Studies & Degrees in Egyptology
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Egypt is famous for its historical places full of pyramids, sphinxes, and town ruins. Many archaeologists, tourists, and history-buffs visit the country to take a glimpse of history and even learn how ancient Egyptians have lived more than 1000 years ago. With the many interesting things one will see and learn in Egypt, it is no wonder that many students are interested in taking Egyptology. Egyptology is a branch of archaeology that focuses on studying Ancient Egypt—its history, culture, literature, religion, language, and art—starting from the 5th millennium BC up to the end of 4th century AD.
Egyptian civilization is one of the earliest civilizations in the history of the world that’s why Egyptology goes way back in the past. Surprisingly, the first Egyptologists were the Egyptians themselves: Thutmosis IV was the first to restore the Sphinx while, two centuries later, Prince Khaemweset, fourth son of Ramesses II, identified and restored historical buildings, tombs, and temples such as the pyramid of Unas and Saqqara. Although the Egyptians were the first to restore historical structures, it was the Greeks and Romans who first made the historical accounts of the Egyptian Civilization. More progress on the study of Ancient Egypt were made by Muslim Egyptologists in the 9th century AD. Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya were the first ones to attempt deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs while Abdul Latif al-Baghdadi wrote very detailed description of the ancient Egyptian monuments. In the 13th century, European explorers like John Greaves, Claude Sicard, and Benoît de Maillet began exploring and studying ancient Egyptian civilization with a more scientific approach.
Students who are interested in becoming Egyptologist will find that only a few universities offer an undergraduate degree. But those who want to pursue higher degrees and even a Ph.D. in Egyptology can, instead, take courses in ancient art, ancient history, anthropology, and archaeology. Students can also take courses about Eastern Mediterranean which will give them enough background courses that will help them should they pursue a higher degree in Egyptology. Students will also have to learn to read and even speak different languages like French and German, helpful in researching and reading previous accounts; Arabic and Egyptian, helpful in archaeological activities in Egypt; and Greek or any other Near Eastern languages, helpful should the student choose to specialize in the later periods of Egyptian history. There are two kinds of Egyptologists that a student can become, depending on his/her interest and the subjects he/she will take. An Egyptologist that specializes in Ancient Egyptian language will have to take courses that study the various forms of the Old, Middle, and Late Egyptian such as hieroglyphic scripts, hieratic scripts, Demotic, and Coptic. On the other hand, Egyptologists who specialize in archaeology will take courses studying the art and architecture in the different time periods of Ancient Egypt. They will also have to study surveying, photography, and drawing.
Egyptologists that have advanced degrees in field can find many career opportunities. The most popular career is working behind-the-scenes in museums or universities wherein Egyptologists get a chance to work in the field like assisting in excavations. In reality, however, only a few fortunate ones can get to work in the field all the time. Most Egyptologists work in the field during a project then return to a university to teach or research.