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The Real Ancient Egypt

See how modern research sometimes supports—but often refutes—what we thought we knew about the ancient Egyptians and their world.
The Real Ancient Egypt is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 16.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating conversations Let me start by saying, I feel this mini series has been a bit unfairly maligned in reviews. It's not a lecture series, but rather a series of conversational tidbits with four female Egyptologists, including the excellent Melinda Hartwig, who has a full Great Course on Wondrium already. I've been diving back into Ancient Egypt this year, having just rewatched Bob Brier's superb 48 lecture series classic, and Melinda's fascinating Egyptian Great Tours course. I've also read Joann Fletcher's survey book, The Story of Egypt. I found this mini course to be packed with information I did not know before. For as good as Bob Brier's course is, he doesn't really cover daily life in Egypt at all, it's a political, historical overview. There is plenty here to fill in those gaps. The graphics and animations are also of very high quality. The final lecture on How to Rob a Pyramid was my favourite, the animation showing the complexities of Senwosret III's burial construction and the lengths he went to keep his tomb impenetrable and his sarcophagus hidden was a real highlight. I watched the whole series over a week, just putting the episodes on whilst eating dinner. Not everything offered by Wondrium has to be a structured lecture series, I found this to be a nice change of pace and well worth watching to complement the more academic courses already provided.
Date published: 2024-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New knowledge obtained I have been interested in Egyptology for many, many years and have watched countless documentaries. In this course, I have learned so much! Fascinating tidbits were brought to light in entertaining ways by well spoken, captivating speakers. I was hooked in the first few minutes.
Date published: 2024-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nice overview of selected topics I started this series looking for an overview of Egyptian history. This wasn't that. It provides a nice overview of selected topics, as explained by 4 Egyptologists. It provides a range of topics not likely to be covered in a typical historical overview, with interesting information.
Date published: 2023-09-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Did fbi didborder this video You can't believe this video it's made up its a joke the info is wrong
Date published: 2023-08-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More pop culture than scholarly I did learn from this lecture series. It also had a format different from other courses. There were three lecturers who bounced back and forth on the same topic. My complaints - not the usual scholarly depth of other courses and a very distracting back ground music track. The topics covered were interesting and a change from other courses on Egypt I have taken (but they did seem to appeal to a more Indiana Jones view of archeology). I would recommend the course with some reservation
Date published: 2023-07-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great courses, not so good delivering the product I’ve been buying these courses for about three years now, and have found them to be very very good. You have to look closely because some of them get very detailed and can be somewhat dry. The best course I have had and I wish I had had this instructor throughout my entire high school and college careers, was the man who did The Great Pharaohs of Egypt? I don’t know his name you could look it up he was amazing. I have had difficulties with some of their pricing’s which imply steep discounts, but when I go to purchase the discount seem to be more than they appeared . Clearly the prices of $200, $300 and $400 are not realistic given discount prices of $20, $30 and $40.
Date published: 2023-05-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No Course Guidebook Do be advised that it appears to be issued on the "Wondrium" label, not "The Great Courses: and there is no Course Guidebook included with the DVDs, as there has been with each of the DVD courses on "The Great Courses" label.
Date published: 2023-05-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent but too short I was intrigued by the premise of the course: to talk about what Ancient Egypt was "really" like. I found all four professors to be articulate, knowledgeable, and informative, but what I especially liked was they were not alway in agreement so I could see there was real discussion going on in the field and discoveries are still being. Another reviewer commented the lectures were a bit superficial due to the limited amount of time each professor had. I don't disagree, but I enjoyed what they were able to say in the allotted time. I can only hope they will have an opportunity to follow this up with a more in-depth dicussion.
Date published: 2023-04-21
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Overview

In The Real Ancient Egypt, Betsy M. Bryan, Melinda Hartwig, Kate Liszka, and Kasia Szpakowska—four working Egyptologists—share their insights into this long and complex historical period. You’ll hear stories of kings, priests, and peasants; witness religious rituals, shocking crimes, and tense military conflicts; see extraordinary works of art and architecture; and more.

About

Melinda Hartwig

Let's travel up the Nile together and explore the epic, exotic, transcendent, land of the pharaohs.

INSTITUTION

Michael C. Carlos Museum

Melinda Hartwig is an Egyptologist and the Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum. She holds a PhD in Near Eastern Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. She has led tours and projects in Egypt for more than 30 years.

By This Expert

The Great Tours: A Guided Tour of Ancient Egypt
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The Real Ancient Egypt
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Betsy M. Bryan

Even when we don’t have new evidence, we have new questions to ask, new ways to look at the same old evidence.

INSTITUTION

Johns Hopkins University

Betsy M. Bryan is the Alexander Badawy Professor Emerita of Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University. She earned a PhD in Egyptology from Yale University. An accomplished educator and curator, she led the excavation of the temple of the goddess Mut at South Karnak for two decades.

By This Expert

The Real Ancient Egypt
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Kate Liszka

Egyptologists always reinterpret artifacts in light of new information. That’s one thing that we have to continuously do if we ever expect the field to move forward.

INSTITUTION

California State University, San Bernardino

Kate Liszka is the Benson and Pamela Harer Fellow in Egyptology and an Associate Professor of History at California State University, San Bernardino. She received a PhD in Egyptian Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She also directs the Wadi el-Hudi Expedition in Egypt’s Eastern Desert.

By This Expert

The Real Ancient Egypt
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Kasia Szpakowska

The garbage pits are the best for archaeology. When you go through the garbage, that’s where we find what was really happening.

Kasia Szpakowska is an Egyptologist and a former Associate Professor of Egyptology at Swansea University. She earned a PhD in Egyptology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She also directed the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BCE.

By This Expert

The Real Ancient Egypt
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The Real Ancient Egypt

Trailer

The Fall and Rise of King Tut

01: The Fall and Rise of King Tut

Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska introduce you to many of the subtle, yet impactful changes Egypt experienced over 3,000 years, which has made piecing together a straightforward history of the region next to impossible. Likewise, they discuss why Egyptologists are always reinterpreting artifacts in light of new information and adapting their assumptions. Using the life and legacy of King Tutankhamun as an example, they show how and why reconstructing Egypt’s past can be so difficult. You’ll not only learn more about the civilization, culture, politics, and religion of the time, but you’ll also discover more about the King himself—his family, his health, and his famous burial.

28 min
Akhenaten the Heretic

02: Akhenaten the Heretic

Professor Liszka notes, “What sets Akhenaten apart is his sheer willingness to destroy the entire world around him to get everything he wants.” Or, as Professor Bryan puts it, “Akhenaten was weird.” Get to know this “weird” king who came to the throne around 1350 BC as a heretic who believed in a god no one else recognized. Learn about the stunning new city and new art style he created. And examine how he caused mass chaos, all in the name of his new god, by shutting down temples, destroying the economy, fumbling international diplomacy, and weakening the military. Plus, discover the lengths his successors took to erase his legacy.

26 min
Egypt’s Female Kings

03: Egypt’s Female Kings

Although it was difficult for women to gain power in ancient Egypt, it did happen. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska present the stories of some of these female rulers, including Merneith, Sobekneferu, Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Twosret, and Cleopatra. Looking at both archaeological discoveries and written records, the professors recreate the lives of these women, discussing how they ruled and their impacts on Egyptian civilization.

29 min
The Truth about Cats and Gods

04: The Truth about Cats and Gods

Contrary to popular belief, the ancient Egyptians did not worship animals. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska consider the historical evidence that led to the idea the Egyptians worshipped animals. They reveal the real roles of animals and animal images in ancient Egyptian religion. You’ll see how animals played a role in various religious practices and how these roles were adapted to different purposes in different eras. You’ll see how animals were involved in divination and pilgrimage rites, and how foreigners in ancient Egypt both misinterpreted and influenced the religious roles of animals—cats, in particular.

25 min
Demons of the Desert

05: Demons of the Desert

Fear of the dark and of the unknown is a universal human experience. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska examine what frightened the ancient Egyptians and how they responded to threats both real and imagined. You’ll meet some of the malevolent beings who personified threats like war and illness, as well as benevolent beings who offered protection from extraordinary and everyday harm. Learn about the demons and guardians, shielding objects, rituals, and practices that evolved to keep chaos at bay.

24 min
Death and Beyond

06: Death and Beyond

Another common misconception about the ancient Egyptians is that they were obsessed with death. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska explain how the opposite was true. They show why the evidence was misinterpreted for so long and demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians had an enormous passion for life and its continuation. Learn about the meaning behind many ancient Egyptian death rituals, and explore what the Egyptians believed came after death.

24 min
Money and Murder in Egypt’s Courts

07: Money and Murder in Egypt’s Courts

The Egyptians had a fundamental belief in natural law, a divine order created by the gods and fulfilled by the pharaoh and his court. The legal system encompassed all the residents of Egypt and was based on the idea of maat, a cosmic principle of goodness, morality, justice, and what is correct. Many of their legal practices resemble modern one; others, like the use of divine oracles, were very different. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska walk you through the evolution of Egyptian law, the concept of justice, and social politics by evaluating ancient stories and judicial records, including the intriguing tale of a pharaoh’s murder.

24 min
Becoming an Egyptian

08: Becoming an Egyptian

The Egyptians were largely ethnocentric, yet in many places there is strong evidence of the influence of foreign practices. Given Egypt’s location at the crossroads of the entire ancient world, people were constantly coming and going. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska provide insight into the many different peoples who inhabited ancient Egypt. They demonstrate how ethnicity was represented through iconography, which was packed with meaning but not literal representations of reality. Along the way, you’ll meet one of Egypt’s most famous groups of immigrants—the Medjay—and see how they evolved from nomadic outsiders to an important part of military and royal life.

27 min
How to Rob a Pyramid

09: How to Rob a Pyramid

If you are going to be a burglar in ancient Egypt, you may as well go big. Tomb robbery started almost as soon as ancient Egyptians started being buried with their treasures—gold, silver, jewels, and other items that they wanted to take to the next realm. That meant, the thieves were not just stealing “stuff,” they were stealing valuable aspects of the afterlives of the deceased. Professors Bryan, Hartwig, Liszka, and Szpakowska divulge the secrets of the tomb raiders, who were frequently middle- and upper-class people with the means to break into the tombs. They explain what it takes to successfully raid a tomb as well as common practices when thieves were caught, and what modern archeology has lost—and gained—because of these robberies.

28 min