MA Egyptology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Ancient Egyptian Religion and Funerary Beliefs

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE66211
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Overview: This 15-credit module is an optional part of the part-time online master’s in Egyptology and will be taught during the first semester of the second year. This module aims to provide the students with an in-depth awareness of the types of evidence which can be employed in the study of ancient Egyptian religion and funerary beliefs. The first part of the module is concerned firstly with the concepts of divinity (what is a god?) and the physical remains of religious ritual (temples, votive stela, statues and cultic objects) as well as the links between the State and religious institutions. This part of the module will also investigate the profane roles of ancient Egyptian temples as economic powerhouses in their own right. The second part of the module investigates the ancient Egyptian attitudes to death and the Afterlife, firstly through an in-depth study of tomb architecture during different times periods, and secondly via a study of human remains (mummified corpses and skeletal assemblages) which testify to mortuary practices, as well as causes of death and post-mortem treatment of the body. The module also includes study of key pieces of funerary literature, both royal and private, such as the Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead.




Historical Studies of Ancient Egypt; Urbanism in Ancient Egypt; Art and Artists in Ancient Egypt.



The unit aims to:

1. provide the students with an in-depth knowledge of religious practices and burial customs in Pharaonic Egypt.

2. impart the students with an awareness of the ethical concerns involved in the study of human remains.

3. study the development of Egyptian religion from prehistory to the Graeco-Roman period.

4. provide the students with an understanding of the inherent bias created by the relatively high survival rate of archaeological materials from funerary contexts on the reception of ancient Egypt as a society.

5. challenge the common notion of ancient Egypt as a society ‘obsessed with death’ through a rigorous study of Afterlife literature and concepts from various periods of Pharaonic history.


Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

Show understanding of the religious and funerary practices employed by the ancient Egyptians.

Demonstrate knowledge of the types of evidence which can be used to study this topic.

Show an awareness of the ethical implications in the study of human remains.

Intellectual skills

Demonstrate ability to follow complex oral and written arguments and summarise these in a suitable manner.

Demonstrate the ability to construct cogent academic arguments in a written form.

Practical skills

Display knowledge of how to interpret ancient textual material in translation and how to utilise the gained information to form an academic argument.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Demonstrate the ability to understand the limitations of textual data, as well as the ability to compare textual and physical data assemblages. 

Evidence the ability to conduct research independently.

Assessment methods

Discussion Boards 0%

Essay 65%

Public Focused Article 35%


Feedback methods

Discussion Board - ongoing feedback

Essay - written feedback within 15 working days

Recommended reading

Assmann, J. 2001. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. Cornell University Press: Ithaca. 

Assmann, J. 2005. Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt. Cornell University Press: Ithaca.

Eaton, K. 2013. Ancient Egyptian Temple Ritual: Performance, Pattern and Practice. Routledge: New York.

Germer, R. 1997. Mummies: Life after Death in Ancient Egypt. Prestel: New York.

Grajetski, W. 2003. Burial Customs in Ancient Egypt: Life in Death for Rich and Poor. Duckworth: London.

Hodel-Hoenes, S. 2000. Life and Death in Ancient Egypt: Scenes from Private Tombs in New Kingdom Thebes. Cornell University Press: Ithaca.

Ikram, S. 2015. Death and Burial in Ancient Egypt. AUC Press: Cairo.

Meye, S. (ed.) 2003. Egypt: Temple of the Whole World: Studies in Honour of Jan Assmann. Brill: Leiden.

Quirke, S. 2015. Exploring Religion in Ancient Egypt. Willey: Hoboken.

Richards, J. E. 2005. Society and Death in Ancient Egypt: Mortuary Landscapes of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Snape, S. R. 2011. Ancient Egyptian Tombs: The Culture of Life and Death. Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester.

Taylor, J. H. 2001. Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. The British Museum Press: London.

Weeks, K. R. (ed.) 2008. Valley of the Kings: the Tombs and Funerary Temples of Thebes West. VMB: Vercelli.

Wilkinson, R. H. 2000. The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson: New York.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicky Nielsen Unit coordinator

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