Centre for Continuing Education

Artistic and Hieroglyphic Tour Course II: Egyptian afterlife (Nicholson Museum)

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This second course in the ‘Artistic and Hieroglyphic Tour’ series is ideal for those yearning to explore the afterlife beliefs of ancient Egyptian non royals, particularly in the New Kingdom. It provides the opportunity to discuss issues of belief and cynicism regarding life after death. It provides participants with the opportunity to learn basic hieroglyphic afterlife terms and to identify and translate them in their funerary context on artefacts in the Nicholson Museum. It introduces participants to the funerary gods and artistic motifs used on such artefacts and reveals how art and language are inexorably linked in ancient Egypt. This course is an excellent ‘taster’ for those contemplating enrolling in Hieroglyphs 101.

Make holiday don’t weary of it! Look, there is no one allowed to take his things with him, and there is no one who goes away who comes back again Papyrus Harris 500 7, 2-3.


At the completion of this history course participants should:

  1. Understand basic concepts related to: hieroglyphic reading orientation, artistic balance, and the rebus concept in a funerary context.
  2. Comprehend the difference between transliteration methods and translation
  3. Become acquainted with concepts and basic hieroglyphic terms related to the body, spirit forms, life, death and successful afterlife requirements. Become familiar with the main funerary deities and artefacts.
  4. Undertake practical exercises by transliterating and translating authentic basic hieroglyphic scenes from a selection of artefacts from the Nicholson Museum.


Session 1

  • The basics of life and death. Concepts and hieroglyphic terms regarding life: conception, the physical body and its spirit, why ‘two hearts’? A hieroglyphic formula for life. Concepts and hieroglyphic terms regarding death: the physical body and its four spirits. A hieroglyphic formula for death.
  • Attaining an afterlife: Part 1. Difference between royal, noble and peasant aspirations. A hieroglyphic formula for a noble’s afterlife. Focus on tomb design and the funerary stelae. Identifying the dead, artistically and hieroglyphically, in scenes.
  • The main funerary gods: hieroglyphic names and titles, iconography and function.
  • Nicholson Museum visit. Tour and focus on identification and translation of funerary terms discussed and identification of funerary deities and the deceased’s spirit forms.

Session 2

  • Getting there in one piece. The funeral and mummification. What happens to the non-mummified?
  • An egg for the dead: Coffin types, decoration and motifs. Some coffin spells.
  • Attaining an afterlife- or not: The funerary formula. Funerary stelae and cones. The main afterlife text. Main funerary amulets and their function. The heart scarab and its spell, the shabti and its spell. The ‘negative confession’. What happens to those who fail judgment? The issue of cynicism.
  • Nicholson Museum visit. Tour and focus on identification and translation of funerary terms. Identification of funerary amulets, shabti types, coffin motifs and spells.

Intended Audience

This course is suitable for personal interest learners: school, university students, adult and active retirees. It is for anyone who has a fascination about Ancient Egyptian afterlife beliefs and would like to add to their knowledge in a practical way. The Nicholson’s astonishing artefacts will be examined since half the course is conducted in their wonderful museum setting.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion