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Past Questions

  1. I'm studying Ancient History MRes in September, specialising in Egyptology. I have to learn Middle Egyptian as apart of my modules, how did you find learning the language, and do you have any advice on this? Furthermore, do you have any recommendations on researching Egyptology at a research based level? And lastly, with such a specialised degree, if I was to not continue to PhD level, do you think employers would be deterred by my specialisation in Egyptology? Many thanks.

    Hello, thank you very much for your question and apologies in the delay getting back to you. My name is Emma from the Postgraduate Recruitment team, and I am replying on behalf of the mentor as they have not yet answered it.

    Unfortunately I cannot answer on behalf of the mentor as these are quite specific queries, so I would advise that you make an enquiry to the relevant team. At the bottom of the course page (https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/courses/combined/caha/ancient-history.aspx) there is a 'Make an enquiry' button. Submitting a question there will send it to someone on the team, who will hopefully be able to help!

    With regards to whether employers would be deterred by a specialisation in Egyptology, I don't think this would be the case. Having an MRes degree would already put you above other applicants to jobs, and even if it is specialised, you just need to promote all of the skills you have developed as a result of the course (e.g. time management, organisation, problem solving, communication skills). I would think of the specialisation as a benefit to your CV, not a hindrance!

    I hope this helps, PG Recruitment

  2. What was the biggest challenge when you did your research for your PhD and MA ?

    In my experience the two were very different but I'd say the biggest challenge was in keeping myself motivated and focussed, and thinking positively. For my MPhil I had to write 20,000 words most of which I wrote over the course of 4 months approximately during the summer holidays. Doing a PhD is very different as it takes much longer - 3-4 years full-time. For me the main challenge was not in keeping going; it was accepting that it's very difficult to get anywhere if there are any distractions, and that there will be days when you don't get much done, or as much written as you hope, and not letting that get you down as that just makes it worse. I think many PhD students also come to realise that writing a PhD thesis is not about creating a masterwork of literature but about getting to the end and passing. Don't expect to have any love for your work by the end of it - you just need to do what's necessary to get the degree and move on. You'll probably find that you have learnt a lot from the process once it's over of course, but while you're in the the thick of it it can be very difficult to enjoy it! Your supervisor can help to reassure you and ensure you're on track but because of that it's very important that you find a supervisor who is interested in you and what you're doing and knows your material well enough to keep you on track. I didn't have that myself but I hasten to add that I did my PhD at a different university and not in Birmingham which I regret now - I wish I had stayed in Birmingham to do my doctorate as well!

  3. Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

    Initially because of the campus and the undergraduate degree course, which provided a very broad introduction to Ancient History and Archaeology – exactly why I wanted – and included Egyptology.

    I wanted to carry on in Brum for my postgraduate studies because I loved Birmingham by the time I was thinking about life beyond my BA and I just wanted to carry on!

  4. What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

    I had developed a real passion for Egyptology as an undergraduate student of Ancient History and Archaeology at Birmingham, and knew towards the end of my second year that I was going to want to continue my studies beyond a first degree.

    I think as much as anything else I just wanted more of the same – the University, the campus, the city, the Department, my tutors and of course the subject – but in more depth.

  5. How has your degree prepared you for what you have done since completing it?

    Perfectly: the subject matter gave me a brilliant platform on which to become a specialist – an Egyptologist.

    I have noticed that the training that I received in Egyptology at Birmingham was a lot broader and more comprehensive than it is at other universities.

    My tutors were also very helpful in giving me career advice and helping to get relevant work experience and eventually a job, all of which has led eventually to where I am now.

  6. What have you done since completing your degree?

    Three months after finishing my MPhil in Egyptology I joined the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) as Librarian and Membership Secretary.

    I have never left and I am now its Director (CEO). I’ve worked for several archaeological teams in Egypt, done a PhD (which I wish I’d done at Birmingham) and I am regularly in Cairo where we have an office.

    I’m under contract to write a book on Egyptian tombs and have presented two TV documentaries: The Man Who Discovered Egypt (BBC4, 2012) and Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Burned Mummy (Channel 4, 2013).

  7. Did you take part in any student groups or societies?

    I joined the Football Supporters Association and played for their Saturday team at Wast Hill. Through that I met the guy who ran the Archaeology Society 6-a-side team, which I played for in all four years that I was in Birmingham.

    I was also in a couple of bands: the completely forgettable Longshore and Parky’s Day Out...

  8. What was the highlight of your time at Birmingham?

    There were many: on a personal level I met the people who are now my best friends, and I found my career – Egyptology.

    I had a fantastic start in the subject: my tutors were excellent both in terms of what they taught me academically and in all the opportunities that they gave me – not least in introducing me to the organisation that I now run, and in helping me to get my first work in Egypt.

  9. Hi Dr. Naunton, I am really keen to study a distance learning PhD in Archaeology. Paul Garwood has been so helpful and great at answering my questions, but this is my problem. I know what I want to do and I am passionate about it- but, realising that a PhD is independent research, I am wondering if I am an unsuitable candidate because at the moment I feel uncertain where I would need to look for my evidence. I suppose what I am asking in a really clumsy way is, to what extent can I ask my supervisor for suggestions regarding the areas of research I should be looking at? I can say without hesitation that I am an excellent researcher - it is my forte.

    Hi, I think you needn't worry about asking your supervisor for suggestions, especially in the early stages of your work. Your supervisor will not expect you to to have mastered the literature and primary material before you have even started; he/she is there to offer guidance and should - within reason - be available to answer your questions at any time during your studies.

    It should be an essential part of the preparation for starting as well that you discuss your proposed topic with your supervisor. He/she will be able to help you to establish whether or not the subject is viable for PhD research, and whether you are in a position to do it - that's not just about gauging whether or not you have the right attributes personally, but also establishing that you'll be able to access the relevant source material (or if it even exists!) etc. If they don't have suggestions to make at this point I would be a little worried in fact!

    Once you've got going you'll probably find that you begin to see for yourself what you need to look at, what is useful and what is not etc. Your supervisor has a duty to ensure you stay on track as you go along - through the regular submission of written work, presentations, face-to-face discussions etc. Your PhD has to be your own work but asking questions is never a bad thing and your supervisor will let you know if you're asking too many!

    Best wishes, Chris N

  10. How did you fund your MPhil and living costs while studying?

    I was fortunate enough to receive a bursary from the Faculty of Arts at the University which paid for my fees. My parents were able to provide some support and I also took a job working in the bar in the Guild of Students (the student union) at the University. I also had some debts by the time I finished of course but I went to live with my family in Surrey straight after finishing and took a full-time job in a bar almost straight away which enabled me to pay off my debts relatively quickly. Working in a bar also gave me the flexibility to undertake the work experience I had planned during my MPhil year as well (some museum work, and an excavation in Egypt). I hope this is helpful! Chris N

  11. Did you find it difficult to do History and Archaeology rather than just specifically Egyptology? And also may I ask what inspired you to become an Egyptologist and out of all our brilliant Leading experts whom is your best? Mine's got to be Joann Fletcher for her passion and drive to become what others said she could not. -

    No, actually, I LOVED doing Ancient History and Archaeology. Egyptology was the specialism I was most passionate about but I really enjoyed getting a taste of a wide variety of other subjects. It has been very useful also to have had some familiarity with ancient cultures elsewhere in the world with which Egypt had some interaction of course. I would strongly recommend this approach therefore, in which you get a taste of everything before deciding in which area to specialise.

    I wanted to become an Egyptologist because I wanted to be able to earn a living by continuing my studies and research, and getting involved in all the various other aspects of the subject, particularly working on archaeological sites in Egypt. It is a wonderful country, and getting to know it., to spend with the people and the landscape while pondering what it must have been like to be there  in the ancient past has been an enormous pleasure and a privilege.

    Jo Fletcher is a good friend and someone I admire. I know most people in the field now and I suppose it's easier to think of good friends rather than people I admire. Someone I couldn't know, because he is no longer around, but who really inspires me is the John Pendlebury, curator of the Palace of Knossos on Crete and Director of the EES excavations at Amarna in the 1930s. He was a great archaeologist but also a romantic, a storyteller and someone who was passionate about communicating archaeology to an audience well beyond specialists. I would have liked to have met him but, ever the swashbuckling hero, he was killed by the Germans on Crete in 1941.

    Thanks for your questions!

  12. Hi! I have a grade A, level 3 diploma in Egyptology! I am interested in a career switch by doing it in Birmingham, do you have any advice that would help? Thanks!

    Hi,

    Glad to know you're thinking about taking your studies further! Careers in Egyptology are difficult to come by. Most people earning a living from the subject have undergraduate and also higher degrees (usually a PhD), and many who are qualified to this level eventually find work doing other things. I don't want to discourage you from studying but I think you have to be realistic: getting a career will probably mean having at least a Masters degree in Egyptology or a related subject such as Archaeology, on top of an undergraduate degree. So you will be looking at studying for at least 4 years altogether. As this would be quite a commitment(!) I would always recommend that you should be sure you will enjoy the process of studying itself - do it for the love of the subject, and be open to using the skills you gain to work in whatever field you find yourself drawn to - studying for the pleasure of it is a very worthwhile thing to do in any case, and this approach will save you the disappointment and anxiety if it turns out to be hard to find work in the field afterwards.

    I hope that helps!

    Chris Naunton

  13. Dear Dr. Naunton, I am a soon to be third year Archaeology student with a great desire to continue into postgraduate study within the field and hopefully move into Archaeology in some capacity. I was wondering if you had any advice on beginning networking within the field in order to meet other archaeologists, in order to potentially come to work for an organisation such as the one you operate? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Hi! Conferences and lectures are a great way to get to know who is doing what and to meet people. In Egyptology we're very well provided for and off the top of my head some of the following might well be of use to you:

    Current Research in Egyptology (http://cregyptology.org.uk/)  - this was originally intended as a way for postgrad students in Egyptology in the UK to get together, compare notes etc etc. It has become an international event in recent years and will next be hosted in Naples I gather but in any case it would be well worth attending.

    British Museum Sackler Colloquium and Annual Lecture: the lecture is probably the best attended annual gathering of Egyptologists (of all kinds including students and amateur enthusiasts) in the UK. the next one will be held on 20 July. More details here: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar/event_detail.aspx?eventId=3753&title=Asyut:%20capital%20that%20never%20was&eventType=Lecture

    The Egypt Exploration Society (EES) runs an excellent programme of events: http://www.ees.ac.uk/events/index.html

    There are many lectures given by the experts at venues around the country, hosted by the many local Egyptology societies. contact info for all of them can be found here: http://www.egyptology-uk.com/besdirectory.htm Many have their own website which will allow you to see what's on where.

    For other branches of archaeology I would recommend Googling your specialist subject to look for societies and lectures, or contacting national organisations such as the CBA: http://new.archaeologyuk.org/

    I no longer work for the EES but they are occasionally able to take volunteers. I suggest you contact them via their website (www.ees.ac.uk) to see if they have any openings at the moment. Similarly, getting in touch with any museum or other organisation which runs the kind of activities you're interested in might be worth contacting. Have a think about what you're interested in, what your skills are and how you might be able to help an organisation like that. If there are gaps there might be course.

    Otherwise, I recommend, if you haven't done it already, that you get to know the online community of archaeologists in your field. Many have their own blogs, Twitter etc. Have a look at the kinds of things they are sharing and saying and ask yourself if you could do something similar. Setting yourself up as someone doing something interesting (like an archaeology degree!) is something you can do without having to rely on anyone else to offer you an opportunity, and it can be a good way to help you find out where you fit into the community (and you WILL fit in somewhere!) and to sharpen your skills.

    Good luck!

  14. Hi, I have a degree and a Masters in a different area, however I am interested in studying an MA in Egyptology, do you think it is wiser for me to study a Masters in Ancient History first, then do a PhD in Egyptology afterwards?

    I should say that I don't know the Ancient History MA very well, but my thoughts would be as follows. I think your decision would depend on whether you are sure that Egyptology is the branch of Ancient History that you are interested in, or if you think you might prefer to specialise in another related subject after your Masters. I would think both MAs would equip you with certain transferable skills: how to carry out your research using primary and secondary sources, how to interrogate the evidence, and construct your an argument etc., perhaps how to read an ancient language, what the limitations of ancient texts might be etc. The subject-specialist knowledge you would get from an Egyptology MA would of course focus on ancient Egypt - you would be given a grounding in the history, archaeology, religion, language and texts; you would be given experience of the same kinds of things in the ancient history MA I expect but probably drawing on a wider - less focussed - range of evidence, from a range of different ancient cultures. I should think that if you wanted to go on to do a PhD in an area-specific subject such as Egyptology you would need a grounding in the subject; in other words if you wanted to go on and do a PhD in Egyptology you might find that the Ancient History MA did not give you enough background knowledge. Many Egyptology PhD students will already have done a good deal of Egyptology at undergrad and Masters level by the time they start their doctoral research (I had done as many Egyptology courses as I could and a dissertation during a BA in Ancient History and Archaeology, and then an MPhil in Egyptology before starting my PhD). I hope this helps and wish you the best with whatever you choose to do! Chris Naunton

  15. Hello, I am a potential postgraduate international student. Currently, I am a double major in History and Philosophy and I concentrate in both Ancient History and Ancient Philosophy. Unfortunately my university does not offer any type of Egyptology courses and only two types of Ancient History courses. I would like to study Egyptology, do you have any advice on how I would be able to pursue an MA in Egyptology considering my current university doesn't have anything to offer? I applied to Birmingham and was rejected because of the lack of experience I have on the subject but I don't know how to gain the experience when it isn't offered at my current university?

    This sounds like a tricky situation and I hope you may have been able to take some steps towards resolving it by now. In case it's still of use, my best suggestion would be that you try to enrol on a non-degree course in Egyptology to improve your subject-specialist knowledge. The University of Manchester provides a variety of distance learning courses that might be suitable. I would advise you to discuss this with the admissions tutors in Birmingham first, but I would hope that if you were to undertake further study of this kind they would then feel able to accept you. Good luck!