Egyptian Hieroglyphs - CLAS6003

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module consists of an introduction to the study of the various indigenous languages and scripts of ancient Egypt from the earliest times to the Arab conquest (641 AD). During this period of approximately four thousand years the development of the native Egyptian tongue may be divided into five distinct phases, each of which may be called a separate language in its own right, Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, New Egyptian, Demotic and, finally, Coptic. A variety of writing systems were developed to record texts in these languages, depending on the function, social and presentational context and time period of the text: hieroglyphic, hieratic, abnormal hieratic, demotic and Coptic.

The module will first examine the origins of the ancient Egyptian language and its genetic relationship with other North-East African and Western Asian languages based on the latest results of historical linguistics. It will then focus on the development of Egyptian itself through the ages, highlighting its different stages and their particular characteristics. It will also examine the earliest uses and functions of writing in Egyptian society and the role played by writing in the social, economic and cultural development of this unique ancient civilisation. Finally, the module will concentrate on the Middle Egyptian language written in the hieroglyphic writing system and students will be taught to read and translate simple texts in this tongue and script.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay (3,000 words) – 40%
Examination (3 hours) – 60%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Allen, J.P. (2010). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baines, J. & Málek, J. (1980). Atlas of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Andromeda Oxford Publishing.
Collier, M. & Manley, B. (1998). How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs. London: British Museum Press.
Gardiner, A.H. (1957). Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of the Hieroglyphs. 3rd edn. rev., Oxford: Griffith Institute.
Herodotus, (2008). The Histories, transl. R. Waterfield, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Manley, B. (1996). The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Ockinga, B. (2005). A Concise Grammar of Middle Egyptian. 2nd edn., Mainz: Harrasowitz.
Shaw, I. ed. (2000). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Shaw, I. & Nicholson, P. eds. (2002). The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:

Demonstrate extensive knowledge of the intellectual and written heritage of ancient Egyptian civilisation;
Demonstrate broad knowledge of the social, economic and cultural roles of writing in ancient Egypt;
Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of Middle Egyptian;
Demonstrate a confident grasp of the hieroglyphic script as used in the Middle Kingdom;
Demonstrate considerable confidence in translating simple sentences written in hieroglyphic Middle Egyptian;
Engage reflectively with current research related to primary and secondary sources in the field of hieroglyphics.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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