In the 1930s, she 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. In 1941, she travelled to the United States where she studied and received a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago. She worked as an academic librarian 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 1982, she moved to Israel where she taught at the Hebrew University. She died in 2004.
In 1973, she published the first volume of the Ancient Egyptian Literature (abbr. AEL), annotated translations of Old and Middle Kingdom texts. 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.
- 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