The Great Courses
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48 videos in this collection

Introduction
What makes ancient Egypt so interesting? How do we know what we know about it? What can you, as a student, expect from these lectures?
Prehistoric Egypt
In this lesson, we will see just how old "old" is. The basic divisions of prehistory will be discussed, and each category will be defined and its specific characteristics delineated.…
Ancient Egyptian Thought
What distinguishes mythology, religion, and philosophy from one another? What role did each play in the lives of the ancient Egyptians?
Napoleon and the Beginnings of Egyptology
Why does modern Egyptology begin with Napoleon? How was Egypt studied before he and his army arrived with 150 scientists in tow in 1798? How did the monumental "Description de…
The Rosetta Stone, and Much More
The Rosetta Stone is a large granite stela, carved under Ptolemy V and unearthed by French troops in 1799. With inscriptions of the same text in Greek and Egyptian, it…
The First Nation in History
How did Egypt become history's first nation? Once King Narmer unified Upper and Lower Egypt, it took only a few hundred years to build a power that would dominate the…
The Rise of the Old Kingdom
As Egypt becomes a great nation led by a single all-powerful ruler, traditions arise that will last for millennia: a capital city, separate burial places (and eventually mighty pyramids) for…
Sneferu, the Pyramid Builder
This lecture will present a portrait of the founder of the "Fabulous Fourth" Dynasty, Sneferu. Using trial and error, he figured out how to build a true pyramid. His reign…
The Great Pyramid of Giza
From leveling the foundation to setting the capstone, here are - as best as we can make out - the "nuts and bolts" of the Egyptians' most literally "monumental" feat:…
The End of the Old Kingdom
After the fantastic achievements of Dynasty IV, something - no one knows what - changed. Pharaohs stopped building pyramids and seem to have adopted sun worship. Dynasty VI resumed pyramid…
The First Intermediate Period
After centuries of power, pyramids, and prosperity, Egypt totally collapsed. Why? A look at this period also shows the methods that Egyptologists use to reconstruct history where the resources are…
The Middle Kingdom - Dynasty XI
The Middle Kingdom is the story of Egypt's resurrection. Dynasty XI is the dynasty of reunification, slowly bringing Egypt back to unity and greatness.
The Middle Kingdom - Dynasty XII
The seven kings of Dynasty XII built pyramids, fostered great literature (often for political purposes), and consolidated power once again in the center.
The Second Intermediate Period
Ancient Egypt is the only civilization in history to have been eclipsed twice and bounced back to prominence on both occasions. Dynasties XIII through XVII saw the Middle Kingdom's decline,…
Joseph in Egypt
The Bible describes a lengthy sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. We examine the Joseph story in the Book of Genesis to see what light Egyptology might shed on its…
The Beginning of the New Kingdom - The Fabulous XVIIIth Dynasty
Practices we think of as defining ancient Egypt - including the use of a standing army to exact foreign tribute and the burial of the pharaohs in the Valley of…
Queen Hatshepsut
One of the greatest individuals in Egyptian history, Hatshepsut appears in no official Egyptian record. When she died, she was "King of Upper and Lower Egypt." How did she handle…
Obelisks
Obelisks are a purely Egyptian invention. Quarrying, transporting, and erecting one is perhaps an even greater engineering feat than the building of a pyramid. Learn the origins and religious significance…
Tuthmosis III - King At Last
For 22 years, Tuthmosis III was second fiddle to his aunt Hatshepsut, who ruled as a king although she was a woman. When she died and he ruled by himself,…
The Fabulous XVIIIth Dynasty Rolls On
Witness this glorious dynasty continue through two superior pharaohs and then one great one, Amenhotep III, "The Sun King."
Akhenaten the Heretic Pharaoh
The most enigmatic and controversial pharaoh in Egypt's history, Akhenaten rocked the pillars of Egyptian society. He may have been the first monotheist and the first "individual" in history.
The Discovery of Tutankhamen's Tomb
Unearthed by Howard Carter in 1922, the burial place of this young son of Akhenaten is the only royal tomb to have been found substantially intact. Follow the careful research…
The Murder of Tutankhamen - A Theory
Was Tutankhamen the victim of foul play? Do his mummified remains hold clues? Who might have wanted him dead, and why? Sift the physical and circumstantial evidence for this intriguing…
Medicine - The Necessary Art
The physicians of Egypt were famous throughout the ancient world. Probe the justification for this fame by examining medical papyri. We will see that there were really two approaches to…
The End of Dynasty XVIII
What happened when a pharaoh died without issue? Find out by looking at three such cases that arose toward the end of Dynasty XVIII. Tutankhamen, Aye, and Horemheb, the last…
Mummification - How We Know What We Know
Mummification was a trade secret. The Egyptians left no records of how they did it. Detective work is needed, and fortunately, there are four papyri that offer some clues.
What Mummies Tell Us
The primary source for figuring out how the Egyptians mummified their dead is the mummies themselves. What distinguishes mummies from the Old Kingdom, the New Kingdom, and the Late Period,…
Making a Modern Mummy
Here you'll learn how Professor Brier mummified a human cadaver in the ancient Egyptian manner to determine how the Egyptian embalmers did it. The purpose of the project was not…
Dynasty XIX Begins
After three childless pharaohs in a row, Egypt desperately needed stability. Thus, the first pharaoh of Dynasty XIX may have been selected not for his ability, but because of his…
Ramses the Great - The Early Years
Ramses the Great ruled for 67 years and was considered one of Egypt's greatest pharaohs. The pillars of his reputation were classic: warfare and building.
Ramses the Great - The Later Years
There is a bit of a mystery about Ramses's reign. Its last 40 years were rather sedentary. In considering what might have happened, you will see how a pharaoh with…
The Exodus - Did It Happen?
The Book of Exodus, so fundamental to the history of the Jewish people, is the section of the Old Testament most closely tied to Egypt. What light can Egyptology shed…
The Decline of Dynasty XIX
Short reigns and a lack of major building projects betray the beginnings of Egypt's long slide from greatness.
Dynasty XX - The Decline Continues
After Ramses III's brief attempt to restore Egypt's stability, the downward slide continued. Who were the mysterious Sea Peoples? How did they contribute to the weakening of Egypt?
Ancient Egyptian Magic
Magic was a central concern of the ancient Egyptians. What were its basic elements and practices?
Dynasty XXI - Egypt Divided
Egypt's long slide continued as rival dynasties ruled from Thebes and the Delta. Egyptian history had become "a tale of two cities."
Dynasty XXII - Egypt United
Libyans ruled from the Delta city of Bubastis for 200 years and fought to restore Egypt's greatness. During this time, Egypt became involved with the biblical kingdoms of Judah and…
Dynasty XXV - The Nubians Have Their Day
Nubians had been permitted to grow independent, with their leaders taking the title of pharaoh. They were also devoted to Amun, so in a sense, Egypt was their spiritual home.…
Dynasty XXVI - The Saite Period
Egypt fell under and then escaped Assyrian control only to face a new menace in the form of Babylon. As if they knew it was the last gasp, the pharaohs…
Dynasty XXVII - The Persians
The Greek traveler Herodotus gives three different reasons Persia invaded Egypt. How do his accounts compare with Egyptian records? How did Egypt express its unbending will to be free under…
Dynasties XXVIII to XXXI - The Beginning of the End
Four very brief dynasties ruled in succession. When the last native-born ruler, Nectanebo II, was forced to flee into Nubia, Egypt's glory was over.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great began 300 years of Greek control of Egypt. We will trace his extraordinary career as a young general, as pharaoh, and as legendary conqueror.
The First Ptolemies
The Greek kings known as the Ptolemies ran Egypt like a business. Taxes were heavy; government was oppressive. There are two great Hellenistic achievements, however: the Pharos Lighthouse and the…
The Middle Ptolemies - The Decline
A TV show about the Middle Ptolemies might be called "Lifestyles of the Rich and Murderous." With few exceptions, the members of this dysfunctional dynasty were violent, debauched, and generally…
Animal Mummies
The Ptolemies had a fascination with mummies, especially animal mummies. We will take an in-depth look at the practice of animal mummification, which became a major industry during the Ptolemaic…
Cleopatra's Family
For a Ptolemy, dodging assassination by one's own kin was often the hardest part of ruling. Learn how Cleopatra's father managed this task, and trace the course of Egypt's growing…
Cleopatra - The Last Ptolemy
Although Cleopatra is one of the most famous women who ever lived, she remains an enigma - we don't even know her mother's name. History is written by the victors,…
The Grand Finale
This last lecture crowns the course by briefly summarizing 3,000 years of Egyptian history; outlining Egypt's legacy to us; surveying images of Egypt in film and literature; and listing ways…

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