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Birth and throne cartouches of Pharaoh Seti I, from KV17 at the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. Neues Museum, Berlin Birth and Throne cartouches of pharaoh Seti I, from KV17 at the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. Neues Museum.jpg
Birth and throne cartouches of Pharaoh Seti I, from KV17 at the Valley of the Kings, Egypt. Neues Museum, Berlin

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche /kɑːrˈtʃ/ is an oval with a line at one end at right angles to the oval, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. [1] The first examples of the cartouche are associated with pharaohs at the end of the Third Dynasty, but the feature did not come into common use until the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu. While the cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, if it makes the name fit better it can be horizontal, with a vertical line at the end (in the direction of reading). The ancient Egyptian word for cartouche was shenu, and the cartouche was essentially an expanded shen ring. Demotic script reduced the cartouche to a pair of brackets and a vertical line.


Of the five royal titularies it was the prenomen (the throne name), and the "Son of Ra" titulary [2] (the so-called nomen name given at birth), which were enclosed by a cartouche. [3]

At times amulets took the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king and placed in tombs. Archaeologists often find such items important for dating a tomb and its contents. [4] Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval surrounding their name was meant to protect them from evil spirits in life and after death. The cartouche has become a symbol representing good luck and protection from evil. [5] [ need quotation to verify ]

The term cartouche was first applied by French soldiers who fancied that the symbol they saw so frequently repeated on the pharaonic ruins they encountered resembled a muzzle-loading firearm's paper powder cartridge (cartouche in French). [6] [ need quotation to verify ] [7]

in hieroglyphs

As a hieroglyph, a cartouche can represent the Egyptian-language word for "name". It is Gardiner sign listed no. V10.

Besides the cartouche hieroglyph use for the word 'name', the cartouche in half-section, Gardiner no. V11
has a separate meaning in the Egyptian language as a determinative for actions and nouns dealing with items: "to divide", "to exclude". [8]
The cartouche hieroglyph
is used as a determinative for Egyptian language šn-(sh)n, for "circuit", or "ring"-(like the shen ring or the cartouche). Later it came to be used for rn, the word "name". [9] The word can also be spelled as "r" with "n", the mouth over the horizontal n.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Gardiner's Sign List is a list of common Egyptian hieroglyphs compiled by Sir Alan Gardiner. It is considered a standard reference in the study of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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Hill-country (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

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The pectorals of ancient Egypt were a form of jewelry, often represented as a brooch. These were mostly worn by richer people and the pharaoh.

Akhet is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents the sun rising over a mountain. It is translated as "horizon" or "the place in the sky where the sun rises". Betrò describes it as "Mountain with the Rising Sun" and an ideogram for "horizon".

The Egyptian hieroglyph representing gold, phonetic value nb, is important due to its use in the Horus-of-Gold name, one of the Fivefold Titulary names of the Egyptian pharaoh.

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Hare (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

The ancient Egyptian Hare hieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed no. E34 (𓃹) is a portrayal of the desert hare of Egypt, within the Gardiner signs for mammals. The ancients used the name of sekhat for the hare.

The ancient Egyptian Egg hieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed no. H8, is a portrayal of an oval-shaped egg, tilted at an angle, within the Gardiner signs for parts of birds.

Adze-on-block (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

The ancient Egyptian Adze on a Wood Block, or Axe in a Block of Woodhieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed no. U20, is a portrayal of the adze. It is used mostly in the cartouches of pharaonic names especially, or other important names.

Sky (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

The ancient Egyptian Sky hieroglyph,, is Gardiner sign listed no. N1, within the Gardiner signs for sky, earth, and water.

Townsite-city-region (hieroglyph) hieroglyph

The Ancient Egyptian Townsite-city-region (hieroglyph) is Gardiner sign listed no. O49 for the intersection of a town's streets. In some Egyptian hieroglyphs books it is called a City Plan.

In ancient Egyptian art, the Set animal, or sha, is the totemic animal of the god Set. Because Set was identified with the Greek Typhon, the animal is also commonly known as the Typhonian animal or Typhonic beast.

Pick (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

The ancient Egyptian Pick hieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed nos. U17, U18 is a portrayal of a 'pick upon the side view of a block'; it is in the Gardiner subset for agriculture, crafts, and professions.

Two whips with shen ring (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

The ancient Egyptian Two Whips with Shen ring hieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed no. S23 is a portrayal of the Shen ring with two Egyptian flails-(Crook and flail); it is a member of the Gardiner subset for "crowns, dress, staves, etc".

Union symbol (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, the hieroglyph is used for the phonetic value of sma, with meanings of to join together, to unite with.

Papyrus roll-tied Egyptian hieroglyph

Some artistic versions of the papyrus roll show the laminations, or grid-work, the cross-hatching of the papyrus fibers, for example on Thutmosis III's cartouches.


  1. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cartouche"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. Allen, James Peter, Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs , Cambridge University Press 2000, p. 65.
  4. Compare Thomas Eric Peet, William Leonard Stevenson Loat, The Cemeteries of Abydos. Part 3. 1912–1913, Adamant Media Corporation, ISBN   1-4021-5715-0, p.23
  5. "2. Ancient Egyptian Cartouche". Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2013-08-22.
  6. White, Jon Manchip, Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, Courier Dover 2002, p.175
  7. Compare: Najovits, Simson R. (2003). "The Social Context of the Egyptian Politico-Religious System". Egypt, Trunk of the Tree. Espiritualidad y religion. 1: The Contexts. New York: Algora Publishing. p. 251. ISBN   9780875862347 . Retrieved 25 January 2020. The shenu has come to be known as the 'cartouche' – it was so named after a rifle cartridge, whose shape it resembled, by the French scientific team that accompanied Napoleon's occupying force in Egypt between 1798 and 1801.
  8. Betrò, 1995. Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt, "Cartouche", p. 195.
  9. Betrò, 1995, p. 195.