About This Department

Department History and General Information

The Department of Egyptology and Assyriology ('E/A') formed in 2006 from the merger of Brown’s world-renowned Departments of Egyptology and History of Mathematics. It continues to be a leading center for scholarship in Egyptology (the study of ancient Egypt’s languages, history and culture), Assyriology (the study of the languages, histories and cultures of the ancient lands of present-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey), and the history of the ancient exact sciences (astronomy, astrology and mathematics).

Faculty research interests include Egyptian language, religion, warfare, and kingship; Mesopotamian literary and scholarly texts, history, divination, medicine, and science; the archaeology and languages of ancient Turkey; the relationship between text and archaeology; the study of calendars and chronology; and, the history of astronomy, astrology, and the related sciences in the ancient world. In addition, department faculty direct archaeological projects at the sites of Abydos in Egypt, Uronarti in the Sudan, and Labraunda in Turkey.

Undergraduate students have wide-ranging choices in courses including introductory language, history and archaeology as well as topical classes on subjects such as Egyptian and Mesopotamian religion, literature, and science. Many of our classes are open to all students at Brown and have no prerequisites. Concentrators in the department have the option of following tracks in either Egyptology or Assyriology. Both tracks provide students with a solid background in the field through exposure to the critical study of these ancient cultures using the tools of archaeology, epigraphy, and historical inquiry, and a variety of interdisciplinary, comparative, and theoretical approaches in order to explore these regions’ ancient languages and literatures, political and socio-economic modes of organization, art and architecture, religious traditions and other systems of knowledge, such as ancient exact sciences. 

At the graduate level, students may pursue one of three tracks to the PhD: Egyptology, Assyriology, or the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity. Each track is designed to provide students with the skills needed to undertake high quality research in their respective field. In addition, our PhD program pays close attention to the professional development of our students, in particular through training in teaching, the writing of journal articles, and presenting papers at conferences. Our students regularly present their work at international conferences and publish in the main journals in our fields, and participate fully in departmental research seminars.

'E/A' has a thriving research culture which includes a weekly departmental seminar series, frequent guest lecturers, and regular long-term visitors who come to the department to work with our faculty and to use Brown’s library resources (in particular Brown’s excellent collection of Egyptology literature and the Pingree collection of books, microfilms, and photocopies of early scientific manuscripts). Over the past few years the department has organized conferences on topics including new approaches to how the earliest stages of the Egyptian language are to be understood, the archaeologies of text, and the circulation of astronomical knowledge in the ancient world.  The department also enjoys close links with other units at Brown including the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World and the Departments of Classics, History and Religious Studies.