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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology

UEE: open version

Egyptology has as its object of study the history, practices, and conceptual categories of a culture that was remarkably prolific in terms of written texts, art, architecture, and other forms of material culture. The knowledge of Egyptologists, archaeologists, linguists, geologists, and all other professionals who are involved in research related to Ancient Egypt reflect the interdisciplinary approach that is needed to make sense of such a wealth of information. The peer-reviewed articles of the UEE are written by the world's leading scholars.

In the coming decade we will continue to build the content of the UEE, while a separate web site, the UEE Full Version, will be available starting in 2010. The full version will have enhanced searches, such as a map-search functionality, alphabetical and subject browsing, in-text links, explanations of terminology for non-professionals, an image archive, and Virtual Reality reconstructions. In addition, a Data-Access Level is under development, which links articles with the results of original research. Information on the development of the UEE Full Version can be found at

Cover page of UEE best wishes for 2021

UEE best wishes for 2021


Editors and Staff of the UEE wish you a happy, healthy and productive 2021

Cover page of Egyptian Among Neighboring African Languages

Egyptian Among Neighboring African Languages


Northeast Africa is dominated by two linguistic macrofamilies, Afroasiatic, with its constituent branches of Egyptian, Semitic, Berber, Cushitic, Chadic, and Omotic, and the Nilo-Saharan languages, with the most relevant phylum being the Eastern Sudanic branch spread across the Sahel and East Africa. On present research, there is evidence for contact between ancient Egyptian and ancient Berber, Cushitic, and Eastern Sudanic languages, with possibilities of contact with Ethiosemitic languages (the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea). Evidence of Egypt’s contact with neighboring peoples in Northeast Africa is well established from the archaeological record and historical texts, especially along the Middle Nile (Nubia). The use of linguistic material, including loanwords and foreign names, for reconstructing ancient phases of contact between Egyptians and neighboring peoples is a relatively “untapped” source. The lexical data demonstrates a great familiarity and exchange between Egyptian and neighboring languages, which, in many cases, can be attributed to specific historical phases of contact through trade, expeditionary ventures, or conflict. Impediments remain in reconstructing the ancient “linguistic map” of neighboring Africa and our reliance on modern dictionaries of African languages for identifying ancient loanwords. Despite this, the stock of foreign words in the Egyptian lexicon is incredibly important for piecing together this “map.” In many cases, the ancient Egyptian lexicon contains the earliest data for foreign languages like Meroitic, Beja, or Berber.

Cover page of Amarna: Private and Royal Tombs

Amarna: Private and Royal Tombs


The monumental rock-cut tombs of Tell el-Amarna were constructed for members of the elite and for Pharaoh Akhenaten with his family. These monuments are reckoned to be a main source for studying the religion of the so-called “Amarna Period”, their walls bearing for example the widely known “hymns to the Aten”. All tombs are located on the east bank of the Nile, the private tombs in the limestone cliffs and foothills surrounding the city of Akhetaten to the east. Their outline encompasses one to three rooms furnished with columns, statues and reliefs. The burial was foreseen underneath those rooms, following a sloping passage or a shaft. The royal tombs were constructed in remote wadis behind the cliffs, their main axes being sloping passages themselves. The rooms for the burial of the royal family were decorated with relief, too, but special architectural features are limited to pillars. Due to the comparatively short period of occupation of the city, most of the tomb structures have not been completed and not been used for burial.

Cover page of German Egyptology (1882-1914)

German Egyptology (1882-1914)


The period from 1882 to 1914 has been termed the “Golden Age” of Egyptology. Under Adolf Erman, the successor of Carl Richard Lepsius, one of Egyptology’s “founding fathers,” who had died in 1884, Egyptology experienced the inauguration of the Ancient Egyptian Dictionary Project in 1897 and the founding of the German Oriental Society in 1898. Erman’s successful effort to send Ludwig Borchardt to Egypt in 1895 was the prelude to a permanent presence of German Egyptology in Egypt. The implementation in 1898 of an international project to create the Catalogue Général (CG) was followed by Borchardt’s appointment as scholarly attaché at the German Consulate General in Cairo in 1899, the construction of “German House” in Western Thebes in 1904, the establishment of the Imperial German Institute in Cairo between 1906 and 1907, and the initiation of a program of excavations and research in Egypt. In 1912 the painted bust of Queen Nefertiti was discovered. During the same decades, the Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde (ZÄS), under Erman’s editorship, remained the single most prestigious journal for matters Egyptological. The far-reaching and long-term influence of the “École de Berlin” (Berlin School), headed by Adolf Erman, is a hallmark of the era.

Cover page of Napatan Period

Napatan Period


The centuries that followed the 25th Dynasty in Nubia witnessed significant changes in the way the kingdom of Kush related to the outside world: an Assyrian invasion had expelled the Kushite kings from the Egyptian throne, and the geographical focus of Kushite royal activity then gradually shifted southward. This period has also received less scholarly attention than the 25th Dynasty that preceded it—in part because of the difficulties posed by the evidence, but also because of modern influences on the interpretation of ancient history. The surviving texts, art, architecture, and other material culture from the Napatan period are generous sources of information, but each body of evidence shows little connection to the others. In addition, most of the evidence for the period was first discovered in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century CE, when Sudan was under foreign domination, leading some of the earliest modern interpreters to depict the Nubian region as an isolated backwater during antiquity. During the second half of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century, more recent research has offered alternative interpretations of the Napatan period’s foreign relations, domestic statecraft, and chronology.

Cover page of Emotions



Emotions have been extensively studied across disciplines, but are best defined within specific cultural contexts. In ancient Egypt, they are presented both as visceral experiences that may be “contained” within or transmitted from the heart or stomach, and as socially constructed strands of personhood. Emotions manifest in gestures, postures, and, to a lesser extent, facial expressions in Egyptian art; the presence or absence of their markers in humans may be connected to decorum and status. Animals are used both in art and script to represent emotional states. Various expressive terms exist to describe emotions linguistically, many of them compounds involving the heart, and emotional states are described in diverse genres of texts throughout time, particularly in New Kingdom love poetry. This discussion presents an overview of how emotions have been identified and studied in ancient Egypt and suggests possible future avenues and domains for research.

Cover page of 25th Dynasty

25th Dynasty


The era of the 25th Dynasty during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE witnessed the annexation of Egypt by kings from the neighboring land of Kush. The phrase “Twenty-fifth Dynasty” may therefore refer to either this family of royals, the state they commanded, or the historical period of their rule, but in each case research has consistently focused on the regime’s foreign aspect and its possible effects. The sequence of discovery has also proven especially consequential: not only have sources known first to scholarship shaped the interpretation of evidence found later, but the modern political contexts of those earliest discoveries have left a lasting and often misleading impression upon subsequent understanding of the period. As a result, fundamental assumptions made by scholars during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been drawn into question during the twenty-first century through a reevaluation of that evidence, particularly in debates related to the dynasty’s origins, chronology, and statecraft.

Cover page of Late Egyptian

Late Egyptian


Late Egyptian, the language of ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, is attested in written form in a large array of literary and non-literary genres, mainly in the hieratic script on papyri and ostraca, but also in hieroglyphic monumental epigraphy. Late Egyptian is the first stage of the second major phase of Egyptian, according to the widely accepted division of the history of the language into Earlier and Later Egyptian. Typologically, Late Egyptian reflects major differences with respect to earlier stages of the language. Being more analytical in character, Late Egyptian thus displays a marked tendency to separate morphological from lexical information. It also tends to be more explicit in the articulation of sentences at the macro-syntactic level (Conjunctive and Sequential) and more time-oriented in its system of grammatical tenses than the aspect-oriented system of Classical Egyptian.

Cover page of Letters to the Dead

Letters to the Dead


Letters to the Dead is the conventional, modern name for a collection of texts that petition the recently deceased, typically for assistance with problems of inheritance, illness, or fertility. They are known from the Old Kingdom through the Late Period and have been preserved upon ceramic vessels and figurines, stone stelae, papyrus, and linen. The Letters were written by male and female petitioners and are addressed to both male and female dead. Though only a few dozen Letters to the Dead have been identified, they are important artifacts for better understanding interactions between the living and the dead in ancient Egypt. Notably, they illuminate the quotidian, social networks that existed between the living and the dead, help us to understand how the ancient Egyptians conceived of and interacted with the dead, and expand upon our knowledge of mortuary culture and popular religious practices in ancient Egypt.

Cover page of Late Antiquity

Late Antiquity


Late antique Egypt ran from the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian (284-305 CE) to the Arab conquest of Egypt (641 CE). During this period, Egypt was part of the eastern Roman Empire and was ruled from Constantinople from the founding of that city in the 320s CE. Culturally, Egypt’s elite were part of the wider Roman world, sharing in its classical education. However, several developments marked Egypt’s distinctiveness in this period. These developments included the flourishing of literature in Coptic, the final written form of the native language, and the creation and rapid growth of several forms of monastic Christianity. These developments accompanied the expansion of Christianity throughout the countryside and a parallel decline in the public role of native religious practices. This expansion of Christianity also led to its expansion in Nubia and Ethiopia, Egypt’s closest international neighbors, as a result of travel and trade from the Roman world. Documentary and archaeological evidence suggests a decline in Egyptian village and small town life in some places in this period, but the picture is mixed. The documents reveal large aristocratic estates in some regions and small-scale middle-class enterprises in others, but debate on how to interpret this data continues.