Graduate Student Handbook

       Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies
                   Graduate Student Handbook
                              July 2013 Edition
This document provides department-specific information for graduate students. It is intended to complement the Graduate School Handbook. Students should consult the Graduate School Handbook for information on University-wide policies on matters such as funding, leaves of absence, etc.
    The Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies offers three tracks to the PhD: Ancient Western Asian Studies, Egyptology, and the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity. Applicants to the PhD program should consult the webpages of Department and of the Graduate School. Through the Graduate School’s Open Graduate Education Program the Department also offers a MA for students enrolled in PhD programs in other departments at Brown. The Department does not accept candidates who are not currently in a Brown PhD program into the MA program.

Department Contacts
Department Chair: Prof. John Steele (
Director of Graduate Study: Prof. Matthew Rutz (
Department Administrator: Claire Benson (

Funding for the PhD

Financial support of five years is granted to incoming doctoral students funded through the Graduate School with the expectation that this will be their full support during the entire course of their studies. This funding includes a stipend, tuition remission, and a health-insurance subsidy. The stipend is intended to cover the calendar year, not simply the academic year, and students are therefore expected to work on their research during the summer. When progress towards the degree is considered excellent students may spend time in the summer on professional development, for instance in outside fellowships, archaeological digs, or teaching positions.
The university expects research and writing of the dissertation to be completed by the end of a student’s fifth year of residency, at which point university funding ends. Funding for a sixth year can be sought through outside fellowships or may be available from the university; no student should expect such sixth year funding. If the dissertation has not been completed and accepted within seven years of the time the student first entered the program, the department may require a second set of comprehensive examinations before the dissertation is finally accepted. As per Graduate School rules, students who have not completed their dissertation within five years of being admitted to candidacy must apply to the Graduate School for an extension of candidacy; students should be aware that such extensions are not guaranteed.
Students will receive one of the following appointments each semester that they are funded:
Fellowship: An award to enable the student to focus full time on either coursework or writing a dissertation.
Teaching Assistantship: The student will be assigned as a TA to a particular class to assist the instructor with course preparation, marking, facilitating class discussions, and teaching occasional classes.
Teaching Fellowship: The student will teach his or her own class.
Proctorship: Non-instructional academic employment. The student will be assigned to a defined administrative, research, or other task to assist faculty and staff in the department. Possible proctorships could involve preparing teaching materials, assisting in the organization of a conference, and assisting faculty with editorial projects.

On entering the program, students will be assigned a primary advisor in their field of interest. Students are encouraged to consult their advisors on a regular basis to discuss course selection, research projects, exam preparation, external funding, etc. Students may elect to switch advisor at any time, providing the new advisor is willing to act in that capacity. After completing coursework it is expected that the chair of the dissertation committee will play the role of primary advisor.

Courses and Service: General Information for PhD students
The university requires 24 credits of graduate enrollment. This is accomplished over the course of six semesters by a combination of coursework and TAships. The appropriate courses will be determined by the student in conjunction with the primary advisor, the Director of Graduate Study (DGS), and the professors most relevant to the student’s intended course of study. The three degree tracks (Egyptology, Ancient Western Asian Studies and History of Exact Sciences in Antiquity) each have their own required courses, some of which may be waived depending on a student’s background and abilities (see below). This does not, however, obviate the University’s 24-credit requirement.
For the first year, students are on fellowship and take four courses each semester. During the second through fourth years, financial support from the Graduate School requires service in the form of proctorships and teaching assistant assignments. Each student will have one such obligation per semester; the appropriate balance and specific assignments will be determined in conjunction with the DGS. When performing service during their coursework students will take four classes during semesters they act as proctors but three classes during semesters they serve as teaching assistants; this accommodates the 15–17 hours weekly time commitment for TAs defined by the Graduate School. TAs receive one enrollment credit per semester TAing.
The department policy on incomplete classes is the same as that of the University. Incompletes are strongly discouraged, may only be taken in extraordinary circumstances and with prior approval of the professor, and must be completed expeditiously to avoid being placed on academic warning. The Office of the Registrar sets the following guidelines for the completion of incompletes: “Unless an earlier date is specified by the instructor, grades of ‘INC’ must be made up as follows: for Semester I [= Fall], by mid-semester of Semester II; for Semester II [= Spring], by the first day of the following semester.”
Inadequate performance in courses, service, or exams can be grounds for being placed on academic warning at the discretion of the faculty of the department (see below). Students on warning will be given explicit instructions about milestones that must be passed to be returned to normal status. While on warning students are expected to focus exclusively on their university commitments and may not receive department funding for conference attendance nor take on outside employment or internships.

PhD Tracks and Course Requirements
The department currently offers three tracks to the PhD: (1) Ancient Western Asian Studies, (2) Egyptology, and (3) History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity. Minimum course requirements for each track are as follows:
(1) Ancient Western Asian Studies: two courses on Near Eastern Archaeology, two courses in Akkadian, one course in Sumerian, one course on Scholarship in the Ancient Near East, two courses of the archaeology, history, and/or language of a second culture, and a research seminar on Archaeology and Text.
(2) Egyptology: Middle Egyptian I–II*, Middle Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Late Egyptian*, Ancient Egyptian Religion, Ancient Egyptian Literature, History of Ancient Egypt I–II*, at least one course in the basic material culture of ancient Egypt (or, with the approval of your advisor, an advanced course in Egyptian archaeology), one course in the language of a second culture, one course in the civilization of the Ancient Near East or the Mediterranean outside of Egypt.
(3) History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity: Historiography of the Exact Sciences (AWAS 2120), four courses in the primary ancient language*, two courses in the secondary ancient language*, three courses in the history/archaeology/culture of the primary culture, one course in the history/archaeology/culture of the secondary culture, two courses on ancient science/scholarship offered within the department, and two courses in the history of science offered by another department (e.g., History). At least 2 of the language courses should involve the reading of scientific texts.
Courses marked * may be waived on demonstration of existing competency.
There are three sets of examinations required of all doctoral students in the department:
1.    French and German Reading Exams. These must be passed by the end of the second year of coursework. They will normally consist of a journal article or passage from a book to be studied overnight. The exam will consist of questions and discussion on the assignment in order to demonstrate comprehension. With the approval of the student’s primary advisor, a student may replace one of the French or German requirements with another appropriate foreign language. A language exam will be waived in the case where the language is the student’s native tongue.
2.    Comprehensive Exams. These are normally administered at the end of the second year of coursework, and are intended to demonstrate the student’s knowledge in all aspects of his or her chosen field. Students will be informed of the subjects and composition of these exams at the beginning of the Spring semester of their second year. Some may be take-home essays, others 3-hour written exams, and others 1.5-hour oral exams. The Comprehensive Exams must be passed satisfactorily before the student can take the PhD Qualifying Projects. In the case of an unsatisfactory performance, a second examination may be scheduled at the discretion of the departmental faculty, normally within a year of the first exams. No comprehensive exam can be taken more than twice. In the event of a first or second unsatisfactory performance, the student may be allowed to write a thesis for a terminal MA degree, again at the discretion of the departmental faculty.
3.    PhD Qualifying Projects. These are normally administered after the completion of coursework, and are intended to demonstrate professional competency. They will usually consist of different topics related to the student’s primary interest and intended dissertation area, to be researched and written up in the form of (1) a journal article, (2) a substantial review of a book (or books) in the student’s primary area of interest, and (3) the preparation of a course outline and syllabus. The decision as to specific topics, including the book(s) for review and the title and topic of the course for the syllabus, will be decided in conjunction with a committee of at least two and normally three faculty, at least one of whom must be from the department. These decisions must be agreed upon prior to reading period of the first semester of the third year. Following the submission of the projects, the committee will confer to make their assessment; the committee will then set up a discussion with the student to give feedback and discuss prospects for the dissertation topic and communicate whether or not the projects have been judged acceptable. A student may not formally submit a dissertation proposal for approval until the committee has deemed the Qualifying Projects acceptable.
Dissertation Proposal
In the semester following the successful completion of PhD qualifying projects, the student will prepare a dissertation proposal in consultation with the dissertation committee. Ordinarily the dissertation committee will be the same as the qualifying project committee, though changes or additions may be made in consultation with the DGS. The committee must include a primary advisor from within the department and at least one and normally two additional readers. The proposal prepared by the student will include a working title, a brief summary of the intended topic of the doctoral dissertation, including past research on the topic, with full bibliography; a statement of the purpose, goals, and significance of the project, with justification of the necessity for a new study; a detailed outline of the proposed study; and a detailed projected timeline and work plan for research and writing.
The dissertation proposal will be prepared in consultation with the dissertation advisor and readers. The committee then vote on the acceptability of the proposal; following a favorable vote, the student is formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD, a status commonly known as ABD (all but dissertation). Shortly after the proposal is accepted the student will present the proposed project at a department research colloquium.
Because Brown’s doctoral programs train graduate students to become educators as well as researchers, teaching is an integral part of graduate education. All doctoral students in the Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies graduate program are required to train as teaching assistants for a minimum of 3 semesters. In consultation with the DGS, this requirement may be fulfilled during any of the years in the program, but it is typically done in years two, three, and four.
Receiving the PhD Degree
When the dissertation committee has approved the completed dissertation, usually midway through the second semester of the fifth year, the department will schedule a dissertation defense. The dissertation must be tabled in the department to be available to interested readers two weeks prior to the defense. The defense will consist of two parts. First, a public discussion of the dissertation will allow it to be presented to and discussed by interested members of the academic community who are not on the dissertation committee. Second, a closed discussion with the committee will be held at which the student will defend the dissertation’s thesis and results. At the conclusion of the defense, the dissertation committee will vote whether to award a PhD on the basis of the dissertation, potentially pending revisions. Following a favorable vote, the student is considered to have achieved the PhD degree, even though the degree itself may not be awarded for several months after the defense. The department has no requirements for the format of the dissertation other than those imposed by the university’s Graduate School. Filing of the final dissertation is subject to University rather than Departmental guidelines.
Students writing dissertations should be aware that the procedures surrounding defense and filing take substantial amounts of time. Brown has only one graduation per year, and final dissertations and all associated paperwork must be filed with the University by the first business day in May of the year of graduation. In order to realistically meet this goal and give dissertation readers sufficient time to read and comment upon the thesis, a complete and mature draft of the dissertation should be given to the dissertation committee no later than the fourth week of the final semester, typically mid-February.
Student Progress
Student progress will be evaluated each semester and the student informed of their standing through BANNER and at individual meetings with the DGS. BANNER allows three evaluations: “Good,” “Satisfactory,” and “Warning”. These terms require some clarification. The department regards a “Satisfactory” evaluation as an indicator of unsatisfactory progress and as a sign that the student needs to improve his or her performance. “Warning” status indicates that the department has more serious concerns about a student’s progress, which unless addressed could lead to withdrawal from the program.
Students who take one incomplete in a course at the end of a semester will automatically be given a “Satisfactory” evaluation. In order to return to “Good” status, the incomplete must be rectified within the normal timeframe (see above). Students may also be given a “Satisfactory” evaluation for below par performance as a proctor or teaching assistant, or for insufficient progress in the writing of the dissertation.
Students who have more than one incomplete or who fail to rectify an incomplete will be placed on “Warning”. Other reasons for being placed on “Warning” include unacceptable performance as a proctor or teaching assistant, or failing the comprehensive exams or qualifying projects. Students on “Warning” will be informed in writing of the reasons and given the specific milestones they must achieve within a specified period in order to come off “Warning”. Students who do not achieve those milestones may be withdrawn from the program. For further details on the timing and consequences of “Warning” students are encouraged to consult the Graduate School handbook.
PhD Program Timeline
Year 1
Fall:              4 courses
Spring:        4 courses
Summer:    modern language study, internship, archaeological field work, museum research
Funding:    No service obligation
Year 2
Fall:          4 courses or 3 courses + service obligation
Spring:    4 courses or 3 courses + service obligation; develop reading list and study for the Comprehensive Exams
Summer:    complete Comprehensive Exams; upon successful completion of the comprehensive exams, modern language study, internship, archaeological field work, museum research, travel for research/ conferences
Funding:    Service obligations
Year 3
Fall:          4 courses or 3 courses + service obligation
Spring:    4 courses or 3 courses + service obligation; develop reading list and plan for the PhD Qualifying Projects
Summer:    complete PhD Qualifying Projects; work on dissertation proposal
Funding:    Service obligations
Year 4
Fall:        approval of dissertation proposal; service obligation; research dissertation; begin writing
Spring:        research/writing dissertation; service obligation
Summer:    research/writing dissertation
Funding:    Service obligations
Year 5
Fall:        writing dissertation
Spring:    a completed draft of the dissertation to be submitted by week 4 of the semester in which the student expects to graduate; defend and deposit completed dissertation according to the guidelines of the Graduate School
Funding:    No service obligation

Open Graduate Education MA program
Brown students in other PhD programs may obtain a MA in Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies. This is generally undertaken through the Graduate School’s Open Graduate Education program.

Course requirements: 8 courses, of which at least 3 must be 2000-level graduate seminars taught either in the department or by jointly appointed faculty in archaeology. Of the 8 courses, at least 2 must be in either Egyptian or Akkadian language, and at least two must be on the history or archaeology of either Egypt or the ancient Near East. The remaining courses are to be chosen by the student in consultation with the DGS, who must approve all course selections used to fulfill the requirements of the MA degree.

Capstone project: Students must research and write a 5000-word paper on a topic of their choosing within the broad area of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies. The aim of the paper is not necessarily to undertake original research, but rather for the student to demonstrate sufficiently broad knowledge of the field, the ability to identify an appropriate research question, and the ability to find appropriate primary and secondary source material relevant to the topic. The project will be assessed by two faculty members in the department.

In all matters relating to double counting of courses between MA and PhD programs, etc., the Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies will defer to University-wide policies and/or the policies of the student’s PhD department.
Space in the Department
The department has a limited number of desks in offices that, conditions permitting, can be temporarily assigned for students to share. Desk assignments for the academic year will be made in August and will depend upon the availability of space in the department. Priority will be given to PhD students writing their dissertations and to those serving as teaching assistants, but this should not be taken to mean that students are guaranteed dedicated work space in the department. Students should be aware that the assignment of a desk one year does not imply that the student will be assigned a desk in subsequent years.
Overseas Travel
Students travelling overseas on Brown University business (e.g., for conferences and fieldwork) are expected to register with International SOS. Instructions on how to do this may be found at Further information is given in the Graduate School Handbook.