BA Latin and Italian

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Introduction to Egyptian Hieroglyphs 

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE10032
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The Ancient Egyptian language was written down for over 4,000 years, longer than any other human language. For 3,000 of those 4,000 years, the hieroglyphic script was the dominant script used for writing it down. Although the language evolved and changed over millennia of spoken and written use, the language of the royal monuments and literature of the Middle Kingdom (c. 1980-1640 BCE) remained a highly prized, “classical” form of the language down to the Roman era. This course is designed to open this world up to students through an introduction to the Middle Egyptian phase of the language. By learning to read religious, monumental, and literary texts in this phase of the Egyptian language, students will come face to face with ancient Egyptian thought and culture. Students are introduced to a variety of texts, starting with funerary inscriptions, and advancing in the last portion of the course to the continuous reading of classic works of Middle Egyptian literature such as the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor.


  • to introduce students to the hieroglyphic script;
  • to introduce students to Middle Egyptian grammar;
  • to introduce students to the practice of translating Egyptian texts, and ancient texts more broadly;
  • to introduce students to a range of Middle Egyptian textual types both religious and literary in nature;
  • to encourage students to use their translation skills to more critically engage directly with ancient Egyptian texts, rather than wholly relying on previously translated materials.

Knowledge and understanding

  • to understand the development of the ancient Egyptian language and script;
  • to  develop students’ knowledge of the full range of text types found in ancient Egyptian contexts: religious, funerary, everyday and literary;
  • to demonstrate an awareness of the different stages of translation including transliteration and grammatical analysis.

Intellectual skills

  • to present a cogent argument in oral and written successfully conduct independent translation work;
  • to effectively conduct independent research;
  • to analyse an ancient text’s grammatical structure;
  • to interpret translated material vis a vis its historical and/or socio-cultural significance.

Practical skills

  • to transliterate and translate Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs accurately;
  • to effectively and independently manage time.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • to discuss problems and questions in a group setting;
  • to understand a range of basic grammatical and linguistic concepts;
  • to show an appropriate level of intercultural understanding;
  • to engage critically with texts in a foreign language;
  • to construct and present a clear, reasoned argument in written form.

Employability skills

This course will imbue students with several desirable transferable skills and bolster their usefulness to an employer, in particular a much greater understanding of the grammatical building blocks of language, an enhanced capacity for analysis and reflexive thinking, and an independently minded and critical approach to translation work.

Assessment methods

Assessment task Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if summative)

Weekly exercises

Summative 10%

Midterm (translation exercise, online)

Summative 30%

Exam (online)

Summative 60%


Resit Assessment

Assessment task

Exam (online)


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback


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


Recommended reading


Collier, M. and Manley, B. 1998. How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs. British Museum Press.

Allen, J. P. 2010. Middle Egyptian Grammar: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press.
Faulkner, R. O. 1954. A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian. Oxford University.

Gardiner, A. 1924. Egyptian Grammar. Oxford University.

Wilson, P. 2003. Hieroglyphs, A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University.
Parkinson, R. and Quirke, S. 1995. Papyrus. British Museum Press.

Parkinson, R. 1997. The Tale of Sinuhe, and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940-1640 BC. Oxford University.

Parkinson, R. 1991. Voices from Ancient Egypt, an Anthology of Middle Kingdom Writings. British Museum Press.

Study hours

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

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