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Studying Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia at University: A Conference for Sixth-Formers at the British Museum


Studying Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia at University
A Conference for Sixth-Formers

The British Museum, London, Thursday May 5th 2016

Bookings are now closed.


Egypt and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq; ancient Sumer, Assyria and Babylon) bequeathed to posterity some of the most fascinating remains from all of the ancient world.  Today it is possible to learn the languages, study the artefacts, and reconstruct the most varied aspects of these ancient civilisations in astonishing detail.



But since these subjects are not offered at A level, few sixth-formers are aware that they exist as University subjects; indeed, many A level students might never have had the opportunity to learn about these cultures.



The purpose of this one-day conference is to give sixth formers an opportunity to explore what it is like to study Egypt and Mesopotamia at British Universities: to see what makes the subject area so intellectually and culturally exciting, learn about the various degree courses, and understand what admissions tutors are looking for.

The programme will include talks about careers, information on admissions, and the opportunity to meet current students and academic staff from many of the institutions in the UK that teach these subjects. There will also be gallery tours (led by current staff and students), talks by British Museum curators, and sample lectures.


Teachers are welcome to bring groups, but individual students are equally welcome. This is, in essence, a nation-wide Open Day for the subject area at large.

Attendance is free.  Bookings for this event are now closed.

The event is organised by the Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, in partnership with the British Museum. Address any queries to: Dr Martin Worthington (



Travel bursaries

Applications for travel bursaries are now closed.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor and the Thriplow Charitable Trust, we are able to offer c. 15 travel bursaries of up to c. 50 pounds each, to enable sixth formers at state schools to attend the Conference.  

The bursaries are administered by the Division of Archaeology in the University of Cambridge.  To apply, 1) write to by 15th April 2016, stating where you will be travelling from, by which means of transport, and the estimated cost; also include (in the text of the email or as a PDF attachment) a 250-word statement on your interest in the subject area (it may include illustrations, but need not); 2) ask a teacher or equivalent (e.g. a museum curator; not a parent) to send a reference which comments on your academic ability and enthusiasm to the same email address, by the same deadline.

Applicants will be notified of the outcome shortly after 15th April.  Bursaries will normally be payable on the day itself, in person.  If this creates problems, please let us know when you apply.



The main venue will be the Stevenson lecture theatre in the British Museum.  Please aim to be seated by 10.20.

Subject to small adjustments, the programme is as follows.


Martin Worthington and Hratch Papazian (Cambridge)

General introduction


Dan Lawrence (Durham)

Satellites and Cities in Near Eastern Archaeology


Alice Stevenson (Petrie Museum, UCL)

Before the Pyramids: the origins of the ancient Egyptian state


Paul Nicholson (Cardiff)

The Catacombs of Anubis at North Saqqara


Selena Wisnom (Oxford)

Will Trump take the kingship? Asking the entrails




Irving Finkel (British Museum)

The Wonder of Cuneiform


Michelle Middleman (Liverpool)

Finding Reality in Old Kingdom Tomb Biographies


Kate Spence (Cambridge)

Egypt in Nubia: cultures in collision


Martin Worthington (Cambridge)

The rain, the wheat, and the trick


lunch (bring your own sandwiches, there will not be time to buy them!)


Yaǧmur Heffron (UCL)

Archaeological Excavation: the Filthy Past


Gemma Wood (Swansea)

“The Lady of Slaughter” and the Egyptian calendar


Richard Parkinson (Oxford)

The archaeology of the heart: Reading Ancient Egyptian texts


Andrew George (SOAS)

Be my baby in Babylonia





vacate lecture theatre


gallery tours (in small groups, led by University staff and/or students)


treasure hunt (in small groups or individually)


gallery tours (in small groups, led by University staff and/or students)


Relevant University Open Days

For those who cannot come to the British Museum on May 5th, here are the dates of relevant Open Days and other events:

30th April: Oriental Studies Faculty Open Day, University of Oxford

17th-18th June: Pre-Application Open Days, Department of History, University College London (the Dept offers several courses on Ancient Near Eastern History)

24th-25th June: Liverpool University Open Day

29th-30th June: Oriental Studies Faculty Open Day, University of Oxford

30th June - 1st July: you can meet Egyptology and Assyriology teaching staff at the Cambridge University Open Day (booking not required).  Contact person: Martin Worthington.

1st July: Cardiff University Open Day.  Contact person for Egyptian Archaeology: Paul Nicholson.

4th-7th July: UCL Ancient World Summer School (includes Egypt and Mesopotamia).

17th-30th July: Summer School in Ancient Languages, University of Swansea (includes Hieroglyphs)

25th-28th July - St John's College, Cambridge, Archaeology Summer School.  This will be a residential event, which will include excavation training, sample lectures, and interview workshops.  Attendance is completely free, and there are a limited number of travel bursaries for participants from state schools.  There will be a substantial component on Egypt and Mesopotamia (which are "tracks" one can specialise in within the Cambridge Archaeology degree).

31st August: deadline for submitting to the Gilgamesh21 project.

9th September: Cardiff University Open Day.  Contact person for Egyptian Archaeology: Paul Nicholson.

10th September: Pre-Application Open Days, Department of History, University College London (the Dept offers several courses on Ancient Near Eastern History); Contact person: Chris Allen.

16th September: Oriental Studies Faculty Open Day, University of Oxford

24th September: Liverpool University Open Day

30th September: deadline for the Gerald Averay Wainwright Essay Prize - contact by email.

8th October: Liverpool University Open Day

22nd October: Cardiff University Open Day.  Contact person for Egyptian Archaeology: Paul Nicholson.



Recordings of modern scholars reading Babylonian and Assyrian poetry.

Manchester's free online taster courses in Egyptology.

The Gilgamesh21 project (deadline: 31st August)

Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, Ancient World Essay Competition