Ancient Egypt at the Movies


The Mummy - 1932 movie posterOverview:
How many times have you watched a movie where ancient Egypt or Egyptians feature, only to wonder whether what you are seeing is anything like what actually happened?

Over four lectures, you will take a close look at the facts, fun, and sheer lunacy that is ancient Egypt at the movies, from The Ten Commandments to Stargate. See if the pharaohs, gods and goddesses, religion and, of course, mummies that have graced the silver screen over the past century of Hollywood are fact or fiction. Who knew archaeology could be so much fun?

Pre-course Activity:
Watch as many movies history, mystery, science fiction, adventure, or action films that feature ancient Egypt as you like!

Target audience:
This series will appeal to anyone with an interest in ancient Egypt, cinema history, and popular culture.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will:

  • Appreciate the extent that movies have drawn upon ancient Egypt
  • Understand the variety of ways cinema has exploited the archaeology of Egypt
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the truth behind the mummy movie phenomenon
  • Appreciate the use of ancient Egypt as a mythological past by popular culture
  • Be able to distinguish and discuss the use of fact and fiction in ancient Egypt at the movies.

Course outline:
Each session includes a lecture presentation with clips from selected movies and time for questions and group discussion.
Session 1: Ancient Egypt, cinema, and popular culture
Session 2: Pharaoh – Always the Bad Guy?
Session 3: Gods and Goddesses – Divine Divas
Session 4: The Mummy! and how to escape the Undead

There is a short break halfway through each session and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Sarah Vidler has studied and researched Ancient Egyptian archaeology for more than twenty years and is currently undertaking further postgraduate study into ancient Egyptian mummification. She’s lived in Wellington since 2005 and has been presenting Continuing Education courses about Ancient Egypt since 2008. She has the dubious talent of being able to link almost any conversation topic to Egyptology.

“A really interesting perspective on Egyptian culture and religion”, Negotiating the Cosmos: Mythology & Religion in Ancient Egypt (2019)

“Entertaining tutor who brought ancient Egypt to life”, Negotiating the Cosmos: Mythology & Religion in Ancient Egypt (2019)

“Great course, Sarah is such a great lecturer and knows her subject incredibly well”, More Notorious Names from Ancient Egypt (2018)

“Sarah was excellent. A passionate, knowledgeable and enthusiastic presenter - a very enjoyable course!”, More Notorious Names from Ancient Egypt (2018)

“The lecturer has an informal, at times humorous, style which is easy for an amateur audience to listen to but she also has an impressive depth of knowledge and scholarship which provide the basis for her lectures”, More Notorious Names from Ancient Egypt (2018)

Relevant links:
School of Languages and Cultures

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Phone 04 463 6556, Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.