BA Ancient History and Archaeology

Year of entry: 2024

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

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE30701
Credit rating 20
Unit level Undefined
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The ancient Egyptians have often been characterised as being ‘obsessed with death’. While that is a modern misconception, the archaeological, textual and iconographic record from ancient Egypt is nevertheless dominated both by the lived and mortuary religion. This unit will investigate the development of Egyptian concepts of the afterlife and the gods. It will discuss the role of the temple both as a religious and economic institution, and the development of an industry based on 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 students with a comprehensive overview of how Egyptians – both elite and non-elite – interacted with their Gods, understood their mythology and prepared themselves for eternity. 


The unit aims to:

• introduce students to the concept of ‘god’ in ancient Egypt.

• provide students with a thorough understanding of the role of the temple and priesthood in ancient Egyptian society.

• introduce students to the ancient Egyptian concept of the afterlife and the requirements to successfully navigate it.

• require students to develop a critical and independently minded approach to the analysis of archaeological, textual and iconographic data. 

Knowledge and understanding

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

Intellectual skills

  • To conduct independent research successfully.
  • To critically engage with primary source material, both textual and archaeological.
  • To successfully utilise secondary scholarly literature to construct a complex argument.

Practical skills

  • To effectively manage time and competing workloads.
  • To utilise resources hosted in a digital learning environment.
  • To correctly handle ancient artefacts safely.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • To discuss problems and questions in a group setting.
  • To construct a clear scholarly argument in written form.
  • To process, understand and present scholarly opinions in written form.

Assessment methods

Essay - 60%

Group presentation (recorded podcast) - 40%

Feedback methods

Written feedback via Turnitin

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.

Teeter, E. (2011). Religion and ritual in ancient Egypt. Cambridge University Press.

Dosoo, K. (2018). Ancient Egyptian Religion. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion.

El-Tanbouli, M. A. L. (2017). Tomb of Khâemhat [TT 57]. American University in Cairo Press.

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
Huw Twiston Davies Unit coordinator

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