Ancient Egyptian Technologies


How did ancient technologies develop? Who invented the wheel, the loom and the chariot, when did this happen and why? This course will identify key machines, industries, and inventions that were developed either in or around Egypt, which were then absorbed by the general Egyptian population, often with impressive and unusual results.

Egypt is sometimes characterised as a highly conservative nation, in terms of its political and social systems, art and its technology. So was this indeed the case? This course is designed to introduce the technological development of Egypt, with an invention each week, complimented by practical demonstrations where appropriate. The course considers a wide variety of different technologies including stone working, writing and surveying, monumental construction, pottery, faience making, glass production, blacksmithing, military technology, textiles, and agriculture.

Examining technological developments in ancient Egypt using written and artefactual evidence, we will consider the various tools, machines, and methods that ancient Egyptian craft workers and artisans employed, and how technological development contributed to wider cultural, economic and political change.

Programme details

Courses starts: 16 Apr 2024

Week 0: Course Orientation

Week 1: Flint Knife

Week 2: Plough

Week 3: Labels

Week 4: Drill

Week 5: Boats

Week 6: Metal Smelting

Week 7: Surveying

Week 8: Loom

Week 9: Pottery Kiln and Potter's Wheel

Week 10: Chariots and Weaponry

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend and participate in at least 80% of the live sessions on the course and pass your final assignment. 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.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


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 an introduction to ancient Egyptian technologies and how the development of particular inventions influenced Egyptian history particularly during Dynastic Egypt (c. 3100 - 331 BC). The course considers major issues in the development of inventions in Egypt and its neighbours, including the origins and evolution of technology and its effect upon the development of agriculture, complex societies, urbanism, trade, literacy, and early empires. 

Course objectives:

  • To provide an introductory overview of the archaeology of Egypt.
  • To build an appreciation of the significance of the archaeology of Egypt within the broad context of the development of technologies and inventions.
  • To critically evaluate the application of particular methods and theories to archaeological and historical analysis.
  • To contextualise how the ancient societies of Egypt have relevance to our understanding of the contemporary world.

Teaching methods

Each session of the online version of this course will be structured as a 1-hour recorded lecture (which will include tasks and topics for discussion) complemented by a 1-hour live online discussion session (which will include live tuition, discussion and group work using breakout rooms). 

We will also draw on not only archaeological and textual sources of Egyptological data, but also the results of scientific analyses of ancient materials and sources of experimental and ethno-archaeological information including the recent research of the tutor, Dr Sarah Doherty. Teaching will make use of the Egypt Exploration Society and Griffith Institute archives, and will include experimental archaeology demonstrations from the tutor, as well as using videos, websites and online resources. No prior knowledge of Egyptology is required, but a curious mind is a must!

Learning outcomes

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

  • posses an introductory understanding of the technological and cultural development of Egypt, including a basic knowledge of the numerous technologies of ancient Egypt, through the study of key sites, maps, excavated artefacts, tomb walls and literary sources located in archaeological sites, archives, museums and libraries;
  • be able to critically apply a “Châine opératoire" approach to the manufacturing process of an object; 
  • apply research skills to incorporate a variety of sources, selecting the appropriate archaeological, literary and anthropological evidence when dealing with complex historical and social questions.

Assessment methods

During the course, the assessment will take the following forms to review your knowledge and help students gain confidence in using primary sources and in critically assessing other scholars’ work: 

Option A (assessment by portfolio):

  1. A pre-recorded video presentation or short written report on an artefact  (40% of final grade)
  2. One 800-1,000 word essay at the end of the course (marked, worth 60% of final grade).

Option B (assessment by essay):

  1. Essay topics will be provided and/or arranged by discussion with the tutor

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. 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.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)