College of Charleston

Dr. Peter A. PiccioneHistory 270.001
Office: Maybank 318Spring 2000
Office Hours: T 3:00-4:30 p.m., Th 3:00-4:00 p.m. (or by appointment) Class: MYBK 317 T, Th 12:15-1:30 p.m.
Telephone: 953-4861; Fax: 953-6349E-mail:

Course Web Page: URL /hist270/

Username: +++; Password: +++ (necessary for accessing reading assignments and images)

Course Description: This course is a social history of ancient Egypt dealing specifically with the life of the common person in Egyptian society from the Old Kingdom through the Ptolemaic Period (c. 2600-30 BC). Topics are arranged conceptually (not chronologically) to provide insight into Egyptian social practices and institutions.

Subjects include: language and writing (including elementary lessons in reading and writing Egyptian hieroglyphs), the decipherment of hieroglyphs, the educational system and issues of literacy social advance-ment and structure of society, economic institutions, occupations and labor conditions, technology and engineering, medicine and obstetrics, status of women, motherhood, marriage, romance and love, sexual mores and activities, games and recreation, including the role of athletics in religious worship, and conceptions of drama and the earliest recorded use of sacred drama in religious rituals.

Course Requirements

Theme Essay: Students will write one theme essay (4-5 pages) on the reading assignments, choosing a group of primary texts and addressing specific historical questions related to them, including an exegesis and historical analysis. The theme paper is due February 15, and its specific requirements are located below under "Paper Requirements."

Term Paper: Students are required to complete one term paper (7-9 pages) on some aspect of Egyptian society as it can be related to the course's final project or as viewed within the lens of the project. Students should also work into the paper a short report and reaction statement about their participation in the project. The term paper is due April 25, and information about format is located below under "Paper Requirements."

Reading Quizzes: Two quizzes on the class readings will be administered in this course, one prior to the midterm, the other after. The date of each quiz is noted in the section, "Lectures and Reading Assignments," below.

Examination: The only general examination in this course is the midterm exam containing objective questions, identifications or short answers, and essays drawn from the lectures, readings, and videos. There is no final exam, since that is replaced by the final group project.

Final Project: In lieu of a final examination, students will prepare a collective project for the class and the College of Charleston community. They will stage under, their own direction, the production of an ancient Egyptian sacred drama--as part of an extended unit on the nature and function of Egyptian drama and what it reveals about Egyptian society. To expedite this project, students will divide themselves into a number of study groups/production teams to discuss the drama and to adapt and mount the play, for which they will be graded. For more information on this project, see the separate handout, 'The Conflict of Horus and Seth: A Sacred Drama," and/or the related page on the course Web pages. Sixty percent (60%) of the grade for this project will derive from the instructor's evaluation of the entire group's achievement, and 40% from the students themselves within each team, who will grade each other anonymously on their respective levels of contribution, cooperation, and attendance.

Attendance and Participation: Discussion figures prominently in the class-program. Participation and attendance in class will constitute a significant percentage of the course grade. According to College policy, attendance will be taken regularly in class; unexcused absences will result in grade reduction. Absences are excused by presenting written documentation to the Office of Undergraduate Studies. Running errands is not a valid excuse. If you will miss class for a college function, please inform the instructor at least a week in advance, but do not telephone him on the same day to say you will be absent, nor should you ever(!) call the History Department office to report your absence. If the instructor does not call the roll, then an attendance sheet will be circulated daily in class. If your signature is not there, you are considered absent. Students who sign the sheet and then leave are counted as absent and reported to the College Honor Board. Those who leave class for an inordinate period of time without valid excuse are marked as absent. Students are responsible for all the material in the readings, videos, and lectures, whether they are present or not.

Course Textbooks

The required textbooks for this course are:

Brewer, D. and E. Teeter. Egypt and the Egyptians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Parkinson, R. B. Voices from Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Middle Kingdom Writings. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Simpson, W. K., R. O. Faulkner and E. F. Wente. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. Revised edition. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Fairman, H. W. The Triumph of Horus: An Ancient Egyptian Sacred Drama (excerpts). London: P. T. Batsford, 1974.

Web Sources and Library Reserve Readings: The required reading assignments for this course also include specialized articles and monographs pertaining to life and society in ancient Egypt. Multiple photocopies of these are placed on Reserve in the Library. These copies are the personal property of the instructor. Please treat them well. Other class readings are digitized and located on the Web Pages of the course (see the URL above), which students can download and print for reading and study. The location of each reading is noted in the "Reading Assignments"-schedule below which will be updated regularly in the course's Web Pages. Consult the Web pages on a regular basis.

Grading Policy

Final course-grades will be constituted according to the following formula: reading quizzes 10%, theme paper 15%, mid-term exam 15%, term paper 20%, final project 25%, class participation and attendance 15%. The final project and term paper are mandatory for all students. Anyone not completing these will receive a failing grade in the course regardless of his/her grade standing.

According to College policy, the grading scale is as follows: A = 100-90; B+ = 89-86; B = 85-80; C+ = 79-76; C = 75-70; D = 60-69; F = 59-0.

Paper Requirements

Theme Paper. Due date: February 15. Topic: From the list of "Reading Assignments" below, choose any group of primary and secondary sources pertaining to the same subject. Prepare an historical analysis of these documents in light of the secondary sources to show what they reveal about their particular aspect of Egyptian social history. Choose any group of documents and readings up through those of March 21 (but no topic from March 23 onward). This paper is an exercise in the critical use of scholarly sources (both primary and secondary). Ask specific questions of the texts, then look for the answers in them and elsewhere. Be critical and interpretive; be analytical. Paper length: 4-5 pages.

Term Paper. Due date: April 25. Topic: The sacred drama, "The Triumph of Horus," was staged annually in ancient Egypt during the great religious festival of the "Victory of Horus" that was celebrated at the temple of Horus at Edfu in Upper Egypt. Scenes of the play and accompanying text are inscribed on the walls of that temple in relief to perpetuate the religious performance for all eternity. A great festival of state, it commemorated the victory of the good god Horus in his titanic battles against the now demonized Seth for the kingship of Egypt. The festival and its drama were closely tied to the actual kingship, since the Egyptians believed that the pharaoh of Egypt was the living incarnation of Horus. Because Horus' victory was the living king's victory, then the dramatic festival confirmed the king's divine right to rule over Egypt. For this reason, the ruling king himself usually played the role of Horus, accompanied by priests, priestesses, singers, and members of the royal court. In the minds of the Egyptians, the play reaffirmed the very structure of Egyptian society with pharaoh at its core functioning as the corporate personality of the state. All Egyptian notions of state and society, cosmology and religion ultimately fed into the sacred drama enacted at Edfu. Its importance for Egyptian social history cannot be minimized.

As students prepare to stage the drama, they will read different versions of the Horus-Seth myth to put it into perspective. They will also engage in periodic discussions about the meaning of the play for the different aspects of Egyptian society. These discussions on the play's larger context will form the basis of the final term paper. Students can write on any topic of their choice in Egyptian social or religious history that is reflected to any degree in the play, or which can be understood through the context of the play. As part of the paper, students should also include a short report and reaction statement about their participation in the project. Paper length: 6-8 pages.

Late Policy. Late papers will be penalized 5 points for each day late (including Saturdays), up to three days, after which they receive an automatic failure.

Submission of Early Drafts. Students are strongly encouraged to submit a preliminary draft of the term paper to the instructor for comment. The instructor will review it to ensure the clarity and direction of its content and adherence to format. The draft is never graded. The purpose of this service is to achieve a higher grade for the student by ensuring that the content and argument of the paper are on track. Students who submit a draft should do so no later than two (2) weeks before the paper's deadline. Doing so can only help; it cannot hurt.

Form and Format. All papers should contain 1-inch margins on all sides, top and bottom. They should be typed or printed double space in a 12-point type. The term paper must include citations, such as: footnotes or endnotes plus a separate "Bibliography." Alternatively, you can use in-line parenthetical references, plus a "Works Cited"-list. If you do the latter, you must use the proper formats, which are different from a standard "Bibliography." The cover page and the bibliography do not count toward the required number of pages.

In the preparation and execution of all papers for the class, students are required to follow the format presented by Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), especially in regard to the style of block quotations, footnotes or parenthetical references, and bibliographies. Look over Chapters 8-10 on how to cite references. Choose the type of reference you want: footnotes or endnotes (+ "Bibliography") or in-line parenthetical references (+ reference lists= "Works Cited"). Read Chapter 11 (pp. 185-213) to compare their forms and styles: foot/endnotes (="N"), bibliographies (="B"), parenthetical references (="PR"), reference lists (="RL"). Note: if you employ parenthetical references, then you must(!) use the "Reference List (RL)"-format as your list of "Works Cited" instead of the traditional "Bibliography (B)"-format. All papers must have a separate cover page; however, students need not follow Turabian closely on the format of this page.

The Turabian style is a standard for writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences. If you are not familiar with this format, open the manual and learn it. Don't try to "wing" it or fudge the format. Any papers that do not conform to Turabian will be downgraded accordingly. Four copies of Turabian are located in the College Library, two in the Reference Section, two on Permanent Reserve. Copies are also available for purchase in the College Bookstore (if you cannot find it on the general trade shelves, look under History 104.007/011, or buy it more cheaply at Barnes and Noble).


Execution. As a rule of thumb, you should not quote class-lecture notes in any paper. You may treat information from class notes as general knowledge not requiring footnoting, as long as you use it to prove another point or hypothesis. However, if that information is the very point you are making, then you must quote the original published source from which the material derives. If you cannot find that source among the readings, see the instructor for help. Consult the instructor at any time for advice on preparing the papers.

Form and spelling are factors in grading both papers. If you are uncertain of your spelling, use a dictionary or a spell-check program. You must proofread your paper before submitting it, and make any final corrections cleanly in ink, if necessary!! Why the emphasis on form? A research paper is a means of communication. The purpose of any paper is to convey an argument as logically as possible according to standards of form that facilitate its communicative function. Form is not merely format and correct spelling; it also includes the logical arrangement of an argument and the rational ordering of historical and textual data to support a particular historical interpretation. Poor form can impede the communication of a valid point of view. When a paper cannot communicate due to a lapse of form, it has failed in its purpose.

Using the World Wide Web for Research

Students should confine the bulk of their research to printed publications. They may use the World Wide Web selectively to help research the paper topic. For that purpose, a page entitled, Web Links, pertaining to ancient Egypt exists on the course's Web page. However, there is a great deal of trash on the Web that does not conform to modern academic standards. The World Wide Web contains four types of materials pertaining to ancient Egypt:

  1. primary sources, i.e. editions of original Egyptian inscriptions translated and presented by reputable Egyptologists, often used as classroom resources in teaching Egyptology;

  2. original archaeological reports and field data by archaeologists and Egyptologists;

  3. synthetical reports and essays prepared by Egyptologists (often as Web versions of reputable printed publications);

  4. materials, idiosyncratic essays, and polemical tracts of uneven and inconsistent quality, prepared by non-professionals, dilettantes, radical Afro-centrists, and self-proclaimed prophets of the New Age revelation.

Sadly, this latter Egyptotrash [no. 4] constitutes the bulk of Egyptological materials on the Web.

As of now, there are still no peer-reviewed professional Egyptological journals published on the Web. For the purposes of this course, students are permitted to quote from primary sources [no. 1], but only if these inscriptions are not available elsewhere in print. Because Egyptological secondary sources on the Web are rarely peer-reviewed, students may quote from [nos. 2 & 3] but only after consulting with the course instructor on each source(!). Web pages for [nos. 1 - 3] are usually identifiable by the domain-markers ".edu" or ".ac" in their Web addresses (the latter for British addresses), and sometimes also by ".org" (denoting educational or charitable organizations).

Students may freely use these Web pages in their research to identify printed sources of information or research direction (only after confirming these with the instructor). However, under no circumstances may students quote from the unprofessional Egypto-crypto-trash [no. 4] (usually identifiable by the domain-marker ".com" in their Web addresses). If in doubt about the appropriateness of any research source--either on the Web or in print--please feel free to consult the instructor. He will be happy to discuss individual Web sites with you.

Students may never quote from any encyclopedias, whether from the Web or in paper format.

Policy on Plagiarism, Cheating,

and Disruptive Behavior

As you prepare the theme paper and term paper for this course, be careful not plagiarize any of your sources. Any plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional, whether blatant or merely inappropriate paraphrasing, will not be tolerated. If you have any questions as you prepare your assignments, please feel free to ask the advice of the instructor. If in doubt about anything, quote it--even indirect quotations! The Honor Code of the College of Charleston strictly prohibits plagiarism, cheating, and attempted cheating. A student committing these offenses will be reported to the Honor Board and will flunk the course. Additional penalties may include suspension or expulsion from the college at the discretion of the Honor Board. See the College of Charleston Student Handbook for definitions of these offenses.

Students are reminded that eating, drinking, and smoking are prohibited in the classrooms of the College of Charleston. Students may not make or receive cellular telephone calls or accept electronic pages during the class period. Please turn off any cell phones, pagers, etc. at the start of class. The classroom is an inappropriate venue for reading newspapers, personal grooming (such as combing hair, applying makeup, etc.), or even for sleeping.


Survey of Ancient Egypt

An extensive bibliography for this course, categorized by subject area, will be placed among the course Web pages, URL: /hist270/biblio.html

The full list of the readings placed on reserve in the R.S. Small Library is also located on the course Web pages, under the "Library"-link.

Lectures and Reading Assignments

Note: The course readings listed below consist of the textbooks and readers, as well as assorted readings and located on Two-hour Reserve (marked Rs) in the campus Library. Other readings are freely available for downloading from the course's Web Pages (marked W)on this Web syllabus and from the course Web page entitled, "Reading Assignments," URL: /hist270assign.html. The full bibliographical citations of all the readings in the listing are found in the course bibliography located on the course's Web pages.

Most of the Web-based readings are in HTML-format. Others might be in PDF-format. To download and open the PDF-files, students need the program Adobe Acrobat Reader® resident on their computers and installed as a plug-in to their Web browser. This program is freely available for downloading and installing from the College of Charleston's Web page, "Software Depot," at the following address:

Class will adhere to the following course schedule. If we do not complete a unit in class on the date specified, we must move on to the next unit, and students will be responsible for the full material through the readings. The instructor reserves the right to alter the schedule of lectures, discussions, video presentations, and reading assignments, quizzes, exams and presentation at any time.

Week 1
January 13:Introduction: Course Requirements and the Edfu Sacred Drama

Week 2
January 18 and 20:Nile Valley and the Development of Culture
Brewer-Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians, 16-26;
RsKees,"The Countryside," sects. A-B, including: "The Nile and the Seasons," "Irrigation and Soil," 47-61;
Parkinson, Voices, 36-37, 81-84, 101-107 [nos. 3, 22-25, 34].

Week 3
January 25 and 27:Synopsis of Egyptian History
Brewer-Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians, 27-51;
RsKitchen, "The Chronology of Ancient Egypt," 201-208.
Video: "Memphis: Capital of Egypt."

Week 4
February 1 and 3:Egyptian Language and Writing
Brewer-Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians, 110-124;
RsGardiner, "Introduction," in A. H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 5-24c;
Parkinson, Voices, 13-27.

Literacy, Scribal Training and Social Advancement
RsBaines, "Literacy, Social Organization, and the Archaeological Record: the Case of Early Egypt," 193-209;
RsBaines and Eyre, "Four Notes on Literacy," 65-91;
WWilliams, "Scribal Training in Ancient Egypt," 214-21;
Parkinson, Voices, 76-78, 90-95, 148-160 [nos. 18-19, 29-30, 60].

Week 5
February 8 and 10:Structure of Egyptian Society
Brewer-Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians, 69-83, 95-109;
Parkinson, Voices, 99-107, 111-112 [nos. 33-34, 38];
Simpson et al., Literature, 159-179; 198-200; 241-265; 329-326.
(2/8) Reading Quiz no. 1

Week 6
February 15 and 17:Industries and Technologies
Brewer-Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians, 125-145, 169-187;
RsLucas, "Beer," "Papyrus," in A. Lucas, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, 10-16; 137-40;
RsHarris, "Technology and Materials," in J. R. Harris, The Legacy of Egypt, 83-111.
(2/15) THEME PAPER DUE (by end of class)

Week 7 (Midterm Week)
February 22 and 24:Religion: Athletics, Games and Sports
Brewer-Teeter, Egypt and the Egyptians, 84-94;
RsPiccione, "The Gaming Episode in the Tale of Setne Khamwas As Religious Metaphor," 197-204;
RsPiccione, "Sportive Fencing as a Ritual for Destroying the Enemies of Horus" (manuscript).
(2/23) Last day to withdraw with grade of "W"

Week 8
February 29 and March 2:Medicine, Medical Practices and Obstetrics
RsCole, "Obstetrics for the Women of Ancient Egypt," 27-33;
RsGhalioungui, Medicine in Ancient Egypt, 52-79;
Parkinson, Voices, 78-79, 129-130, 142-143 [nos. 20, 49, 55-56];
RsRitner, R. "A Uterine Amulet in the Oriental Institute Collection," 209-221;
RsWalker, "The Place of Magic in the Practice of Medicine in Ancient Egypt," 85-95.

* * * SPRING BREAK: MARCH 4 - 13 * * *

Week 9
March 14 and 16:Status of Women, Love and Marriage
WBryan, B. "The Evidence for Female Literacy from Theban Tombs of the New Kingdom," 17-32;
RsGaballa, "The Legal Text," 22-25;
RsMeinardus, "Mythological, Historical and Sociological Aspects of the Practice of Female Circumcision among the Egyptians," 387-395;
Parkinson, Voices, 107-110 [nos. 35-36];
Simpson et al., Literature, 296-306;
WWard, "The Egyptian Economy and Non-royal Women: Their Status in Public Life" [Web essay];
RsWente, "A Husband to His Deceased Wife (letter)," Papyrus Leiden I.371, 216-217.

Week 10
March 21 and 23:Sexual Attitudes and Mores
RsManniche, "Some Aspects of Ancient Egyptian Sexual Life," 11-23;
RsParkinson, "'Homosexual Desire' and Middle Kingdom Literature," 57-76;
Parkinson, Voices, 54-56 [no. 11];
Simpson et al., Literature, 315-323 [stanzas no. 31-40].
(3/21) Reading Quiz no. 2

(3/23) Sacred Drama and Dramatic Rituals
Parkinson, Voices, 40-43, 124-125 [nos. 5, 45];
RsRamesseum Papyrus, "Rites of Horus of Letopolis;"
RsHerodotus, Book II, "Festival of Ares at Papremis."

Week 11
March 28 and 30:Sacred Drama, "The Conflict of Horus and Seth"
Group Project Work: project teams meet and prepare

Week 12
April 4 and 6:Sacred Drama, "The Conflict of Horus and Seth"
(4/4) Group Project Work: project teams meet and prepare
(4/6) class meeting and project/drama discussion
packetFairman, The Triumph of Horus.
Simpson et al., Literature, 108-126; 127-136.

Week 13
April 11 and 13:Sacred Drama, "The Conflict of Horus and Seth"
(4/11) Group Project Work: project teams meet and prepare
(4/13) class meeting and project/drama discussion
packetFairman, The Triumph of Horus.

Week 14
April 18 and 20:Sacred Drama, "The Conflict of Horus and Seth"
(4/18) Class Presentation: "The Conflict of Horus and Seth: A Sacred Drama"
(4/20) class meeting and discussion

Week 15
April 25:Course Summation and Final Questions
TERM PAPER DUE (by end of class-no extensions possible!)

Final Examination: N/A