The Egyptology program is an interdisciplinary one with a formal relationship between the history and art
history departments. The Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology was founded in the mid-1980s under the aegis of the Department of Art and currently has two art history professors and a curator of the Egyptian collection
in the University’s art gallery. From 1985 until his death in 2000, noted Egyptologist William J. Murnane held the
Egyptology history position. He was replaced by his former student Dr Peter Brand.
In 1990, Dr Murnane launched the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project to document and conserve hundreds of individual inscriptions and carved scenes that
cover nearly every surface of the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, Egypt, a structure large
enough to accommodate the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Done in cooperation with
the Egyptian Antiquities Service and the French Archaeological Institute, the project
has been funded for ten seasons since 1990 with major grants (in excess of $120,000
per season) from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Field work involves faculty
and students not only from Memphis, but also Canadian, Polish, French and Dutch Egyptologists
as well. The opportunity to visit and study the monuments in the field is invaluable
to students both in their overall studies and for their career development. The Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project enhances the University’s prestige nationally and internationally.
The Department of History offers graduate classes on diverse subjects from gender
to diplomacy in the ancient world and attracts students from across the country to
pursue both MA and PhD studies. Undergraduates also have the opportunity to take classes
on Egyptian history, something not available at most institutions.
With the addition of a new Egyptology position currently occupied by Dr. Suzanne Onstine,
the University now boasts five full-time Egyptologists between the History and the
Art History departments. Memphis has the only Egyptology program in the South and
is one of a dozen major Egyptology programs in North America. The range of faculty
in the program is unsurpassed. With five Egyptologists on staff, it is one of only
two universities in the United States to share this distinction — the other being
the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. This program, for all its distinction, is young and still growing. Every year sees
larger enrollments than the last.