations of cultural contact. Primary evidence will include material from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, the Levant, Greece and Rome. The course will span several millennia, from the earliest attestations of the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Christian and Muslim reinterpretation of so-called pagan myths.

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ASYR 0350. Haunted Universe: Monsters and Demons at the Dawn of Civilization.

This seminar explores the relationship between monsters and civilization, considering what exactly it is that monsters do for us; why we create, deploy, and ultimately destroy them; and what they tell us about the peoples among whom they sprang up and roamed. Emphasized is the developing civilization in Mesopotamia, and the place and functioning of monsters and demons in the visual arts and literary contexts, as well as in the worldview, of the early cities of that region. Enrollment limited to 19 first year students.

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ASYR 0400. Intimate Stories: Narrative in Ancient Visual Culture.

Images tell stories that carry us to imaginary worlds. A story in pictures engages us deeply, opening the doors of fantastic places and times. In antiquity public monuments displayed visual narratives that animated public spaces, enthralled audiences and delivered state ideologies. This course involves reading narrative imagery from the Middle East and East Mediterranean including magical hunt scenes in prehistoric caves, political tales on Mesopotamian relief sculpture, visions of paradise in Egyptian tombs, Aegean frescoes and Assyrian reliefs of exotic landscapes. Using contemporary perspectives on art, we will explore the material power and everyday significance of pictorial representations as intimate spectacles. Enrollment limited to 19 first year students.

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ASYR 0500. Mathematics in the Ancient World.

Mathematics is often touted as a “universal language,” but despite this supposed universality, mathematics takes different forms in different cultures and times. This class will look at mathematics in the ancient world, with a focus on how mathematical knowledge has been studied in and understood by modern scholars and how they can and do talk about it today. It will also dive into different applications of mathematics, including astronomy, statecraft, poetry, and more in order to better understand the wide impact of mathematical understanding on these disparate fields.

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ASYR 0800. The Cradle of Civilization? An Introduction to the Ancient Near East.

This course explores the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and the Near East (present-day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran) from prehistory until the end of the first millennium BC. We will investigate the rich history and archaeology of this region through literary and historical texts (in translation) and archaeological evidence, including visual culture and architecture. Central to our discussion will be questions about how and why scholars study the Middle East in this early period. Topics include: early complex societies, state formation, the origins and development of writing, ancient empires, religion, culture and ethnicity, trade, diplomacy, warfare, agriculture, and craft production.

Fall ASYR0800 S01 18315 MWF 10:00-10:50(14) (J. Price)
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ASYR 1000. Introduction to Akkadian.

An intensive introduction to the cuneiform writing system and the basic grammar and vocabulary of Akkadian, a language first attested over four thousand years ago in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). The earliest known member of the Semitic family of languages (like Arabic and Hebrew), Akkadian was in use for over two thousand years across a wide expanse of the ancient Near East. Students will learn the classical Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian (ca. 1800 BCE) and read Mesopotamian texts in the original, including selections from the Laws of Hammurabi, as well as excerpts from myths, hymns, prayers, historical documents, and letters.

Fall ASYR1000 S01 18233 MWF 11:00-11:50(16) (M. Rutz)
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ASYR 1010. Intermediate Akkadian.

This course is the second semester of an intensive, yearlong introduction to the Akkadian (Babylonian/Assyrian) language. Students will deepen their knowledge of the cuneiform writing system and continue to develop their grasp of Akkadian grammar. Readings from Mesopotamian texts in the original language and script will include, among others, selections from the Laws of Hammurapi, Assyrian historical texts (such as the accounts of Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem), and the story of the Flood from the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. Prerequisite: Introduction to Akkadian (ASYR 0200 or ASYR 1000) or permission of the instructor.

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ASYR 1100. Imagining the Gods: Myths and Myth-making in Ancient Mesopotamia.

Creation, the Flood, the Tower of Babel--well-known myths such as these have their origins in ancient Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Using both ancient texts in translatioin and archaeology, this course will explore categories of Mesopotamian culture labeled "myth" and "religion" (roughly 3300-300 BCE), critically examining the ancient evidence as well as various modern interpretations. Topics will include myths of creation and the flood, prophecy and divination, death and the afterlife, ritual, kingship, combat myths and apocalypses, the nature and expression of ancient religious experience, and representations of the divine. There are no prerequisites.

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ASYR 1110. Literature of Ancient Iraq.

Introduction to rich and varied compositions surviving from ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) and beyond, including selected myths, epics, hymns, prayers, rituals, oracles, elegiac poetry, fables, proverbs, riddles, debates and more. We will consider what they can tell us about people’s lives and values in ancient times and the processes by which written knowledge was preserved and passed on, where the texts were collected and how they come to be scattered in museums. The definition of “literature” adopted in this course considers aesthetic intent but also the subjects (e.g. love, death, heroism, gods) and forms of writing meaningful to an ancient audience.

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ASYR 1150. The Art of Civilization: Artist, Image, and Aesthetic in the First Cities.

This course examines various facets of the relationship between art and developing social/political complexity in the ancient world, with case studies drawn primarily from the ancient Near East and Egypt between the rise of the first cities in the late fourth millennium BCE through to the fall of the Achaemenid “world empire” in the mid-fourth century BCE.

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ASYR 1160. Color and Culture in the Ancient Near East.

This seminar investigates the meaning of color as a culturally mediated and culturally embedded phenomenon using case studies drawn from the civilizations of the ancient Near East and Aegean. Employing contemporary critical theories from cognition, phenomenology, linguistics and material culture studies, we will explore how human beings perceived, categorized and valued color in ways that vary cross-culturally.

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ASYR 1200. Sacred Spaces and Sacred Times: Religious Travels and Pilgrimages in the Ancient Near East.

The course will focus on the cultural and religious-historical interpretation of physical displacements among sacred places, including urban processions, visits to temples and journeys to sacred places within the context of the Ancient Near Eastern religions. We will attempt to sketch a map of the holy centers and cultic itineraries, focusing on case studies from Babylonia, Assyria and Syria from the third to the first millennium BC as well as comparative case studies from surrounding cultures. These topics will be explored with an emphasis on how written and archaeological sources can be interpreted with the help of theoretical literature.

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ASYR 1300. The Age of Empires: The Ancient Near East in the First Millennium BC.

The first millennium BC saw a series of empires vying for control of the Near East: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks of Alexander the Great and his successors. The course will explore the political, social and cultural history of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East under these empires, using evidence drawn from archaeology and ancient texts (in translation).

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ASYR 1400. Introduction to Sumerian.

Over five thousand years ago the first cities emerged in southern Iraq, and around that same time writing was invented, most likely to record the language we now call Sumerian. Even after it was no longer spoken, Sumerian became a powerful conduit for the region's cultural heritage, preserving its literature and religious traditions for millennia. In this course students will learn the fundamentals of Sumerian grammar, develop a basic working vocabulary, and explore the cuneiform script through weekly readings in original texts. Selections will come from royal inscriptions, court cases, myths, magical incantations, and even ancient schoolwork. No prerequisites.

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ASYR 1500. Ancient Babylonian Magic and Medicine.

A survey of ancient magic and medicine focusing on Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq, ca. 2500-300 BCE), with an emphasis on beliefs about the body, health, illness, and the causes of disease, such as witchcraft or angry gods. Topics will include the training of healers, exorcists, and herbalists; concepts of contagion and plague, modalities of treatment, incantations, prayers, and empirical remedies like prescriptions; ancient perceptions of problems like sexual dysfunction, the perils of pregnancy, tooth decay, epilepsy, and mental illness. Readings will be drawn from ancient texts (in translation), archaeology, and parallels with ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Bible. No prerequisites. Not open to first year students.

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ASYR 1600. Astronomy Before the Telescope.

This course provides an introduction to the history of astronomy from ancient times down to the invention of the telescope, focusing on the development of astronomy in Babylon, Greece, China, the medieval Islamic world, and Europe. The course will cover topics such as the invention of the zodiac, cosmological models, early astronomical instruments, and the development of astronomical theories. We will also explore the reasons people practiced astronomy in the past. No prior knowledge of astronomy is necessary for this course.

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ASYR 1650. Time in the Ancient World.

Time plays many roles in civic and everyday life: calendars provide a way of regulating activities ranging from gathering taxes to knowing when to perform religious rituals. This course will provide an introduction to the way time was measured, used, regulated and conceived in the ancient world. We will cover topics such as the calendars used in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and China, sundials and other instruments used for measuring time in the ancient world, and the way time is used in scientific and non-scientific texts.

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ASYR 1700. Astronomy, Divination and Politics in the Ancient World.

This course will explore the relationship between astronomy, divination and politics in the ancient world. The sky provided ancient cultures with many possibilities for observing occurrences that could be interpreted as omens. In many cultures, celestial omens were directed towards the king and his government. As a result, interpreting and controlling celestial omens became an important political activity. In this course, we will explore how and why astronomical events were used politically in ancient Mesopotamia, the Greco-Roman world, and ancient and medieval China. No prior knowledge of astronomy is necessary for this course.

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ASYR 1725. Scientific Thought in Ancient Iraq.

This course will investigate a variety of ancient scientific disciplines using primary sources from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). By reading the original texts and studying the secondary literature we will explore the notion of scientific thought in the ancient world and critique our own modern interpretation of what “science” is and how different traditions have practiced scientific methods towards a variety of aims. Looking at a range of disciplines will allow us to compare and contrast the different ways in which scientific thinking is transmitted in the historical record.

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ASYR 1750. Divination in Ancient Mesopotamia.

The interpretation of natural events as portents of good or bad outcomes played an important role in religious, political, scholarly and everyday life in ancient Mesopotamia. In this course we will study Mesopotamian omen literature from textual, scientific, philosophical and cultural viewpoints in order to understand how divination operated and what it was used for.

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ASYR 1800. Scribes and Scholarship in the Ancient Near East.

This course will explore the development of written traditions among the scribes of the Ancient Near East. Topics covered include the mechanics of writing on clay tablets, the training of scribes and the school curriculum, the status of scribes in society, the development of literary and scholarly traditions, the creation of tablet archives, and the range of scholarship (eg science, medicine, ritual, literature) found in the ancient near east.

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ASYR 1900. Introduction to Hittite Language and Literature.

This course is an introduction to Hittite language, literature, and culture. Hittite, the earliest attested Indo-European language (thus related to Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit) was used in Anatolia during the second millennium BCE. It survives in tens of thousands of tablets written in cuneiform script. Students will learn the basic grammar of the language and read in the original or in translation specimens from the fascinating textual legacy of the Hittites, which includes myths, prayers, laws, diplomatic texts as well as formal and informal letters. They will also become familiar with the cultural environment in which those texts were composed.

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ASYR 2100. The Ancient Near East: Early Modern Intellectual Histories.

This course explores how the early modern study of the ancient Near East took shape, paying particular attention to relevant debates from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Students will engage in thorough analysis of topics such as the history of decipherment of cuneiform; the development of systematic archaeological excavation; the rise of historical linguistics; debates about the historical value of classical Greek and Roman sources on the ancient Near East; the entanglement of European imperialist projects beyond Europe and the expansion of first-hand knowledge about Mesopotamia; the role of local collaborators in the production of academic knowledge; the place of non-western cultures in European constructions of ancient history; etc. The course is primarily aimed at graduate students (or advanced undergraduates) interested in the history and archaeology of the region in antiquity and/or early modern intellectual history.

Fall ASYR2100 S01 18339 M 3:00-5:30(03) (F. Rojas Silva)
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ASYR 2120. Historiography of Exact Sciences.

Introduces graduate students to the sources, problems, and methodologies of the history of astronomy and mathematics from Babylon to Kepler. Prerequisite: AWAS 0200. Open to graduate students only.

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ASYR 2130. Historiography of Exact Sciences.

Introduces graduate students to the sources, problems, and methodologies of the history of astronomy and mathematics from Babylon to Kepler.

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ASYR 2310A. Ancient Scientific Texts: Akkadian.

Readings and analysis of a major scientific text in Akkadian. Prerequisite: AWAS 0200 or 0210. Open to graduate students only.

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ASYR 2310B. Assyriology I.

The kings of Babylonia and Assyria took every opportunity to boast about their military victories, successful hunts, the completion of new cities, and the building and decoration of temples and palaces. But is theirs the only possible version of Mesopotamian history? This course examines episodes in the history of Babylonia and Assyria (ca. 2400-500BCE) by looking at the political and social relationships among kings, political elites, entrepreneurs, and commoners; emphasis is placed on reading Akkadian texts both in the original and in translation, with a focus on letters, royal inscriptions, and astrological reports. Prerequisite: AWAS0210 or instructor's permission.

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ASYR 2310C. Assyriology II.

This seminar will focus on selected topics of Neo-Assyrian history (1000-612 BC), including: the royal family; the queen and her influence; celebrating New Year's festivals; hunting lions; conquering a city; constructing and decorating palaces and temples; urban renewal and the founding of new cities; the substitute king ritual; and scholarly life. Assyria in the first millennium BC will be examined principally from Assyrian texts in translation.

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ASYR 2310D. Ancient Scientific Texts: Cuneiform Literature.

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ASYR 2400. Akkadian Literary and Religious Texts.

Readings in Akkadian literary and religious texts in the original language and script. Possible genres include myths, proverbs, and literary miscellanea as well as prayers, hymns, incantations, rituals, prophecies, and divinatory texts. This course is intended primarily for graduate students and may be repeated for credit. A reading knowledge of Akkadian cuneiform is required. A reading knowledge of both German and French is recommended but not required.

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ASYR 2420. Akkadian Divinatory Texts.

This course offers focused study of the most significant Akkadian divinatory texts from the second and first millennia BCE. Readings will come for the major genres of Mesopotamian divination found at sites throughout the ancient Near East. Emphasis will be placed on matters of textual transmission, reconstruction, and interpretation. We will read texts in the cuneiform script (copies, photographs, and, when possible, actual tablets) and work to place the material in meaningful historical, social, and cultural contexts. Knowledge of Akkadian cuneiform required.

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ASYR 2430. Akkadian Historical Texts.

This course offers focused study of the most significant Akkadian historical and chronographic texts from the second and first millennia BCE. Readings in cuneiform will come for the major genres of Mesopotamian history-writing found at sites throughout the ancient Near East, including commemorative inscriptions, annals, chronicles, literary historical texts, and historical miscellanea. We will contend with the disjunctions between ancient and modern modes of historical thinking and work to contextualize the ancient texts. Knowledge of Akkadian cuneiform required. Reading knowledge of German and French will be useful but is not required. Intended primarily for graduate students.

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ASYR 2500. Readings in Sumerian.

Advanced readings in Sumerian cuneiform texts in the original script and language. Readings will be selected from a particular genre, historical period, or site. This course is intended primarily for graduate students and may be repeated for credit. A reading knowledge of Sumerian cuneiform is required. A reading knowledge of both German and French is strongly recommended but not required.

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ASYR 2600. Topics in Cuneiform Studies.

Advanced readings in Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform texts in the original script and language(s). The focus of this course will be on the close reading of a specific genre, period, and/or dialect. A rotating cycle of topics to be covered may include the following with a synchronic and/or diachronic approach: historical texts and royal inscriptions, legal and administrative texts, letters, literary and religious texts, medical texts, or scholastic texts. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: AWAS 0210 or instructor permission. Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

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ASYR 2700. Special Topics in Ancient Sciences.

This course will be a topics course containing a detailed technical and cultural study of an area of science in a culture of the ancient world. Although intended for graduate students, undergraduate students who have taken EGYT 1600 or AWAS 1600 or a similar course may be admitted at the instructor's discretion.

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ASYR 2710. Babylonian Astronomy.

An advanced seminar on Babylonian astronomy, taking both a technical and a cultural perspective on the history of this ancient science.

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ASYR 2750. Art and Visual Culture in the Ancient Near East.

Peoples of the Ancient Near East from prehistory to the Hellenistic period produced a unique corpus of production technologies and visual culture. Cultures from Anatolia to the Iraqi southern alluvium, from the Levant to Iran and the Caucasus shared this common pictorial language in a variety of ways. In this seminar, we will investigate bodies of archaeological, architectural and pictorial evidence from the Near East while also debating relevant art and architecture historical methodologies and discourses in direct relationship to that material. Conceptual issues such as narrative, representation, perspective, agency, technology, style, symbolism, landscape, space, and power will be explored. Enrollment limited to 15.

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ASYR 2800. Archaeologies of Text.

An interdisciplinary seminar that examines the interplay between ancient texts and archaeology in the study of the ancient world. Emphasis will be placed on articulating and analyzing the research methods and assumptions found in case studies set in the ancient Near East, Mediterranean, East Asia, and the Americas. Topics will include: canons of literature as/versus ancient inscriptions; materiality of text; texts on display, in deposits, in archives, in libraries, as refuse; literacy and education; practices of documentation and analysis; writing, language, and ethnicity; historical geography; fakes and forgeries; ancient texts and archaeological ethics. No prerequisites. Intended primarily for graduate students.

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ASYR 2920. Seminar in Biblical Studies: Ugaritic (RELS 2100F).

Interested students must register for RELS 2100F.

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ASYR 2950. Scribal and Scholarly Practices in Babylonia and Assyria.

This seminar will explore the development of written traditions among the cuneiform scribes of ancient Babylonia and Assyria. Topics covered include the mechanics of writing on clay tablets, the training of scribes and the school curriculum, the status of scribes in society, the development of literary and scholarly traditions, the creation of tablet archives, the circulation of scholarly knowledge, and the range of scholarship (e.g. science, medicine, ritual, literature) found in Babylonia and Assyria.

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ASYR 2980. Reading and Research.

Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.

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ASYR 2990. Thesis Preparation.

For graduate students who have met the residency requirement and are continuing research on a full time basis.

Fall ASYR2990 S01 15834 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
Spr ASYR2990 S01 24651 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
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ASYR XLIST. Courses of Interest to Concentrators in Egyptology and Assyriology.

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EGYT 0200. Egypt in the Time of Cleopatra.

When Cleopatra died in 30 BCE, she was the last native ruler of Egypt until the modern era. A few centuries earlier, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, marking the beginning of a new epoch that included Ptolemy and his successors and the production of monuments like the Rosetta Stone, which was vital to the modern decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. After three millennia that witnessed the building of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx, how did the ancient Egyptians respond to Greek and Roman domination? This class provides an introduction to the study of ancient Egypt by surveying the history, society, and culture of the final period of ancient Egyptian history and placing it in the context of what came before. No prerequisites.

Fall EGYT0200 S01 18338 MWF 2:00-2:50(01) (L. Depuydt)
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EGYT 0300. In the Beginning: Cosmos and Creation in the Ancient World.

As in every human society, the people of ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Egypt wondered about the universe, their world, and how it came about in the first place. Preserved for us in ancient texts and images, their ideas share some things in common with more familiar ancient traditions, such as the creation account in the Bible. In this course, you will look at these ancient texts and images and learn how to dissect them to find what their authors were thinking. In the process, you will discover some surprisingly sophisticated concepts that are still present in our own culture.

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EGYT 0310. Intro Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language (Middle Egyptian I).

This course will give you the basic tools you need to understand Middle Egyptian texts. You will learn both the language and the writing system of Middle Egyptian at the same time. This is the first half of a two-semester course, dealing with everything except verbs, which are covered in semester two (like many languages, Egyptian could make sentences without verbs). For students who choose to complete the two-semester course, you will be able to read inscriptions you see in museums (or Egypt) and you will know one of the two oldest written languages in the world. Because ancient Egyptian texts reflect the society they were written in, you will also learn a lot about ancient Egypt itself.

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EGYT 0500. The Pyramids in Context: Archaeology of Life and Religion of Death in Old Kingdom Egypt.

No ancient world monument is more iconic than the Egyptian pyramids of Giza. This ONLINE course sets out to be a comprehensive analysis of the Old Kingdom (2575-2150 BCE) pyramids and the material, historical and symbolic context that produced them. How and why were the pyramids built? What was inside them? How was everyday life in the pyramid towns? What kind of rituals were performed in their multiple chambers? This course wants to show the real face of the pyramids and the people who worked on and lived by them.

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EGYT 0550. Black Pharaohs: Nubian Kings and Queens of Ancient Egypt.

This course explores the history of northeastern Africa at a time when ancient Egypt was ruled by its neighbor to the south, Nubia. The Nubian pharaohs from the Kingdom of Kush (present-day Sudan) adopted many Egyptian customs, including hieroglyphic writing, in a period referred to as ancient Egypt’s 25th Dynasty (747–656 BC). Study of this period has suffered from racist and colonialist attitudes towards the Black inhabitants of northeast Africa, ancient and modern, feeding into a racialized modern discourse around the identity and origins of the ancient Egyptians as well. In this course students will: examine recent interpretations of the Nubian dynasty using ancient texts in translation, art, architecture, and artifacts; look critically at modern historians’ blind spots and prejudices; and evaluate the social constructs of race and ethnicity in the study of the great African civilizations of antiquity.

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EGYT 0600. Ancient True Crime: Murder, Conspiracy, and Law in the Ancient World.

Harem conspiracies, kings’ assassinations, and self-defense killings. The history of murder, violence, and criminal investigation is as old as humankind. In this course, we will be seeing how crime was perceived and punished in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. From mythical accounts of murders to real records of trials of humans, animals, and even objects accused of homicide, we will analyze how aspects of social status or gender played a role in shaping punishment across ancient civilizations. We will look at three ancient cold cases, and perhaps you may be able to help solve an ancient mystery! At the end of the semester we will recreate ancient trials using the same crime, evidence, and participants, but following the law and procedures of each one of the civilizations covered in this course. Will the verdict and sentence be any different?

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EGYT 1030. Collapse! Ancient Egypt after the Pyramid Age.

How does a civilization or a kingdom collapse after building some of the most enduring monuments from the ancient world? What happens in Egypt after the Pyramid Age? This course uses texts, objects, and monuments to delve into the history and archaeology of the Late Old Kingdom up to the beginning of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt (c. 2160–2055 BCE), often described as a Dark Age characterized by chaos, decline, and natural disasters. We will discuss how ancient history is written with a particular focus on the narrative of collapse in ancient cultures. The class will be based on presentations and discussions focused on controversies linked to the following topics: politics; kings, kinglets, and rulers; monuments and funerary architecture; climate change; religion and beliefs; (auto-)biographies; literature; and art. There are no prerequisites.

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EGYT 1100. Ancient Voices: The Literature of Ancient Egypt.

In 1800 BCE, the ancient Egyptian writer Khakheperreseneb declared that he could not write anything new because everything had already been said. By then, ancient Egypt had already established a complex body of literature that continued to develop over the next several millennia. This course examines literary, religious, historical, and philosophical writings from ancient Egypt, ranging in date from 2400 to 250 BCE, in order to investigate how those texts can enrich our understanding of Egyptian culture and how they relate to broader literary traditions from the ancient world. Selected texts include adventure tales, love poetry, myths, and autobiographies. No prerequisites.

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EGYT 1200. Archaeology of Ancient Egypt.

A general survey of the archaeology of ancient Egypt in prehistoric and Pharaonic times. Covers such areas as the development of private and royal funerary monuments, private and royal dwellings, and temples. Attention is also paid to the principles of Egyptian art and architecture and, where appropriate, to archaeological connections with the surrounding cultures. Offered in alternate years.

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EGYT 1210. Archaeology of Ancient Egypt.

See Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (EG0120) for description.

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EGYT 1310. Introduction to Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language (Middle Egyptian I).

Learn how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs! The classical language of ancient Egypt, Middle Egyptian was spoken ca. 2000–1600 BCE and remained an important written language for the rest of ancient Egyptian history. Students will learn the hieroglyphic writing system, vocabulary, and grammar of one of the oldest known languages and read excerpts from stories, royal monuments, tomb inscriptions, and amulets. By the end of this course, students will be able to decipher textual portions of many monuments and objects in museums. This course may also be taken on its own, and it also serves as the first of a two-semester sequence. No prerequisites.

Fall EGYT1310 S01 18232 MWF 1:00-1:50(08) 'To Be Arranged'
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EGYT 1320. Introduction to Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language (Middle Egyptian II).

Continuation of a two-semester sequence spent learning the signs, vocabulary, and grammar of one of the oldest languages known. By the end of this introductory year, students read authentic texts of biographical, historical, and literary significance. The cornerstone course in the Department of Egyptology - essential for any serious work in this field and particularly recommended for students in archaeology, history, classics, and religious studies. Prerequisite: EGYT 1310.

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EGYT 1330. Selections from Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts.

Readings from the various genres of classical Egyptian literature, including stories and other literary texts, historical inscriptions, and religious compositions. Students will be expected to translate and discuss assigned texts. Prerequisite: EGYT 1310, 1320.

Fall EGYT1330 S01 18231 TTh 9:00-10:20(05) (J. Allen)
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EGYT 1340. Selections from Middle Egyptian Hieratic Texts.

Introduction to the hieratic script and readings from a variety of hieratic documents, including literary compositions, letters, and religious texts. Students will be expected to translate and discuss assigned texts. Prerequisite: EG 131, 132 (EGYT 1310, 1320).

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EGYT 1410. Ancient Egyptian Literature.

A survey of one of the most intriguing aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. Readings (in translation) of many of the most significant literary documents that survive from Egypt. Presentation of a reasonable amount of historical perspective. Class discussions concerning the nature, purpose, quality, and effectiveness of the works read. Two term papers. No prerequisites. Offered in alternate years.

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EGYT 1420. Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic.

An overview of ancient Egyptian religion from both a synchronic and diachronic perspective. Examines such topics as the Egyptian pantheon, cosmology, cosmogony, religious anthropology, personal religion, magic, and funerary beliefs. Introduces the different genres of Egyptian religious texts in translation. Also treats the archaeological evidence which contributes to our understanding of Egyptian religion, including temple and tomb architecture and decoration. Midterm and final exams; one research paper.

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EGYT 1430. History of Egypt I.

A survey of the history and society of ancient Egypt from prehistoric times to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty (ca. 5000-1300 BC). Readings include translations from the original documents that serve as primary sources for the reconstruction of ancient Egyptian history.

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EGYT 1440. History of Egypt II.

As a continuation of EGYT 1430, this course will examine the political and social history of ancient Egypt since the Ramesside Period (ca. 1292-1069 BC) until the Roman conquest in 30 BC. The topics that we will discuss in this course will include, among others, the military and building achievements of such great warrior kings like Ramesses II, the famous Battle of Kadesh against the Hittites and the world’s first peace treaty, the harem conspiracy under Ramesses III, the Nubian pharaohs from the Kingdom of Kush, the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, and the subsequent Hellenistic rule under the Ptolemies and Cleopatra. The second half of Egyptian history is closely linked with those of her nearest as well as more distant neighbors and the rapidly changing political situation in the ancient Near Eastern, Mediterranean, and African regions. We will thus learn how we, as historians, should approach the study of this dynamic period and how to critically analyze various textual and archaeological sources in order to reconstruct the historical reality of the ancient world.

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EGYT 1450. History of Egypt III, Libyans, Nubians, and Persians in Egypt.

Continuation of EGYT 1430, 1440 (not prerequisites). Covers the Third Intermediate and Late Periods (ca. 1000-332 B.C.E.), from the end of the New Kingdom to Alexander's conquest. Characterized by internal conflict and long intervals of foreign domination, this era, is often described as a period of decline, but closer study shows it to be eventful and rich in documentation. Offered in alternate years.

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EGYT 1455. Black Pharaohs: Nubian Rule over Egypt in the 25th Dynasty.

The course will cover Egypt's 25th Dynasty (728-657 BC), when rulers of Nubia, located in the region of modern Sudan, added Egypt to their territories. Using a wide range of textual and archaeological evidence, students will learn about the history of famous 'black pharaohs' such as Taharqa and study some of Africa's most impressive archaeological remains. This fascinating period is not well understood and has often been afflicted in the past by racist, colonialist scholarship; using primary sources and recent theory on ethnic identity, this class will re-examine the complex and changing relationship between Egypt and Nubia.

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EGYT 1460. History of Egypt IV. The Age of Cleopatra.

Continuation of EGYT 1430, 1440, and 1450 (not prerequisites). A survey of the history and society of ancient Egypt from Alexander's conquest to the Arab Conquest, ca. 332 B.C.E.-A.D. 600. Covers the Ptolemaic (323-30), Roman (30 B.C.E.-ca. A.D. 300), and Byzantine (ca. A.D. 300-640) periods. Focal point and pivot is the Ptolemaic period, from Alexander the Great to Cleopatra (332-30 B.C.E.). Offered in alternate years.

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EGYT 1465. Life on the Nile: Ancient Egypt beyond the Pharaohs.

The history of ancient Egypt is marked by the names of their great pharaohs and monumental buildings. But what about ordinary people who made up the majority of this fascinating culture, yet are not well represented in historical narratives? This course will explore what we know about the daily life of non-royal Egyptians by looking at the primary texts (in translation), art, and material culture of ancient Egypt. We will look at various categories of population, such as children, craftsmen, women, soldiers; and discuss such issues and topics as households, growing up, family, education, love, clothing, medicine, magic, and leisure.

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EGYT 1470. Egypt After the Pharaohs: Archaeology and Society in the Coptic and Early Islamic Periods.

The history of Egypt may be famous for the tombs, pyramids and mummies of the Pharaonic periods. This course, however, offers a vision of a different Egypt, a later Egypt: one that evolved from the traditions of the past but was infused by Christianity, Islam, Arabic, and the emergence of one of the world's great cities: Cairo. Students will experience the heritage of Egypt that is contained in the mosque of al-Azhar, the monasteries of the Egyptian desert, and the pageantry and ritual of a new set of ruling elites. At the same time they will understand the continuities of this land which Egyptians refer to as Umm al-Duniya "Mother of the World".

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EGYT 1480. Egypt in the Global World.

From the 4th to the 2nd millennium BC we see Ancient Egypt as part of a wider world in the Eastern Mediterranean. Egypt had diplomatic and trade contacts with the major powers and smaller political entities of this period as well as armed conflicts. These contacts left an abundance of material evidence in Egypt in the archaeological and epigraphical records such as foreign luxury items and pottery, and depictions of foreigners in Egyptian tombs and temples. The course will shed light on the varying intensity and character of the relationship between Egypt and her neighbors in the Levant, Nubia and Libya and wider Eastern Mediterranean world.

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EGYT 1485. Magic, Mummies, and Drugs: Medicine and Physicians in Ancient Egypt.

Did you know the ancient Egyptians would rub crocodile fat on their heads to treat baldness? Or that an eel warmed in oil would supposedly combat the smell of sweaty feet? If you would like to know more about the practice of medicine in ancient Egypt (including treatments that actually worked), then welcome to Magic, Mummies, and Drugs! In this course, we will read through medical papyri (in translation) and examine ancient mummies to learn how the Egyptians understood and treated the diseases that afflicted them. We will also look at how physicians were trained, which instruments they used, and how much they knew about human anatomy. Lastly, we will explore such specialized branches of medicine as gynecology, dentistry, ophthalmology, surgery, and veterinary medicine.

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EGYT 1490. Calendars and Chronology in Ancient Egypt and the Ancient World.

Time is the dimension of history. Chronology studies how we know when events happened. Chronology is much more important to "BC history" than to "AD history." History books state that the great Ramses II ruled around the thirteenth century B.C.E. But how do we know this? The focus of this class is on the answers to such questions through the study of the foundations of the history of Egypt specifically and of the ancient world in general. Some prior knowledge of Egyptian language or civilization might be handy but is by no means required.

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EGYT 1500. Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture.

Ancient Egyptian art and architecture had a remarkably long history, and much that was produced is amazingly well preserved. This course will focus on the inception and development of these material expressions of high culture through detailed studies of monumental buildings and decorated private tombs, as well as the sculpture, painting, and minor arts from the Predynastic period through the end of the Middle Kingdom (c. 3700-1790 BC). Enrollment limited to 20.

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EGYT 1510. Ancient Egyptian Art II.

Considers the art of ancient Egypt's New Kingdom or Empire Period (1500-1100 B.C.). The relief carving and painting of Theban temples and tombs are studied in detail, and the developments leading to the revolutionary Amarna style of art is carefully analyzed. Decorative arts, Tutankhamun's treasures, and recent exciting discoveries are all surveyed.

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EGYT 1520. The Archaeology of Ancient Egyptian Household and Settlement.

Survey of the primary settlement remains from the Pharaonic Period of ancient Egypt, addressing the practices and problems in settlement and household archaeology. Not open to first year students.

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EGYT 1525. Living, Creating, Believing and Dying in the Village of the Royal Tomb Builders.

The site of Deir el-Medina was home to a community of skilled workmen in charge of digging and decorating the tombs of both the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens during the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1069 B.C.). Deir el-Medina is usually considered the paradigmatic site-witness for studies of Egyptian daily life and benefits from a substantial material record. Through a multi-perspective analysis drawing on both tangible (archaeological structures) and intangible (textual/iconographical) sources, ancient and modern (excavation diaries and new discoveries recently made on the spot!), this course aims at discovering the lifestyle, practices and culture of this community.

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EGYT 1550. Ethnic Identity in Graeco-Roman Egypt.

Egypt under Greek and Roman rule (from c. 332 BC) was a diverse place, its population including Egyptians, Greeks, Jews, Romans, Nubians, Arabs, and even Indians. This course will explore the sometimes controversial subject of ethnic identity and its manifestations in the material and textual record from Graeco-Roman Egypt, through a series of case studies involving individual people and communities. Topics will include multilingualism, ethnic conflict and discrimination, legal systems, and gender, using evidence from contemporary texts on papyrus as well as recent archaeological excavations and field survey projects.

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EGYT 1910. Senior Seminar.

Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.

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EGYT 1920. Senior Seminar.

Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.

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EGYT 2210. Introduction to Coptic.

Coptic, the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language, was written with essentially Greek alphabetic characters. An introduction to Sahidic, which is perhaps the best represented of the Coptic dialects. Sahidic grammar is explained, and some texts, mainly of a biblical and patristic nature, are read. Open to undergraduates with the consent of the instructor. No prerequisites, but a knowledge of Middle Egyptian or Greek would be helpful.

Fall EGYT2210 S01 18302 MWF 9:00-9:50(09) (L. Depuydt)
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EGYT 2300. Readings in Ancient Egyptian.

Advanced readings in ancient Egyptian texts in the original script and language. Readings will be selected from a particular genre, historical period, or site. This course is intended primarily for graduate students and may be repeated for credit. A reading knowledge of ancient Egyptian is required. A reading knowledge of both German and French is strongly recommended but not required.

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EGYT 2310. History of the Ancient Egyptian Language.

Diachronic survey of ancient Egyptian from Old Egyptian through Coptic, covering changes in phonology and grammar and analyzing the processes through which these changes took place. Course requirements are short research papers to be presented in class and a final examination. Previous course work in at least one stage of the Egyptian language required; knowledge of Late Egyptian, Demotic (grammar) or Coptic preferable. Prerequisites: EGYT 1310 and EGYT 1320, plus either EGYT 2210, EGYT 2410 or EGYT 2610.

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EGYT 2410. Late Egyptian.

Introduction to the grammar of the third historical phase of ancient Egyptian and readings from its various genres, including literary texts, letters, historical inscriptions, and tomb-robbing papyri. Students will be expected to translate and discuss assigned texts. Prerequisites: EGYT 1310, 1320.

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EGYT 2450. Exchange Scholar Program.

Spr EGYT2450 S01 24672 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
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EGYT 2510. Social Life in Ancient Egypt.

This course will provide a valuable opportunity to link theory and data innovatively. Taking the lifecycle as its structure, it covers Egyptian life from conception to death and the afterlife, drawing together a range of data sources, such as material culture, iconography, textual data, and human remains.

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EGYT 2521. Problems in Amarna History.

The Amarna Period of ancient Egypt (ca. 1350-1300 BC) is one of the most debated, and variously interpreted, in ancient Egyptian history, in terms of people, events, and intellectual movements. In this course, students will research both the evidence and interpretations, and discuss their findings in class, to try to reach a consensus about the most likely scenarios. The instructor will act as a resource for the problems and sources of evidence, and as moderator in class discussions. Grades will be based on the depth of a student’s research and on a student’s contribution to class discussions.

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EGYT 2530. The Perception of Time and Space in Ancient Egypt.

This seminar aims to explore how ancient Egyptian perceived time and space, how they described them, and how they experienced them. Topics covered will include, inter alia, the notion of eternity, the mechanisms of time counting and space organization, the issue of awareness of history, the question of gender-differentiation in the domestic sphere, and the creation of a place.

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EGYT 2610. Introduction to Demotic.

Begins with discussions and exercises in the grammar and peculiar script of this late stage of the Egyptian language, followed by readings of actual ancient texts, including The Instructions of Onkhsheshonkhy, The Petition of Petiese, and The Story of Setne Khaemwas. Knowledge of Demotic remains essential for a proper understanding of Egypt during the Saite, Persian, Ptolemaic, and Roman periods. Open to undergraduates with consent of instructor. Prerequisites: EGYT 2410 or 2210.

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EGYT 2800. Ancient Egyptian Phonology.

Introduction into the phonology of the ancient Egyptian language, from its hypothetical proto-Semitic cognates to its final stage, the six major dialects of Coptic. The course will concentrate not only on phonology but also on how the principles of Egyptian phonology can be used in understanding and interpreting written forms.

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EGYT 2810. Old Egyptian.

Introduction to the grammar of the first historical phase of ancient Egyptian and readings from its two primary genres, the Pyramid Texts and autobiographical inscriptions. Students will be expected to translate and discuss assigned texts. Prerequisites: EG 131, 132 (EGYT 1310, 1320).

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EGYT 2970. Preliminary Examination Preparation.

For graduate students who have met the tuition requirement and are paying the registration fee to continue active enrollment while preparing for a preliminary examination.

Fall EGYT2970 S01 15859 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
Spr EGYT2970 S01 24673 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
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EGYT 2980. Reading and Research.

Section numbers vary by instructor. Please check Banner for the correct section number and CRN to use when registering for this course.

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EGYT 2990. Thesis Preparation.

For graduate students who have met the residency requirement and are continuing research on a full time basis.

Fall EGYT2990 S01 15860 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
Spr EGYT2990 S01 24674 Arranged 'To Be Arranged'
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EGYT XLIST. Courses of Interest to Concentrators in Egyptology and Assyriology.


Matthew T. Rutz


James P. Allen
Charles Edwin Wilbour Professor of Egyptology

Leo Depuydt
Professor of Egyptology and Assyriology

Leonard H. Lesko
Charles Edwin Wilbour Professor Emeritus of Egyptology

John M. Steele
Professor of Egyptology and Assyriology

Associate Professor

Laurel D. Bestock
Associate Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World and Egyptology and Assyriology; Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture

Felipe A. Rojas Silva
Associate Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World and Egyptology and Assyriology

Matthew T. Rutz
Associate Professor of Egyptology and Assyriology

Egyptology and Assyriology

The concentration in Egyptology and Assyriology offers students a choice of two tracks: Assyriology or Egyptology. The department promotes collaborations with other academic units at Brown devoted to the study of antiquity including Archaeology, Classics, Judaic Studies, and Religious Studies. Egyptology and Assyriology also collaborates with Brown's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World.

Assyriology Track

Also known as the Near East or Middle East, Western Asia includes present-day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and other neighboring states, a broad geographic area that was connected in antiquity with the wider world—the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, and the Asian subcontinent. Students will be exposed to the critical study of the ancient cultures of this region (ca. 3400 B.C.E.–100 C.E.) using the tools of archaeology, epigraphy, and historical inquiry. A variety of interdisciplinary, comparative, and theoretical approaches will be introduced to give students the tools and methods to explore this region’s ancient languages and literatures, political and socio-economic modes of organization, art and architecture, religious traditions and other systems of knowledge, such as early science.

The Assyriology (ASYR) track requires a total of at least ten (10) courses that are determined in the following way:

Introductory courses:3
The Cradle of Civilization? An Introduction to the Ancient Near East
Archaeologies of the Near East
Introduction to Akkadian
Intermediate Akkadian
Foundational Courses (at least one course from each of the following three areas):
History and Culture of Ancient Western Asia: 11
Imagining the Gods: Myths and Myth-making in Ancient Mesopotamia (WRIT)
The Age of Empires: The Ancient Near East in the First Millennium BC
Ancient Babylonian Magic and Medicine
Assyriology I (WRIT)
Assyriology II (WRIT)
Topics in Cuneiform Studies
Ancient Scholarship in Western Asia: 11
Astronomy Before the Telescope
Time in the Ancient World (WRIT)
Astronomy, Divination and Politics in the Ancient World (WRIT)
Divination in Ancient Mesopotamia (WRIT)
Ancient Scientific Texts: Akkadian
Archaeology of Ancient Western Asia: 11
City and the Festival: Cult Practices and Architectural Production in the Ancient Near East (WRIT)
Material Worlds: Art and Agency in the Near East and Africa
Under the Tower of Babel: Archaeology, Politics, and Identity in the Modern Middle East (WRIT)
Architecture, Body and Performance in the Ancient Near Eastern World (WRIT)
The Rise of the State in the Near East
Depth Requirement: At least two additional courses offered in ASYR or ARCH dealing with ancient Western Asia. These courses must be approved by the undergraduate concentration advisor.2
Breadth Requirement: At least one course offered in EGYT or ARCH on the archaeology, art, history, culture, or language of ancient Egypt.1
Elective: At least one elective course on the ancient world broadly defined. Usually this course will be offered in Assyriology, Anthropology, Archaeology, Classics, Comparative Literature, East Asian Studies, Egyptology, History, History of Art and Architecture, Judaic Studies, Philosophy, or Religious Studies. The elective course must be approved by the undergraduate concentration advisor.1
Total Credits10

Egyptology Track

The Egyptology track requires a total of at least ten courses. Six of these must be taken by all concentrators, but the remaining four can be chosen from a fairly broad range of courses, to suit individual interests.

Introductory Courses: 6
Introduction to Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language (Middle Egyptian I)
and Introduction to Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language (Middle Egyptian II) 1
History of Egypt I
and History of Egypt II 1
Introduction to Egyptian Archaeology and Art 1
Ancient Egyptian Religion and Magic
Temples and Tombs: Egyptian Religion and Culture
Depth Courses: 2
Selections from Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts 1
Ancient Egyptian Literature 2
Breadth Course - Any course covering the ancient Near East or Mediterranean world outside Egypt, such as: 1
The Cradle of Civilization? An Introduction to the Ancient Near East
Archaeologies of the Near East
Elective Course: Any course germane to ancient Egypt or the ancient Near East or Mediterranean world. Alternative and elective courses must be approved by the undergraduate concentration advisor. Such courses will normally be offered by Egyptology and Assyriology, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Religious Studies, Classics, Judaic Studies, Anthropology, History of Art and Architecture, History, or Philosophy. Concentrators are welcome to take most courses offered by Egyptology and Assyriology (EGYT and ASYR), Archaeology (ARCH), or related departments, though some may require the instructor’s approval. Concentrators should consult with the concentration advisor to discuss the courses most suitable to their interests.1
Total Credits10


All concentrators in Egyptology and Assyriology are required to complete a capstone project. The project can take many forms, but the common feature shared among all possible projects will be a public presentation. Typically in the final semester before graduating, the concentrator will give this capstone presentation before faculty, fellow students, and other interested audiences. If the concentrator is writing an undergraduate honors thesis, the procedure for which is detailed below, this work should provide the content for the capstone presentation. Students not writing an honors thesis will base their presentation on a research project more in depth than a class project, though the topic may stem from a course project or paper. The format of the presentation may vary; suggestions range from an illustrated lecture to a video or an installation presented with discussion. Both the content and the format of the capstone project should be discussed with and agreed upon by the concentration advisor no later than the end of the first semester of the senior year.

Honors in Egyptology and Assyriology

1. Becoming an honors candidate
Students who wish to consider pursuing honors should meet with the Undergraduate Concentration Advisor in the first half of their sixth semester.
Eligibility is dependent on:

  • Being in good standing
  • Having completed at least two thirds of the concentration requirements by the end of the sixth semester.
  • Having earned two-thirds "quality grades" in courses counted towards the concentration. A "quality grade" is defined as a grade of "A" or a grade of "S" accompanied by a course performance report indicating a performance at the "A" standard.

To pursue honors candidacy, eligible students must:

  • Secure a faculty advisor and discuss plans for the proposed thesis project well before the established deadline; this can be done by email when a student is abroad.
  • Prepare a thesis prospectus (see below).
  • Submit the prospectus to the advisor, one other proposed faculty reader (at least one of the readers must be in the department) and the department chair no later than the first week of the seventh semester.

The structure of a thesis prospectus:
An honors thesis in Egyptology or Assyriology is a substantial piece of research with some degree of originality that demonstrates the student's ability to frame an appropriate question and deal critically with the range of original and secondary sources.  A thesis prospectus is a short analytical document consisting of several parts.  It will normally include a concise and focused research question; a justification for that question that demonstrates familiarity with previous research on the topic; a project description that includes a discussion of the types of evidence available and appropriate to answering the proposed question; a discussion of methods of collecting and analyzing that evidence; a conclusion that returns to the research question and assures the reader that the project will add value to our understanding of the topic; and a bibliography.  The prospectus will ordinarily be in the range of 5-7 pages in length, exclusive of bibliography.  The prospectus will include proper citations throughout.

Determination of whether or not a student may pursue the proposed project will be made on review of the prospectus by the readers and department chair. Prospectuses will be evaluated on the following scale:

  1. No concerns about the viability of the project.
  2. No concerns about the viability of the project, but minor weaknesses in the execution of the prospectus. 
  3. Concerns about the viability of the project, but willingness to reevaluate a revised prospectus submitted within two weeks of receipt of evaluation.
  4. Reservations that the prospectus does not describe an honors-worthy project.
  5. Poorly conceived and shoddy work. 

Prospectuses will be returned to the student with this numerical evaluation and comments one week after submission of the prospectus.  A prospectus must receive an evaluation of 1 or 2 prior to the third week of the seventh semester for a student to be admitted to the honors track. Students who submit an original prospectus that is graded 4 or 5 will not be permitted to rework the prospectus for the second submission. 

2. Developing, completing and submitting the honors project

Once accepted as honors candidates, students will pursue a course of study that goes beyond what is expected of a regular concentrator.  This includes:

  • Enrollment in two semesters of independent study in Egyptology or Assyriology (these do not fulfill course requirements towards the concentration).
  • Twice-monthly meetings with the thesis advisor and once-monthly meetings with the second reader.  These meetings will be scheduled at the beginning of each term.
  • Submission of a comprehensive outline to both readers no later than October 15 (for May graduates)
  • Regular submission of drafts.  A partial draft including a complete version of at least one chapter or section is due before Reading Period of the seventh semester.
  • A complete draft is due to both readers no later than March 15 (for May graduates).
  • The revised final thesis is due in both electronic and physical form to both readers and department chair April 5  (for May graduates).

Failure to meet any deadline will result in automatic termination of the honors process.  No extensions will be granted.  If a thesis is turned in late but before the end of the term, credit and grade for the Independent Study may still be granted.

3. Evaluating the submitted work of honors candidates

In order to receive honors a student must be found to have:

  • Remained in good academic standing throughout the academic year.
  • Not violated the Academic Code of Conduct during honors candidacy.
  • Complete or be about to complete all concentration requirements.
  • Produced a thesis that is judged by the readers to meet the department's expectations for honors work (see below), and turned it in by the established deadlines.
  • Successfully defended the thesis during a half hour public presentation held during the final exam period of the eighth semester.

Students who submit theses that are deemed to fall short of the expectations will graduate without honors.  In that case, the theses will count as a capstone project.

4. Expectations for honors theses:

An honors thesis in Egyptology or Assyriology is expected to add to existing scholarship.  The thesis must be based on close work with primary sources (usually in publication rather than in person), supplemented by critical engagement with a substantial amount of relevant secondary literature.  While the resulting study is not necessarily expected to be ground-breakingly original, and may engage with a well-studied topic, it will usually include a new insight into or interpretation of the material considered.

An honors thesis is not a book or dissertation.  It is, however, a very serious piece of research and writing for which two dedicated study courses have provided substantial time to the honors student.  The question upon which the honors thesis is based should be focused enough to allow an in-depth treatment, generally in under 100 pages or 30,000 words (exclusive of bibliography and illustrations).  Appropriate length will vary considerably depending on the topic itself and the nature of the primary sources being considered, particularly if substantial translation of ancient textual sources is required.

The thesis should present a sustained analytic argument in answer to its structuring question.  A thesis should not be primarily descriptive or narrative in nature.   Each chapter should contain a sub-argument that is clearly related to the overall argument of the thesis.  The significance of the argument and its relationship to prior scholarship should be clearly articulated.  Honors theses are not expected to demonstrate comprehensive familiarity with the secondary literature, but they are expected to engage critically and maturely with important works on the defined topic.

Egyptology and Assyriology are very broad fields, and the appropriate methods will be determined in conjunction with the thesis advisor on the basis of the questions and types of evidence - textual, archaeological, art historical - under consideration.  With very few exceptions the methodology of the thesis is expected to be conventional rather than innovative, rooted in the accepted practices of the field in question.

Organization and writing:
An honors thesis must be well organized and written.  It should include an introduction and conclusion as well as well-considered chapters that allow the reader to follow the line of reasoning easily.  The relationship of any section to the larger whole should be clear, and segues should help the reader move between sections.  Writing should be grammatically correct, well copy-edited, professional, and consistent.  Citations and bibliography must be in an accepted style as determined in consultation with the advisor. 

Egyptology and Assyriology

PhD Program in Egyptology and Assyriology

Brown is one of the premier institutions for the study of Egyptology, Assyriology, and the history of ancient science, and our PhD students train in the foundational areas of our disciplines: the languages, literatures, history, and material culture of Egypt and Mesopotamia in their wider environment. The department offers instruction in the core ancient languages that are essential for research in our fields: Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian, all stages), Egyptian (all stages), Hittite, and Sumerian; instruction in Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit, Syriac, and Ugaritic is available to our students at Brown as well. In addition to training in philology and critical research methods, our students also become conversant in the archaeological sequence, art and architecture, and repertoires of material culture found across the ancient Near East.

Brown’s doctoral program in Egyptology and Assyriology has a number of distinguishing features:

    We offer in-depth disciplinary training that allows our students to pursue focused research in any one of our core fields: Assyriology, Egyptology, the history of ancient science, and the archaeology of Egypt and the Near East.

    We encourage creative interdisciplinary work, including but not limited to research that bridges Egyptology, Assyriology, and the history of ancient science in innovative ways. Our doctoral students have the opportunity to do coursework in and cultivate stimulating intellectual relationships with faculty from Anthropology, Classics, History, the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, and Religious Studies. In addition Brown’s Graduate School has an Open Graduate Program that allows interested doctoral students at Brown to pursue a concurrent master’s degree in a secondary field that is outside the scope of their doctoral program.

    We provide significant funding both in the department and across the university to support graduate students' original research. Our doctoral students have recently used support from the department and university to carry out research in museum collections in the US, Europe, and Africa; to participate in archaeological fieldwork (survey and excavation) in Egypt, Sudan, and Turkey; and to present the results of their research at international conferences and symposia.

    We emphasize developing our students professionally and encourage students to reach important early career milestones during their time in the program, such as giving conference papers and submitting academic publications; to that end we have incorporated valuable professional academic skills into our curriculum and assessment.

    We provide a variety of opportunities for our PhD students to train as teachers and develop valuable teaching skills that will be useful in a wide variety of educational settings, including research universities, museums, or teaching colleges focused on the liberal arts.

A few areas of particular interest to the department’s faculty include: ancient science (astronomy and astrology, timekeeping  and calendrics, divination and medicine); cultural interactions throughout the Mediterranean, Near East, and Africa in the second and first millennia BC; religion and ritual in the ancient Near East, from Egypt and Sudan to Anatolia and Mesopotamia; the history of the Egyptian language and its grammar; the origins and development of writing and the diffusion and reception of cuneiform, hieroglyphic, and alphabetic scripts in the ancient world; kingship and monumentality in ancient Egypt and Sudan; the integration of textual and archaeological methodologies; Coptic manuscripts; the ancient Near East in classical periods and Greek and Roman cultures’ perceptions of the more ancient past; Mesopotamian and Egyptian literature; ancient empires of the Near East in context; and the origins of Egyptian civilization.

PhD Tracks 

The department currently offers three tracks to the PhD: (1) Assyriology (2) Egyptology, and (3) History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity. Each track has different course requirements, details of which may be found in the program's Graduate Student Handbook. Students who enter the program in one track may switch to another track providing they are still able to complete the coursework requirements by the end of their third year.

Further details about our graduate program may be found at