Ancient Egypt: An Introduction (Online)


This course introduces participants to the rich and vibrant civilization of ancient Egypt. From royal pyramids, court artisans and powerful pharaohs, to grandiose temples, mysterious gods and foreign invasions, participants will experience the world of ancient Egypt, its highs and lows, and the rich tapestry of its culture.

Who were the ancient Egyptians? Why did they create such monumental constructions and such magnificent works of art? The culture, history, art, architecture and religion of ancient Egypt has long captured the imagination of people across the world. Providing an overview of the ancient Egyptians, and combining archaeological, textual and pictorial evidence, this course will allow participants to delve into the world of ancient Egypt, to see how it developed and why it came to an end. As the weeks pass, we will read the words of ancient kings, priests, courtiers, and artisans, witness the great artistic triumphs from across 3,000 years of history, explore the beliefs of people from different ends of society's spectrum, and learn how they lived in a world that though familiar, was quite different from our own. Through guided reading, web pages, and interactive media, participants will experience ancient Egypt like never before.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

1: Worldview, Geography and Resources

  • The importance of the Nile and the inundation
  • Egypt's environment
  • Major cities and resources
  • Shaping the Egyptian worldview
  • The development of Egyptology

2: Historical Overview

  • Ancient Egyptian history
  • Creating 'history'
  • The Predynastic Period to the Early Dynastic Period
  • From Old Kingdom to Middle Kingdom
  • From Second Intermediate Period to Alexander the Great
  • The Battle of Megiddo: analysing written evidence

3: The Gods, their Cults and Religious Practice

  • The gods
  • Depicting the gods
  • Creation myths
  • The mythic environment
  • Egyptian temples
  • Egyptian priests
  • Dealing with the invisible in daily life: household religion
  • Magic spells

4: Burial Customs, Afterlife Beliefs and Mummification

  • Death and aspects of the soul
  • Afterlife destinations
  • Mummification
  • Private tombs
  • Royal tombs: pyramids
  • Royal tombs: the Valley of the Kings and later

5: Art: Craftsmen, Conventions and Development of Art

  • Artisans and art
  • Materials and working methods
  • Predynastic and Early Dynastic art
  • The conventions of Egyptian art
  • Changing art over time
  • Interpreting King Amenemhat III

6. Pharaoh, Politics and Government

  • The social pyramid
  • The ideal pharaoh
  • The king's daily life and duties
  • The royal family
  • Government organisation and courtiers
  • Female pharaohs

7. Palaces, Cities and Settlements

  • Egyptian settlements
  • Problems of preservation
  • Royal palaces
  • Domestic architecture
  • Exploring Deir el-Medina

8. Living in Ancient Egypt

  • The household and social status
  • Occupation and crafts
  • Morality and education
  • Marriage, adultery and divorce
  • Entertainment
  • Crime and punishment

9. Language, Writing and Literature

  • Evolving language: writing systems
  • The basics of Middle Egyptian language
  • Scribes, writing equipment and surfaces
  • Egyptian literature
  • The earliest hieroglyphs

10. Warfare, Trade and Diplomacy

  • Foreigners and Egyptianisation
  • Trade and diplomacy
  • Pre-New Kingdom warfare
  • New Kingdom warfare

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £350.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Garry Shaw

Dr. Garry Shaw is the author of four books about ancient Egypt, including "The Pharaoh: Life at Court and on Campaign" and "The Egyptian Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends." In addition to his scholarly work, he also writes generally on heritage and travel.

Course aims

This course aims to: provide students with an introduction to ancient Egypt, from approximately 5000 BC to 30 BC, covering social life, burial customs, religion, art and architecture, language, history and chronology.

This course will enable participants to:

  • Gain a general knowledge of all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture.
  • Examine, understand and assess ancient Egyptian civilisation in its social and cultural context.
  • Develop their skills in historical analysis and their use of evidence based argumentation.
  • Learn to critically assess evidence of different kinds - textual, pictorial, archaeological.
  • Discuss current topics in Egyptology.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of texts
  • Group discussions of particular issues
  • Questions to be answered in personal folders

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • The general character of Egyptian civilisation from approximately 5000 BC to 30 BC, including the features of each chronological period, covering art, architecture, beliefs, language, burial customs and social life.
  • How scholars have assembled our understanding of ancient Egypt, as well as the limits of the evidence available to Egyptologists and the difficulties inherent in historical interpretation.
  • The importance of understanding the nature of the different types of evidence and their context.
  • Current thinking on Egyptian civilisation.


By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to approach evidence of different kinds (archaeological, textual, pictorial) with a critical eye and to form evidence based conclusions, while acknowledging that there are potentially many different ways of approaching the data available.
  • The ability to evaluate different approaches to solving problems and to communicate the results through accurate argumentation.
  • Transferable skills, such as attention to detail, lateral thinking and reasoned argumentation.
  • An overall understanding of ancient Egyptian civilisation.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.