Website Review

BBC Ancient Egypt

British Broadcasting Corporation

Created with the help of academics, writers, and broadcasters, the BBC’s Egyptians webpage provides an excellent, easily digestible overview of Ancient Egypt through a series of essays and photo galleries. Upon arriving on the landing page, visitors can choose to explore 7 main sections. These range from an overview on Egyptology and pyramidology, to other areas such as mummification, Egyptian beliefs, pharaohs, daily life in Ancient Egypt, and hieroglyphs. Expanding each section will display a list of links to essays, galleries, and (sadly now defunct) games.

To begin with the essays, readers will find that each of them have been written by an academic expert or broadcaster who is intimately familiar with Egyptology. These essays tend to explore around 5 main themes, with each theme being 2-5 short paragraphs in length. Written in a conversational, they are easy to read style and are also often accompanied by a handful of photos or illustrations. While most of the essays provide information specifically about Ancient Egypt (e.g. Dr Geraldine Pinch’s work on Ancient Egyptian Magic), others use the area as a means to explore adjacent topics of interest. Kevin Jackson’s Short History of Pyramidology, for instance, looks at various fringe beliefs that have attempted to attribute pyramid-building to non-human sources, while Dr Joann Fletcher’s Mummies Around the World examines different types of mummification practices across continents. Importantly, each essay also ends with a curated ‘Find Out More’ section, where authors can provide a short list of related books, weblinks, or even places to visit if readers would like to know more about the topic in question.

For galleries, readers can select specific images from the main gallery page or click through the image viewer. Each image is accompanied by a few short, descriptive paragraphs about the event, place, or person, though it must be noted that by virtue of each gallery having its own author, some of these descriptions can be considerably longer or shorter than others. While some galleries also provide a blurb indicating where/when the image is from, it is unfortunate that this practice does not seem to have been standardised across the site. Happily, however, ‘Find Out More’ sections have also been provided for galleries, so readers can peruse a similarly well-curated list of resources relating to the gallery’s content.

While the BBC site does not provide a teaching plan to accompany its content, school-level educators will likely find it fairly easy to structure a unit around the site’s main themes. In a nod to the wide-ranging nature of some of the site’s essays, a comparative approach can also be adopted -- whereby students can consider how similar practices (e.g. mummification, spells, worship, gender roles) might have looked in a different region and why. Given the prevalence of Ancient Egypt in popular culture, students can also be invited to collect examples from various movies/books/games and then examine the accuracy of its portrayal. While the site might not offer much in-depth content for college-level users, the ‘Find Out More’ sections include numerous academic sources that will likely prove useful.

In terms of site design and navigation, users arriving on the landing page will do well to first click on the ‘Expand All’ button, as this will open up the navigation menu and display all essays/galleries. From there, it is a simple matter of just clicking on topics of interest – though it must also be noted that due to the age of the site, all links to games are now defunct. This is a pity, as having these would have been an excellent resource for younger users. Some readers might find the layout of essays to be a bit of an annoyance due to its narrowness and slightly messy formatting, but these are minor cosmetic issues. Overall, though site itself might be slightly dated (indeed, most of the site is from 2011 and a message at the top of the screen even notes that this is an archived page that is no longer updated), the well-researched content and usefulness of each ‘Find Out More’ section makes it an excellent tool for school-level educators and students alike.

Reviewed by Joanna Lee, Monash University

How to Cite This Source

"BBC Ancient Egypt," in in World History Commons, [accessed January 18, 2022]
Detail from a tomb painting showing a woman in a white dress gathering the harvest
“Created with the help of academics, writers, and broadcasters, the BBC’s Egyptians webpage provides an excellent, easily digestible overview of Ancient Egypt through a series of essays and photo galleries.”