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