Institute of Archaeology

Intangible Dimensions of Museum Objects from Egypt

This material-theoretical course addresses ethical foundations for museum practice and archaeological research in the context of Egyptian Nile Valley societies, through their tangible and audible presences in London. Egyptian objects in Institute of Archaeology collections and the Petrie Museum provide visual anchors for weekly debates on themes around material crafts in the Muqaddima “Principles” by Arab historian Ibn Khaldun (AD 1332-1406/AH732-808). Arabic and Egyptian writings offer resources for re-centring theory and practice outside dominant European-language structures of thought. African-centred and other approaches are considered as sources for further critical and transformative challenges to contemporary encounters with material culture.

Aims of the course

  • to introduce students to the potential and the constraints in contemporary engagement with material culture from times and places identified as ‘other’
  • to provide students with critical awareness of a wider range of non-European sources with potential for new research horizons in archaeology museum studies
  • to introduce students to current research in theory and practice in study of material from Egypt
  • to develop critical faculties both in debate and in written evaluation of rival interpretations and perspectives on archaeological evidence in open cultural and social horizons
  • to develop research-oriented skills appropriate to cultural and museum studies and to the archaeology of other times/places

Objectives of the course

On successful completion of this course a student should:

  • be able to discuss obstacles to contemporary understanding of the ‘other’ in time and place, including but not only with particular reference to Egypt
  • be able to comment critically and analytically on the intra-disciplinary terminology current in archaeological and historical studies of Egypt
  • be able to critique constructively sources outside the regular range of current museum studies and archaeological theory and practice
  • understand practical and ethical issues of direct encounters with material from another time and place
  • be familiar with means of locating and using key London library and museum resources in relation to the course

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to criticize and evaluate quality of evidence and interpretations in the current archaeology of Egypt
  • an ability to
  • an ability to conduct and communicate independent research in library and archive across a range of topics around the material cultures and archaeology of Egypt
  • awareness of the broader context as well as outline of the empirical content of chosen specialised topics within material cultures and archaeology of Egypt
  • improved oral presentation and discussion skills
  • an ability to design an original research project in this field
  • an ability to lead a theoretically-engaged object-centred seminar or class, to ethical standards
  • Coursework is designed to assess progress in particular on the first three of these learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods

The course is taught through 10 two-hour seminars, each comprising: (1) initial group discussion of essential reading on the topic of the week, starting from English translations from Arabic writings, with counterpoint in critical theory; (2) group discussion of select archaeological written sources presented in class; (3) review in the presence of one item from the Petrie Museum or Institute of Archaeology collections. The second hour of two seminars will be held in the main gallery of the Petrie Museum. Each seminar will conclude with the outline of preparatory reading and any museum visits or other tasks proposed for the following week.

Methods of assessment

  • Two 2000-word essays, each comprising 50% of total mark

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG342
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Stephen Quirke
  • Prerequisite: This course does not have a prerequisite.
  • Handbook: open>

For registered students

  • Moodle page: open>
  • Reading list: 


  • Not running in 2017-18

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