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History of Ancient Egypt

Chronologically survey the full 3,000 years of recorded ancient Egyptian history led by an Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.
History of Ancient Egypt is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 393.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tools They only had ONE TOOL! They FLAKED it into PERFECTLY EVEN POINTS. What absolute nonsense. How could you possibly perfect a weapon in flint (which is incredibly frangible) without a basic chiseling tool? You would need at least two to three learned skills in order to accomplish this task more than once. Don't be ridiculous.
Date published: 2024-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Enjoyable and Thorough I finished this course a few months ago and intensely enjoyed it. My knowledge of ancient Egypt was only fairly cursory before this. Bob Brier is enjoyable to listen to: he has an everyman Brooklyn accent and manner of storytelling that makes you feel like he is talking to you over a beer. He does a good job of giving you what you need to know to be introduced to deeper study if interested. And I actually did go to the Met in NYC and look at some of the things he mentioned and was able to comment to a friend about things I was seeing there (something he says he wants you to be able to do after completion of the course)!
Date published: 2024-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I am a university professor in a very different field. I enjoyed immensely this lecturing style. I learned a great deal about teaching during this course. Of course, the history of Egypt has always been a favorite subject of mine, since childhood.
Date published: 2024-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Overview of 3000 Years of History If you are planning to travel to Egypt as a tourist, and you have the time, this is a great series. If you are short on time, watch Professor Brier’s “The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.” If you just want to expand your horizons, settle back with a mug of your favorite beverage. First, this course was released in 1999. Although excavations have continued in Egypt over the last quarter century and there are new scientific methods for processing the materials (DNA sequencing, lidar, etc.), the history of Egypt has not changed substantially, and this course is still an excellent survey up to the time of Cleopatra. The first five lectures cover some interesting background material. Beginning with Lecture 6, Egypt is ruled by pharaohs and the trajectory is basically chronological. But there are some focused “breakout” lectures focused on subjects such as obelisks, magic (Brier wrote a book devoted to it in 1998), medicine, and mummies, which can be viewed out of order. Because of the breadth and depth of the course and the dearth of information for many time periods, it had to be inherently difficult to fashion focused lectures of approximately equal time. For example, there are “Intermediate Periods” for which there are few, if any records. The first one lasted two centuries; the second is known only by the names of 10 kings. How does one address these gaps in records and knowledge? Conversely, entire books (and even two GC lecture series) have been devoted to Alexander the Great. Personally, I think Professor Brier did a great job of allocating time and resources when deciding how to structure this course. Also, Bob Brier will often preface certain subjects with a comment that he is expressing his personal opinion or interpretation. This is honest scholarship. The production is very “old school” Teaching Company with the professor standing behind a lectern and addressing a classroom. Bob Brier is very casual and conversational. One pleasingly curious aspect of this course is that one actually feels like they are in a college classroom as Professor Brier does seem to be addressing different students and he occasionally refers to notes. (According to my research, these early series were actually recorded in front of a “studio audience.”) Personally, I truly prefer this format to the current use of teleprompters. There is plenty of relevant visual material, and I would strongly recommend viewing the lectures. For a 48 lecture course, the guidebook is rather sparse. Most lectures get two or three pages of text. At the end is a timeline, glossary, bibliography, and a “Classical Egyptian Alphabet” that lists hieroglyphs and their phonetic equivalent. Interesting side note, unlike some Middle Eastern writing systems, vowels are represented. There is a slip up in editing – there is no “o” listed (it’s a noose.) Also, without diacritical marks, one doesn’t know if vowels are long or short.
Date published: 2024-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One, Two, Three Millennia! Dr. Bob Brier teaches in depth about both Egyptian history and the scientific discipline of Egyptology. His lectures are easy to follow, given his enthusiastic, conversational manner, plus his personal knowledge based on years of on-site fieldwork. The sheer scope of all that he covers during 48 lectures is breathtaking, from even before Egyptian unification under Narmer, who was the first pharaoh, through the reign of Cleopatra VII, who was the last. Accompanying visuals are, for the most part, appropriate and helpful, though a few were hard to decipher and could have been enhanced by some highlighting. Reviewers of other Great Courses who say that they prefer lectures that are not just read from a teleprompter should appreciate Dr. Brier’s spontaneous teaching style. His unpretentious, everyday language draws us close and makes experiencing his lectures especially enjoyable. Seeing him in action, it’s not hard to picture him working “live” with a roomful of students in attendance, composing each day’s lecture afresh, perhaps based on questions from the floor. Even via a recorded course, he winningly reveals his lively, engaging personality. Please be aware that, since this course debuted in 1999, subsequent archaeological finds and advances in research technologies have influenced the scholarly views of Egyptologists. In Dr. Brier’s recent book, “Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World” (© 2022 Oxford University Press), he explains that his own understandings and speculations have undergone some revision over the years. Additional inquiry is certainly in order to supplement this Great Course, but I urge prospective purchasers to study it, none the less. A great deal is still enlightening in this valuable and classic presentation.
Date published: 2024-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant. Professor Brier is a brilliant and passionate individual about both the field he is lecturing on and the act of lecturing itself. He is one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure of learning from.
Date published: 2024-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses! I am really impressed by Dr. Brier's presentation. This is the best introductory course for beginners like me with little knowledge of ancient Egypt history. Highly recommend!
Date published: 2024-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Preparation for Tours to Egypt! My husband and I viewed this course before touring Egypt and were so glad that we did! The course greatly enhanced our understanding and appreciation of the ancient Egyptian history, culture, military, art, and religion. Professor Brier presents the material in a very clear, easy to follow manner and shows great enthusiasm for the subject. It was a pleasure to watch the videos and an even greater thrill to see the actual artifacts and monuments that he described so well!
Date published: 2024-01-14
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Ancient Egyptian civilization is so grand that our minds sometimes have difficulty adjusting to it. If you're awed by the Great Pyramid, amazed by the magnificent golden mask and other treasures of Tutankhamen, curious about how this longest-lived of all ancient cultures has influenced us, or just intrigued by the mysterious hows and whys of all things Egyptian, then you must own this comprehensive and entertaining course by one of our most popular professors.


Bob Brier

To a great extent, the fun of history is in the details. Knowing what kind of wine Tutankhamen preferred makes him come alive.


Long Island University

Dr. Bob Brier is an Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Brier has twice been selected as a Fulbright Scholar and has received Long Island University's David Newton Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of his achievements as a lecturer. He has served as Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities' Egyptology Today program. In 1994, Dr. Brier became the first person in 2,000 years to mummify a human cadaver in the ancient Egyptian style. This research was the subject of a National Geographic television special, Mr. Mummy. Dr. Brier is also the host of The Learning Channel's series The Great Egyptians. Professor Brier is the author of Ancient Egyptian Magic (1980), Egyptian Mummies (1994), Encyclopedia of Mummies (1998), The Murder of Tutankhamen: A True Story (1998), Daily Life in Ancient Egypt (1999), and numerous scholarly articles.

By This Professor

Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs
History of Ancient Egypt
History of Ancient Egypt



01: 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?...

32 min
Prehistoric Egypt

02: 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. Once these categories are clear, we will discuss the difficulties of studying a prehistoric civilization....

31 min
Ancient Egyptian Thought

03: Ancient Egyptian Thought

What distinguishes mythology, religion, and philosophy from one another? What role did each play in the lives of the ancient Egyptians?...

30 min
Napoleon and the Beginnings of Egyptology

04: 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 l'Egypte that Bonaparte's savants produced become the benchmark for all future publications in the field?...

30 min
The Rosetta Stone, and Much More

05: 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 provided the key to deciphering the ancient Egyptian language. Learn the four scripts in which ancient Egyptian can be written, as well as the three ways hieroglyphic signs can be used....

30 min
The First Nation in History

06: 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 Near East for millennia. Learn why the political structure of ancient Egypt made this possible and how the "Narmer Palette" tells this story....

30 min
The Rise of the Old Kingdom

07: 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 the kings, solar boats for the trip to the next world, and more....

30 min
Sneferu, the Pyramid Builder

08: 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 also saw Egypt's blossoming as an international power and the setting of artistic standards that would last for thousands of years....

30 min
The Great Pyramid of Giza

09: 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: pyramid building. This lecture also discusses the 144-foot solar boat that was found in 1954, buried near the Great Pyramid....

30 min
The End of the Old Kingdom

10: 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 building on a small scale, but the death of its last king plunged Egypt into chaos....

30 min
The First Intermediate Period

11: 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 scant....

30 min
The Middle Kingdom-Dynasty XI

12: 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....

30 min
The Middle Kingdom-Dynasty XII

13: 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....

31 min
The Second Intermediate Period

14: 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, the advent of foreign rule, and finally, the expulsion of the Hyksos by a heroic prince of Thebes and his two sons at the end of Dynasty XVII....

30 min
Joseph in Egypt

15: 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 authenticity....

30 min
The Beginning of the New Kingdom-The Fabulous XVIIIth Dynasty

16: 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 the Kings-have their origins in this seminal period. We will also take a detailed look at what warfare was like in the ancient world....

30 min
Queen Hatshepsut

17: 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 the three core activities of kingship-building, warfare, and trading expeditions? Why was her name later systematically expunged?...

30 min

18: 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 of obelisks....

30 min
Tuthmosis III-King At Last

19: 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, he became one of the greatest military pharaohs Egypt had ever known. Learn what it meant to be a great king by tracing the epic events of his reign....

30 min
The Fabulous XVIIIth Dynasty Rolls On

20: 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."...

30 min
Akhenaten the Heretic Pharaoh

21: 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....

30 min
The Discovery of Tutankhamen's Tomb

22: 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 and planning that led up to Carter's discovery, and learn the significance of the thousands of artifacts found....

30 min
The Murder of Tutankhamen-A Theory

23: 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 hypothesis and form your own conclusion....

30 min
Medicine-The Necessary Art

24: 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 medicine: clinical and magical....

30 min
The End of Dynasty XVIII

25: 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 king of the dynasty, left no children....

31 min
Mummification-How We Know What We Know

26: 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....

30 min
What Mummies Tell Us

27: 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, respectively? How have Egyptologists reconstructed this ancient art? By the end of this lecture, you will be able to look at a mummy and tell how old it is....

30 min
Making a Modern Mummy

28: 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 to make a mummy, but to gain knowledge of the instruments, substances, and surgical procedures used during the process....

30 min
Dynasty XIX Begins

29: 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 heirs!...

30 min
Ramses the Great-The Early Years

30: 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....

30 min
Ramses the Great-The Later Years

31: 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 resources of Ramses prepared himself and his family for the next world....

31 min
The Exodus-Did It Happen?

32: 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 on the biblical account?...

30 min
The Decline of Dynasty XIX

33: The Decline of Dynasty XIX

Short reigns and a lack of major building projects betray the beginnings of Egypt's long slide from greatness....

30 min
Dynasty XX-The Decline Continues

34: 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?...

30 min
Ancient Egyptian Magic

35: Ancient Egyptian Magic

Magic was a central concern of the ancient Egyptians. What were its basic elements and practices?...

31 min
Dynasty XXI-Egypt Divided

36: 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."...

31 min
Dynasty XXII-Egypt United

37: 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 Israel. In the end, Egypt suffered division once more, but this time the two halves did not fight one another....

30 min
Dynasty XXV-The Nubians Have Their Day

38: 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. We will see a warrior from the south (Kush) battling a confederation of Egyptian "kings" and unifying Egypt once again....

30 min
Dynasty XXVI-The Saite Period

39: 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 of Dynasty XXVI looked back to the Old Kingdom for inspiration....

29 min
Dynasty XXVII-The Persians

40: 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 this latest group of foreign rulers?...

30 min
Dynasties XXVIII to XXXI-The Beginning of the End

41: 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....

30 min
Alexander the Great

42: 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....

30 min
The First Ptolemies

43: 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 famed Library of Alexandria....

31 min
The Middle Ptolemies-The Decline

44: The Middle Ptolemies-The Decline

A TV show about the Middle Ptolemies might well be called "Lifestyles of the Rich and Murderous." With few exceptions, the members of this dysfunctional dynasty were violent, debauched, and generally neglectful of the country they ruled. The Egyptians hated them and frequently rebelled, forcing some to flee for their lives. With each Ptolemy, Egypt sank deeper, making a return to greatne...

30 min
Animal Mummies

45: 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 period....

30 min
Cleopatra's Family

46: 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-and ultimately fatal-interaction with the rising power of Rome....

30 min
Cleopatra-The Last Ptolemy

47: 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, and Cleopatra lost. Can ancient records help fill out her story?...

31 min
The Grand Finale

48: 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 you can pursue your interest in this remarkable civilization. Your learning needn't stop here!...

31 min