|Degree||Bachelor of Arts|
|Course commences||winter semester only|
|Standard course duration||6 semesters|
|Focus options||50%; 25%|
|Language requirements||certified proficiency in Latin, Greek, Hebrew or Classical Arabic (on application);
English and French (on application)
|Language of instruction||German and English|
Egyptology is one of a number of disciplines that investigate early high cultures. Its core concern is with the civilisation of ancient Egypt in all its aspects, from its earliest history to the Arab conquest that marked its end. In spatial terms, the focal area is the lower Nile valley and adjacent regions. Egyptology is an historical discipline dividing its attention more or less equally between archaeology, philology and cultural history. One of the distinguishing features of the culture of ancient Egypt is the fact that written sources and material culture are so closely intertwined. Script figures in almost all the object genres of architecture and art. Accordingly, the interpretation of these objects is crucially dependent on the philological analysis of the texts on, in, or pertaining to them. Vice versa, the relevance of many texts is best appreciated by taking due account of their material contexts. While many neighbouring subjects can be readily divided up into their philological components (Ancient Oriental Studies, Near Eastern Archaeology, etc.), this is quite simply impracticable in the case of Egyptology. Equally impossible is a specialisation in terms of epochs, as the almost seamless progression of ancient Egyptian culture and its marked conservatism mean that texts and objects from the earliest and latest stages of this civilisation can shed crucial light on each other.
Equally essential to the concerns of Egyptology are those apparently marginal sectors of its overall purview that appear at first glance to be the province of other subjects: the prehistoric cultures of Egypt are the territory of Prehistory and Protohistory, Hellenist-Roman Egypt is very much on the agenda of Classical Studies, Coptology is a subdivision of Christian Archaeology and Christian Near Eastern Studies (the latter case is the one where synergies with Egyptology are most apparent). In Heidelberg many of these departments are housed in one and the same building, thus favouring an appropriate degree of attention for these borderline phenomena. Another advantage is that Heidelberg is one of the few study locations in Germany notable for its concern with Demotic studies. By contrast, Meroitic studies (investigation of the culture and language of ancient Sudan) are not a part of the Heidelberg curriculum at present.
In recent years, countless exhibitions, easily understandable publications on ancient Egyptian topics, and broadcasts and reports in the mass media have kindled and encouraged a broad public interest in this ancient civilisation. The blessings of modern tourism have made it very easy to satisfy this interest. This phenomenon challenges academic Egyptologists to collate and publicise their findings in readily comprehensible lectures, descriptions, guided tours, etc. This in itself is symptomatic of one of the distinguishing features of our own culture: the desire to engage in an ongoing dialogue with the past. Initially focusing on classical antiquity and Biblical traditions, this desire expanded to other sectors with (and after) the advent of Romanticism. Figuring prominently in both the Graeco-Roman and the Biblical heritage, ancient Egypt was part and parcel of this development from its outset in the Renaissance. And when Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs, it naturally loomed larger still.
Egyptology has always been, and will remain, a research-intensive subject in which the ongoing primary exploration of sources is just as important as student education. This places it in a situation similar to that of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and sets it off from other disciplines where the subject matter can be regarded as largely complete and well-established. This leads to an indissoluble symbiosis between teaching and research, facing undergraduate students with the challenge (and the opportunity!) of being confronted with hitherto undiscovered country and the attendant research tasks which that involves. Research proper is thus very frequently an integral part of seminar papers, practicals, excursion preparations or participation in excavations. In this joint engagement with ubiquitous research tasks, Egyptology has always – both by necessity and as a matter of course – battened on that “community of teachers and learners” on which the definition of the University was originally predicated. Teaching is based on research and at the same time informs that research.
The implication from all this is that Egyptology is a demanding subject to study. Students are expected to decipher hieroglyphs, learn cursive script in all its progressive manifestations, achieve proficiency in all stages of the language – including Coptic, Demotic and the various dialects - achieve a precise overview of all areas and epochs of Egyptian culture and handle the early confrontation with new research territory referred to above. Accordingly, the course makes the highest demands on students’ receptivity, memory, combinatory powers, independent thinking and, above all, sheer stamina. On top of all this, there is the necessity to acquire a considerable part of the knowledge required for the course by means of independent study of the primary and secondary literature, as there is insufficient time for it to be dealt with (adequately) in class.
An essential prerequisite is fluent reading proficiency in English and French, but students must also be able to cope with specialist literature in Dutch, Italian and other languages. A good knowledge of Latin and Greek is mandatory, which is why the examination regulations require certificates of proficiency in these languages (for German students this would be the Latinum and the Graecum). This proficiency is required for the engagement with important sources on the final stages of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. Hebrew or classical Arabic are referred to in the examination regulations as alternatives to Latin and Greek and are helpful in understanding various characteristics of the Egyptian language. Knowledge of colloquial Egyptian/Arabic is essential for field work in Egypt. The B.A. course places equal emphasis on philological and archaeological sources. Reading classes are often a useful way of gaining new insights, while issues concerning religion, law, administration or history and economics can also be discussed (as the case arises) in seminars with overview papers on these subjects.
At B.A. level, Egyptology can be studied as a 1st or 2nd main subject accounting for 50% of the study workload. It has to be combined with another joint subject accounting for the other 50% of the study workload.
The difference between a first and second main subject is that students choosing Egyptology as their first main subject are required to complete a written B.A. thesis alongside their oral examination, whereas students opting for Egyptology as a second main subject are only required to take the final oral examination.
The B.A. course in Egyptology as a (first or second) main subject provides students with the linguistic and subject-related knowledge and skills required for an understanding of ancient Egyptian script, language and culture. This competence is imparted to them by means of Introductory, Basic and In-Depth modules.
The Introductory Language module establishes a fundamental knowledge of hieroglyphic script and the grammar of Middle Egyptian. The module rounds off with an Orientation Test. The Basic module turns to account the knowledge of the language acquired in the Introductory module, using close reading of Egyptian texts to familiarise students with the practice of reading and translation. The In-Depth module supplements the knowledge acquired up to this point with the acquisition of hieratic script and New Egyptian.
The Introductory Culture module consists of two preparatory seminars imparting initial knowledge of the culture, history, archaeology and art of ancient Egypt. A collection practical and an excursion seminar followed by an excursion to a museum make up the Basic module providing an overview of the most important archaeological monument genres, construction history and the visual arts. The closing In-Depth module extends the knowledge acquired thus far with two advanced seminars. The B.A. course in Egyptology as the 1st main subject concludes with two closing modules. They encompass the production of a written B.A. thesis in the break between the 5th and 6th semester (closing module 1) and an oral examination after the 6th semester (closing module 2).
Parallel with the classes in Egyptology as a 1st or 2nd main subject, students are given the opportunity to attend a Cross-Disciplinary module providing them with non-subject-related study skills.
The B.A. course in Egyptology can be studied as a subsidiary (minor) subject accounting for 25% of the overall study workload. It must be combined with a main (major) subject accounting for 75% of the overall study workload.
The subsidiary course in Egyptology provides students with the linguistic and subject-related knowledge and skills required for an understanding of ancient Egyptian script, language and culture. This competence is imparted to them by means of Introductory and Basic modules.
The Introductory Language module establishes fundamental knowledge of hieroglyphic script and the grammar of Middle Egyptian. The module rounds off with an Orientation Test. The Basic module turns to account the knowledge of the language acquired in the Introductory module, using close reading of Egyptian texts to familiarise students with the practice of reading and translation.
The Introductory Culture module consists of one preparatory seminar imparting initial knowledge of the culture, history, archaeology and art of ancient Egypt. In the Basic module this knowledge is enhanced by an advanced seminar.
In principle, Egyptology as a (first or second) main or subsidiary subject can be combined with any subject for which corresponding B.A. examination regulations exist.
Recommended combinations are
- subjects dealing with topics in which Egyptian finds figure prominently, e,g. Prehistory and Protohistory, Byzantine Archaeology and Art, Classical Archaeology, Papyrology, Classical Philology;
- “neighbouring” subjects like Assyriology, Near Eastern Archaeology, Semitic Studies, Islamic Studies, etc.;
disciplines with similar methodological and theoretical approaches/concerns (some of which have been referred to above) , e.g. Religious Studies, History of Art, Anthropology.
Admission to the course is not restricted. You will find information on how to enrol here.
There are special regulations for international applicants. For more information, apply to the International Relations Office of Heidelberg University (Seminarstraße 2).
Potential subject combinations are listed in the catalogue of subjects.
Study and examination regulations
Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.
Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.
Heidelberg University offers a consecutive M.A. course in Egyptology.
Fabian Wespi, M.A.
Voßstr. 2, Gebäude 4410
Office hours by appointment
Tel.: +49 (0)6221-54-2534
Institute of Egyptology
phone: +49 (0)6221 542533
fax: +49 (0)6221 542551