Pharaohs of the Sun - Akhenaten and Nefertiti


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

This evocative period is marked by exciting - but enigmatic - archaeological discoveries and academic controversy. What actually did happen at Tell el Amarna? Did Akhenaten enjoy a sole reign or did he share the throne with his father? Was Akhenaten’s new capital a utopia or an armed camp ruled by a tyrant? Was Nefertiti a silent partner or did she actually rule as a pharaoh?

We consider new - but disputed - DNA tests on the royal mummies. We examine the evidence and review the controversies. The reign ends with disaster and the accession of Tutankhamun. The course includes visits to the magnificent Egyptian collections in Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, and the British Museum in London.   

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

The onset of Revolution. This occurred during the reign of the ‘Dazzling Sun Disk’, the pharaoh Amenhotep 111.

The accession of his son Akhenaten challenges and changes traditional beliefs on religion, art, and the nature of kingship. There is now only one god – the Aten – and Akhenaten is his son.

Akhenaten abandons Thebes founding a new capital and cult centre for his god at Amarna. It is adorned with magnificent palaces, temples and tombs.

The revolution created a new art with classical idealism distorted into wholly new forms. Lovely paintings show a naturalism surely borrowed from Crete. 

An archive of state documents reveal a sophisticated world of international diplomacy. Letters from royal courts at Anatolia, Babylon, Crete, Mycenae and the Levant document dynastic marriages and international trade

Tragedy and death in Amarna is accompanied by rebellion abroad. The dream turns sour, the revolution fails.

We visit the British Museum in London to examine the evidence and the art which documents the origins of the ‘Amarna Revolution’.

The end of the reign and death of the king. Amarna is abandoned. What happened to Nefertiti? The ephemeral Smenkhare & the accession of Tutankhamun.

We visit the magnificent Egyptian collection in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford which contains some of the principal sculptures and paintings from this period. 


Field Trip

Destination:     The British Museum; London

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1130.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1625.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1440.00


Mr Michael Duigan


Michael Duigan teaches ancient history and art history at a number of colleges including the City Lit in London and London University Birkbeck College. His thesis at the Courtauld Institute is on the artist in classical Greece. He has offered courses on the ancient world to OUDCE for a number of years.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)