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 participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following textbook:

Ikram, S., Ancient Egypt, An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2009)

Please ensure you are able to access copies of any required textbooks prior to enrolling on a course.


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 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 £30 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. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £385.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:


Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Sarah Doherty

Dr Sarah K. Doherty's principal research interests have focused on the Nile Valley examining the ceramics of settlements, the development of ancient technology, pottery manufacture, historic buildings and architecture, experimental reconstructions of ancient craft and the lives of non-elites. She is particularly noted for her work on the potter's wheel, and its adoption and use in Egypt and Sudan, which was part of her Masters at University College London (2009) and her PhD thesis at Cardiff University (2013). This was published as The Origins and Use of the Potter's Wheel in Ancient Egypt with Archaeopress in 2015, with various more recent articles.

Dr Doherty is currently part of the archaeological fieldwork teams at the Houses and Workshop M50.14-16 at Tell el Amarna (Egypt Exploration Society with Dr Anna Hodgkinson) and the ancient sandstone quarries of Gebel el Silsila near Kom Ombo in Egypt (Lund University with Dr Maria Nilsson), where she leads the ceramic analysis. She has contributed to many other excavations in Egypt and Europe (Amara West in Sudan, Heit el Gurob in the Faiyum, and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt). She also acts as a lecturer at the Egypt Exploration Society and the Bloomsbury Summer School. 

When not teaching courses on ancient Egypt or digging in Egypt, she works as Professional Archaeologist for Chronicle Heritage/PaleoWest in Saudi Arabia. There, Dr Doherty works in the beautiful oasis town and county of AlUla where she surveys and assesses archaeological sites as part of planning applications and writes specialist reports known as Heritage Impact Assessments.

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.