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    The religious practices, beliefs and texts of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Levant, ca. 3000–300 BCE.

    In this paper we explore the religious ideas and practices of three civilisations of the ancient world: their gods and goddesses, their temples and priests, their attempts to communicate with the divine and to exercise power via magic, as well as their foundational myths and their expectations concerning the afterlife.

    Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Levant (Syria, Palestine/Israel, Phoenicia, the Transjordan) fascinated early European explorers and scholars, their long-lost religious texts shedding light on the world in which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam later evolved. While demonstrating such influences, the paper will focus on understanding Ancient Near Eastern religion in its own right and in relation to debates within recent scholarship.

    About this paper

    Paper title Ancient Religion: Egypt to Mesopotamia
    Subject Religious Studies
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period(s) 1st Non standard period (11 November 2024 - 14 December 2024) (Distance learning)
    1st Non standard period (11 November 2024 - 14 December 2024) (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    36 points
    RELS 303
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music, Theology

    Open to all students with an interest in religion or the ancient world.

    May not be credited together with RELS 303.


    Dr Deane Galbraith:

    Teaching staff

    Dr Deane Galbraith

    Paper Structure

    We explore each of ancient Mesopotamian, Levantine and Egyptian religion in turn. Beginning with the stories of their gods and heroes, we will examine a range of topics, including:

    • Goddesses
    • Temples, sacred space, and time
    • Oracles and prophecy
    • Popular religion and magic
    • Creation myths
    • Kings, heroes, and giants
    • Death and the afterlife
    Teaching Arrangements

    Five hours of lectures per week for five weeks.

    All lectures will be streamed and recorded and made available to distance students.

    Weekly tutorials on campus and by Zoom videoconferences.


    There is no required textbook for this paper. The course reader contains all the required readings (available in pdf and print).

    Course outline

    Click the link for a sample RELS203 course outline

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Critical thinking.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    By the end of this paper, students should be able to:

    1. Describe, and appreciate the limitations of, the textual and material evidence (architectural, archaeological, artefactual, iconographical, funerary and memorial) for religion in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Levant
    2. Describe and analyse ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine myths of the origin and nature of gods and goddesses, the creation of the universe, the creation of human beings, hero figures, and death and the afterlife
    3. Understand various critical methods employed by scholars to analyse ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine religion and evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of those methods
    4. Write a clear, persuasive, critical, and knowledgeable essay on a current issue in the study of ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Levantine religion


    1st Non standard period (11 November 2024 - 14 December 2024)

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system

    1st Non standard period (11 November 2024 - 14 December 2024)

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Monday 10:00-10:50 46-50
    Wednesday 10:00-11:50 46-50
    Thursday 10:00-10:50 46-50
    Friday 10:00-10:50 46-50
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