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The Great Tours: A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt

Unearth the mysteries of ancient Egypt in this tour of its treasures of art, stunning monuments, mythic cosmology, and fabulous history.
The Great Tours: A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 83.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous in-depth course I bought this course in preparation for a cruise I am taking on the Nile. The egyptologist, Melinda Hartweg, is engaging and very knowledgeable. I feel comfortable knowing the import of what I will be experiencing.
Date published: 2022-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great resource! I have been purchasing Great Courses for 20 years. Although I find my understanding of my field quite solid there are many many areas where that is just not the case. And I like the format! The most recent course I bought is one of “The Great Tours” series. This one on Egypt. I am aging but not yet aged. This is an excellent way to get the most from a trip one will only take once!
Date published: 2022-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Recommended Course—A Stunning Eye-opener Here are some strong points of Dr. Melinda Hartwig’s 24 lectures about Egypt: 1) The presenter is pleasant and enthusiastic. She speaks with the self-assurance of an on-location researcher. 2) The ancient sites discussed include many that are “off the beaten track” as compared to those seen and discussed elsewhere. 3) Accompanying visual materials are abundant and varied, making use of diagrams, maps, and computer animations, as well as superb photographs. 4) Particulars are revealed about ancient Egyptians representing a wide range of affluence and social status. 5) Beyond providing a documentary on ancient Egypt, this series also amounts to a history of Egyptology and a history of the relevant archaeology. 6) The present course would make a good companion study for three courses by Dr. Bob Brier, also offered by the Teaching Company. Here are a few aspects of the present course that could have been handled better: 1) Highlighting, use of moving arrows, outlining, camera zoom-ins on details, and computer animations—techniques that were all employed occasionally—were called for still more often to maximize the value to students of the fine collection of visuals. 2) Showing the speaker in an inset, continuing to lecture while detailed visuals were kept longer on-screen, as used in others of the Great Courses, would have been very helpful in this case. 3) A glossary in the course guidebook should have been included, since technical terms were used without being defined. 4) Despite her apparent use of a set script from a teleprompter, moderately frequent errors crept into Dr. Hartwig’s statements. One example should suffice to make the point: both Dr. Hartwig and the text of the course guidebook reported that 330 cubic metres of stone were needed to construct an artificial hill at Abu Simbel, while the total is recorded in other sources as 1000 times more than that. Slips like this certainly do not spoil the course, but I think that better proofreading and/or beta testing after the filming of the lectures would have been advisable.
Date published: 2022-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Information Packed! While similar to other "Great Tour" courses from the Teaching Company that I have taken and enjoyed thoroughly, there is also a vital difference in this course that I, at least, found most challenging: its compact denseness of information! Now, this is NOT a criticism of the course or of its consistently upbeat, informative, and enthusiastic presentation by Professor Hartwig but, rather, my reaction to how much of the material in these lectures required very close attention. This is because while we do journey throughout the landscape of ancient Egypt -- and, in so doing, encountering the magnificent remains of pyramids, shrines, and temples -- we are also fed a constant stream of information that requires close attention. For example, in touring the remains of temple "X" we are given: comments about what remains of the original structure; informed speculation about what it likely looked like in its prime; the meanings behind its geographical location and building style; just who the figures are that we find before us sculpted, etched, or painted on the interior and exterior walls (which includes relevant digressions into genealogy as well as religious and "worldview" beliefs); the meaning of the arrangement of structural features, including statues and paintings; and the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians regarding their divinities, concepts of life and afterlife, and cosmology and resurrection. While these concepts and themes do reappear often, the fact that the course covers a long period of time (from 5,000 years ago to the early centuries of the current era), we also are given information about how various kings -- and the historical circumstances of their times -- changed certain things, including beliefs and interpretations. This can be daunting if one's attention wavers, but it also means that his is a very full course in which knowledge of the people and their times constitutes an amount equal to the time spent on visual exploration. It is clear that a traveler could spend a great deal of time in EACH of the places visited in this course, for there is so much to see and understand. I also appreciated learning quite a few things about the "average" person of the past. While all of the great tombs celebrate the lives of the kings, their major servants, and the wealthy connected kind of folks, archaeologists have also discovered the remains of workers' villages and the houses and graves of the more humble of ancient Egyptians. There is a fascinating exploration of just how the pyramids were actually built -- as well as the sidelight that those working on the pyramids were NOT slaves but rather employed in state-sponsored "public works" on a monumental scale, but also that they lived lives of some comfort and regularity. They were even regularly supplied with beer (which had to help some of the monotony of hauling huge stones be a tad more acceptable). This course is not only a form of time travel in visiting the past monumental structures of the Egyptians, but also in terms of entering into concepts of the world that are intriguingly different from our own. I enjoyed this course and look forward to doing additional research on my own along the lines suggested by Professor Hartwig's presentations.
Date published: 2022-02-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from DVDs skip I was very excited to start the ancient Egypt lectures! I have finished my second DVD and am very unhappy. I wrote to your customer service email about it on Fri. Here it is, Tues afternoon and no reply yet... don't know what happened to your supposed quick turnaround on responses!
Date published: 2022-02-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could have been great, but misse Ancient Egypt has an incredible past and many artifacts for today's enjoyment. This course started out great, taking us to the pyramids and examining the structures, what artifacts still remain, and studying the wall carvings and inscriptions. Yet, each lesson spent more time on the wall carvings/inscriptions than on the structures and location. Halfway through the course the wall art became extremely redundant. Each pharoah's artisan's repeating what dozens of predecessors recorded before them. They all paid homage to Amun Re, all showed Isis, Osiris, Seth, and Nephythys. They all showed wars, paying tribute to the gods, etc. Fine. They all did that during their rule, and one would expect the repitition throughout the pyramids and tombs. The issue I have is that to a lesser or greater extent, looking at the same inscriptions in just another location during each lesson is boring. Why not share more photos or video of the actual locations, touring the rubble strewn places, rather than repeating the same legends and wall paintings. Okay, we get it, that was the religion and belief, but don't beat us to death with it. How many times does Hartwig say "enter the great room and look to your left and you'll see the...." Yet, she doesn't show us what she is claiming is there. There are no photographs (or better yet) video. She just claims it's there and then moves on. She states she's worked and visited the sites in Egypt of 30 years or so, and one would expect that she would have thousands of photographs, but she only focuses on the wall art. Some of it is in incredible condition, but others are so worn and effaced as to be barely recognizable against the damage. Why bother showing the stuff that even she admits can only be intrepreted by making line drawings of it. Why not show a few photographs of the tombs and pyramids at sunrise and sunset. Some of the photographs shows light standards around the base of the pyramids. Wouldn't those light up the faces of the massive monuments at night? Wouldn't that be a wonderful sight to see on our "tour?" This course needed only to be half as long and just mentioned that what artwork we'd already seen in other tombs was nearly identical in others. Otherwise, fill each lesson with what was different in each site and not what was the same as all the others.
Date published: 2022-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Intro to Travelers to Egypt Excellent. As someone who is planning a trip to Egypt, I found the manner and the material very helpful
Date published: 2022-02-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very detailed I plan to visit Egypt and believed this video would provide a good background. It did. As with any subject, some areas are more interesting than others, but overall, this program is worth the viewing time.
Date published: 2022-02-06
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The wonders of ancient Egypt have intrigued and dazzled humanity for thousands of years. This course takes you deep inside the tombs, temples, palaces, and dwellings of the ancient Egyptians, where you’ll explore the structure and meaning of the Egyptian pyramid, delve into Egyptian cosmology, relive elaborate mystical rituals, discover sublime treasures of art, and learn in detail how the ancient Egyptians lived and died.


Melinda Hartwig

Let's travel up the Nile together and explore the epic, exotic, transcendent, land of the pharaohs.


Michael C. Carlos Museum

Dr. Melinda Hartwig is an Egyptologist and Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum. Her distinguished teaching career includes positions as Professor of Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Art and Archaeology at Georgia State University and at The American University in Cairo. She holds a PhD in Near Eastern Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

Melinda’s expertise is recognized internationally. She has led tours and documentation projects in Egypt for 40 years. She has curated national exhibitions on ancient Egyptian art and culture, and received awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the United States Agency for International Development. She is past President of the Board of Governors of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).

Melinda is the author or editor of numerous books, including Tomb Painting and Identity in Ancient Thebes, The Tomb Chapel of Menna, and A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art, which received the 2016 PROSE award for Single Volume Reference in Humanities & Social Sciences. Melinda is a popular lecturer and a frequent on-air expert for television documentaries on the BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS, Science Channel, Smithsonian Channel, and Travel Channel.

By This Professor

The Great Tours: A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt
The Great Tours: A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt


Exploring the Gift of the Nile

01: Exploring the Gift of the Nile

For the ancient Egyptians, the Nile was the source of all life. Grasp the Nile’s integral role in ancient Egyptian culture and trace the path the course will take along this vital river, visiting Egypt’s ancient cities and monuments. Discover the rich pantheon of Egyptian gods; the role of Egyptian kings as divine intermediaries; and the fascinating symbolism of Egyptian architecture, art, and ritual.

30 min
The Major Museums of Cairo

02: The Major Museums of Cairo

Using objects from Cairo’s three great museums, trace 5,000 years of Egyptian history and culture, and the 31 dynasties that comprised ancient Egypt. Observe how the famous Narmer Palette set the conventions for Egyptian art, and see what a statue of King Khafre, the sphinx of Amenemhet III, Tutankhamun’s golden throne, and Seti I’s mummy tell us about Egypt from the Early Dynastic Period to the Late Period.

28 min
How to Build a Pyramid

03: How to Build a Pyramid

Investigate the origins of the Egyptian pyramids and the symbolism of their architectural form. Delve into the complex methods of pyramid building, the pyramid’s orientation to the cardinal points, how the work was organized, and the techniques of construction, and visualize the funerary rituals that accompanied royal interments.

31 min
The Great Pyramid: The Last Ancient Wonder

04: The Great Pyramid: The Last Ancient Wonder

Take the measure of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid, and marvel at the engineering and administrative feat of the pyramid’s construction. Travel the pyramid’s network of internal passages and funerary chambers, examine their ingenious architectural features, and observe how the burial chambers were sealed. Learn also about the royal necropolis complex that adjoins the pyramid.

30 min
The Great Sphinx and the Giza Plateau

05: The Great Sphinx and the Giza Plateau

Continue your visit to the stunning monuments of the Giza Plateau. Explore the pyramid complex of Khafre and its remarkable necropolis. Then study the legendary Sphinx and its symbolism, as well as the Sphinx Temple and the richly adorned tomb of Queen Meresankh. Conclude with the pyramid complex of Menkaure and its innovative architecture, and the recently discovered Lost City of the Pyramid Builders.

32 min
The Step Pyramid: Djoser’s Stairway to Heaven

06: The Step Pyramid: Djoser’s Stairway to Heaven

King Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara was a milestone in the development of monumental architecture. Learn how a traditional mastaba tomb was transformed into the famous Step Pyramid. Then travel the astonishing 37-acre complex, with its courtyards, chapels, palaces, temples, and underground tombs and galleries, highlighting their extraordinary architectural features and decor.

30 min
The Capital at Memphis and the Saqqara Tombs

07: The Capital at Memphis and the Saqqara Tombs

Here, encounter Memphis, ancient Egypt’s great capital, an epicenter of trade, religion, and education. Make an in-depth visit to the massive Temple of Ptah, taking stock of its remarkable statuary, shrines, and cult structures. Then proceed to the Necropolis of Saqqara and study the artistic riches of the Pyramid of King Unas, the Tomb of the Two Brothers, and the Tomb of Nefer and Kahay.

31 min
Old, New, and Late Saqqara

08: Old, New, and Late Saqqara

Delve further into the extraordinary treasures of Saqqara. First, explore the New Kingdom cemetery, containing mastaba tombs with unparalleled relief carvings. Then visit the Pyramid of King Teti and the spectacular tombs of his officials, Mereruka and Kagemni, with their exquisitely carved decoration. Finish with a visit to the Serapeum, the sacred burial ground of the Apis bulls.

29 min
Saqqara’s Famous Fifth-Dynasty Tombs

09: Saqqara’s Famous Fifth-Dynasty Tombs

Now visit what many consider to be the Old Kingdom’s finest mastaba tombs. Begin at the 5th-Dynasty mastabas of Akhethotep and Ptahhotep II, father and son viziers, focusing on the magnificent painted reliefs of daily life. Continue with the elaborate mastaba of Ti, an important 5th-Dynasty official, taking account of the superlative artistry, symbolism, and detail of the painted reliefs.

27 min
King Sneferu and the First True Pyramid

10: King Sneferu and the First True Pyramid

Learn how builders under the ambitious King Sneferu, through trial and error, constructed the first smooth-sided pyramids. At the pyramid complex of Meidum, view its masterpieces of decoration, and investigate the structural issues which led to the pyramid’s collapse. Study the many architectural innovations that produced the Bent Pyramid and Sneferu’s final achievement of the Red Pyramid.

28 min
Power and Revolution: Beni Hasan and Amarna

11: Power and Revolution: Beni Hasan and Amarna

Over two lectures, learn about the spiritual revolution of King Akhenaten, and the majestic monuments that bear witness to it. Begin with a look back at an earlier necropolis that influenced Akhenaten, that of Beni Hasan, containing some of the most beautiful painted tombs in Egypt. Continue to the vast capital city of Amarna, the splendorous setting for Akhenaten’s religious reformation that focused on the sole worship of the sun god Aten.

29 min
Akhenaten’s City at Amarna and Hermopolis

12: Akhenaten’s City at Amarna and Hermopolis

Look deeper into the history of Amarna, stopping first at the northern tombs, with their extraordinary wall decoration. Then visit the enigmatic Royal Tomb, with its numerous burial chambers. Walk Amarna’s Royal Road to the Central City and view the buildings that served as a stage for Akhenaten’s political and religious agenda. Finish at the Greco-Roman necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel.

29 min
Abydos: The Religious Center of Osiris

13: Abydos: The Religious Center of Osiris

Abydos, the ancient center for the worship of Osiris, is your next stop. Learn about the importance of Osiris in Egyptian cosmology as you visit the vast site, highlighting the Commemorative Temple of Seti I, with its breathtaking painted reliefs and mysterious interior rooms; the dramatic Funerary Temple of Ramesses II; and the site of Um el Qu’ab, burial place of the earliest Egyptian kings.

29 min
The Temple of Hathor at Dendera

14: The Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Learn about gods’ temples in ancient Egypt, as they served as a model of the cosmos and a home for the deities. Then explore the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, one of the most spectacular gods’ temples in Egypt. Study the imposing features of the temple interior, their symbolism, and the temple rituals aimed at satisfying the gods. Also, view the massive relief of Cleopatra VII, among the few in Egypt.

28 min
The Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak

15: The Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak

The resplendent Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak stands as one of the world’s greatest religious monuments. Trace how successive kings, over 1,500 years, built structures here to celebrate their relationship with the god. Take in the splendor of the Hypostyle Hall and its massive columns with varied capitals, the Festival Temple, and other buildings within this truly awe-inspiring complex.

30 min
Luxor Temple and the Opet Festival

16: Luxor Temple and the Opet Festival

Follow the events of the ancient Opet festival, the spectacular royal procession of bark shrines from Karnak to Luxor, that regenerated the pharaoh, the god Amun, and the cosmos itself. Visualize the temple rituals, whereby the pharaoh and Amun were mystically joined and recharged. Then explore the setting for the rites of divine kingship and view the sublime artworks in the Luxor Museum.

29 min
Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

17: Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

As insight into the Egyptian conception of the afterlife, study the Amduat, which illustrates the sun god’s voyage through the 12 hours of the night, through which both the sun god and the pharaoh are reborn. See the stunning paintings of the Amduat within the tombs of the King’s Valley. Also, relive the legendary 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen and study the tomb’s unusual decor.

29 min
Valley of the Queens and Workmen’s Village

18: Valley of the Queens and Workmen’s Village

Take an in-depth look at the superlative tomb of Nefertari, beloved queen of Ramesses II. View the exquisite artwork that adorns the antechamber and burial chamber walls, known as the Sistine Chapel of ancient Egypt. From there, visit the workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina, and witness life as it was for those who decorated the royal tombs 3,000 years ago.

28 min
The Colossi of Memnon and Hatshepsut’s Temple

19: The Colossi of Memnon and Hatshepsut’s Temple

In this visit, see ancient Egypt’s memorial temples, the “Houses of a Million Years,” and begin at the cult temple of Amenhotep III, the largest of its kind, with its majestic colossal statues of the king. Then encounter Hatshepsut, the famous woman who declared herself the pharaoh, and marvel at the phenomenal temple whose decoration portrayed her as male and elaborately legitimized her right to rule.

28 min
Theban Tombs: The Necropolis of Nobles

20: Theban Tombs: The Necropolis of Nobles

Study the cultural functions and symbolic meaning of the tombs of the Nobles’ Necropolis on the Nile’s west bank, a tomb complex that bustled with activity. Observe how a noble’s tomb was a ritual complex ensuring the owner’s transfiguration and eternal well-being and witness the intimate and moving humanity of the decoration in the standout tombs of Menna and the viziers Rekhmire and Ramose.

28 min
Ptolemaic Temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo

21: Ptolemaic Temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo

The Greek Ptolemies, foreign rulers of Egypt, built Egyptian temples to win the peoples’ hearts and minds and legitimize their rule. As a prime example, explore the monumental Temple of Horus at Edfu, and the major festivals that honored Egypt’s traditional religious beliefs. Also, visit the temple at Kom Ombu, with its hybrid decoration, a rare double temple to the gods Sobek and Haroeris.

26 min
The Ancient Egyptian Frontier: Aswan

22: The Ancient Egyptian Frontier: Aswan

In the area surrounding Aswan, discover ancient Egypt’s southern frontier. Begin on the island of Elephantine, one of the only preserved urban settlements from ancient Egypt, and explore its remarkable temples, shrines, and mudbrick houses. Then visit the tombs of Aswan’s ancient governors, cut into the hill of Qubbet el-Hawa, and view objects from all Nubian periods in the Nubian Museum.

28 min
The Temples at Philae and Abu Simbel

23: The Temples at Philae and Abu Simbel

Travel the magnificent complex of the goddess Isis on the island of Philae. Visit the Temple of Isis, and learn about the rituals surrounding her cult. Continue to one of Egypt’s most famous monuments, the Temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. Take in the spellbinding grandeur of the temple and that of the small temple to Queen Nefertari and learn the amazing story of their rescue and relocation.

28 min
Alexandria and the Lost City of Tanis

24: Alexandria and the Lost City of Tanis

Conclude your tour with a visit to Alexandria, the intellectual and cultural capital of the Hellenistic world. Reconstruct the great city of antiquity, highlighting its famous lighthouse, library, and magnificent Roman-era structures. Finally, tour the “lost city” of Tanis, and grasp how the fabulous tomb treasures found there rivaled those of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

32 min