History of Ancient Egyptian Art

Required Books:

  • Gay Robins, The Art of Ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press pb.
  • Richard H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art. Thames & Hudson pb. (REA)
  • Richard H. Wilkinson, Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art. Thames & Hudson pb. (SMEA)

The Scope of the Course

This course explores the development of ancient Egyptian architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture (relief and in the round) and the minor arts. It follows a chronological framework, from late predynastic times down through the Greco-Roman era, although the emphasis will be on the Third and Second Millennia BCE. Among the topics to be discussed are: the structure and decoration of temples, tombs, and residences; iconography and the repertoire of representations; the hieroglyphic script; social and gender issues; religion; the traditional vs. the innovative; artisans, etc.


While this will be a lecture course primarily, there will be ample opportunity for discussion. Considerable use will be made of illustrative materials mainly, but not exclusively, in the form of slides and overheads. Feel free to interrupt – in a civil manner, of course – for questions, clarifications and observations. For any discussion to work, it is essential that you keep up with the reading. I will be using some materials not in your readings and offering interpretations that may be at variance with those of our authors. You need not accept such interpretations, but you need to know them. Counter-interpretations are welcome, but they need to be backed up by reference to examples, not merely asserted. It behooves you, therefore, to attend class regularly. If you are disinclined to do so, you might consider dropping the course.


There will be a one-hour, in-class mid-term and a two-hour final. Both will be of the essay type: you will have a choice of questions and you will receive a study guide in advance of the exams. The final exam will not be cumulative.


Please try to stay focused on the class: no reading of newspapers, materials for other classes, love letters, etc. Please turn off your cell phone. Try to attend to your bodily functions before class. Bring water if you thirst easily. If you know you have to leave early, please let me know before class begins and sit on the side you can leave with the least amount of disruption or distraction for the group or for me. Otherwise, stay put, except for emergencies or fire drills.

Last Updated: 8/12/16