BA Archaeology and Anthropology

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Tomb and Temple: Religion and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE10702
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The ancient Egyptians have often been characterised as being ‘obsessed with death’. And while that is very much a modern misconception, the archaeological, textual and iconographic record from ancient Egypt is nevertheless very much dominated both by the lived and mortuary religion. This unit will investigate the development of the Egyptian understanding of the Afterlife and the Gods. It will discuss the role of the temple both as a religious and economic institution, and the creating of an industry based around the creation of funerary objects and tombs. It will cover topics such as mummification, the development of private tomb architecture, the role of the Offering Cult and focus on sites of particular significance such as Abydos. The unit as a whole aims to provide the students with a comprehensive overview of how the Egyptians – both elite and non-elite – interacted with their Gods, understood their mythology and prepared themselves for Eternity.

This unit will be taught wholly online. It will comprise 22 pre-recorded lectures and 11 interactive seminars (a combination of discussion board activities and live online seminars).


  • to introduce students to the concept of ‘god’ in ancient Egypt.
  • to provide students with a thorough understanding of the role of the temple and priesthood in ancient Egyptian society.
  • to introduce students to the ancient Egyptian concept of the Afterlife and the requirements to successfully navigate it.
  • to encourage students to develop a critical and independently minded approach to the analysis of archaeological, textual and iconographic data.

Teaching and learning methods

This course unit will be taught wholly online. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • to understand the range and quality of textual, archaeological and iconographic sources used in the study of ancient Egypt.
  • to demonstrate knowledge of the ancient Egyptian pantheon and Afterlife beliefs.
  • to understand how the religious and funerary industries impacted the ancient Egyptian economy and society.

Intellectual skills

  • to successfully conduct independent research.
  • to present a clear and cogent argument in oral and written form.
  • to critically engage with a range of ancient sources.

Practical skills

  • to effectively and independently manage time.
  • to learn effectively in an online teaching environment.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • to discuss problems and questions in a group setting.
  • to conduct independent research.
  • to construct and present a clear, reasoned argument in written form.

Employability skills

This course involves several useful employability skills, primary of which is the ability to conduct independent research, to distil information from a variety of sources, to critically evaluate these sources and use them to underpin a clear and coherent argument in written form. Given the online nature of the unit, students will also learn how to effectively learn remotely and independently.

Assessment methods



VoiceThread Presentation


Discussion Board Participation


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback


Oral feedback in a dedicated seminar session and upon request during office hours


Recommended reading

  • Assmann, J. 2001. The Search for Gods in Ancient Egypt. Cornell University Press: Ithaca.
  • Assmann, J. 2005. Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt. Cornell University Press: Ithaca.
  • Kemp, B. J. 1989. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation. Routledge: London
  • Shaw, I (ed). 2003. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  • Quirke, S. 1992. Ancient Egyptian Religion. British Museum Press.
  • Quirke, S. 1997. The Temple in Ancient Egypt. British Museum Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicky Nielsen Unit coordinator
Marina Escolano Poveda Unit coordinator

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