This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (January 2016)
Miriam was born in Istanbul on May 3, 1914 to Richard Lichtheim - a German-born Jewish politician, publicist, and notable Zionist - and his wife Irene - a Sephardic Jew whose first language was Greek. Her older brother, born 1912, was the British Marxist journalist George Lichtheim. From 1913 to 1917 Richard Lichtheim was the successor to Victor Jacobson, representative of the Zionist World Organization in Istanbul. Due to suspicions of espionage, the Lichtheim family returned to Germany in 1919 following the end of World War 1.
In 1934, the family emigrated to Palestine, where Miriam studied under Hans Jakob Polotsky in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In a paper of recollections about her teacher she recalls that, at the beginning of the year, in Polotsky's Egyptian class there were four students; at the end, only she remained. During Miriam's time at the Hebrew University, her father Richard became the representative of the World Zionist Organisation at the League of Nations, and relocated to Geneva with Irene. They would return in 1946 following the end of World War II and the founding of Israel.
After completing her studies, Miriam travelled to the United States in 1941 where she studied and received a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. She worked as an academic librarian first at Yale University, and then at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was Near East Bibliographer and Lecturer until her retirement in 1974.
In 1973, she published the first volume of the Ancient Egyptian Literature (abbr. AEL), annotated translations of Old and Middle Kingdom texts. In this work, she describes the genesis and evolution of different literary genres in Egypt, based on ostraca, inscriptions engraved in stone, and texts of papyri. In 1976, the second volume of AEL containing New Kingdom texts appeared, followed in 1980 by the third dealing with the first millennium BCE literature. These widely used anthologies became classics in the field of Egyptology, portraying the evolution of literature in ancient Egypt.
- Miriam Lichtheim & Elizabeth Stefanski, Coptic Ostraca from Medinet Habu, University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications 1952.
- Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egypt: A survey of current historiography, The American Historical Review 1963
- Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 3 volumes, The University of California Press 1973-1980
- Miriam Lichtheim, Late Egyptian Wisdom Literature in the International Context, Orbis Biblicus Et Orientalis 1983
- Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian autobiographies chiefly of the Middle Kingdom: A study and an anthology, Orbis biblicus et orientalis 1988
- Miriam Lichtheim, Maat in Egyptian Autobiographies and Related Studies, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1992
- Miriam Lichtheim, Moral Values in Ancient Egypt, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1997
- Miriam Lichtheim, Telling it Briefly: A Memoir of My Life, University Press Fribourg 1999
- Memoirs: Hans Jonas, Michigan, 2008 pp.80-81
- Deutche Biographie: Richard Lichtheim, https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/gnd11698628X.html#ndbcontent
- Atti del sesto convegno internazionale di Egittologia, Torino, 1996
- "Als die Behörden die Grenze schlossen, wussten sie, was das für die abgewiesenen Juden hiess": Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11. August 2017