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Ancient Egyptian cartouche of Thutmose III, Karnak, Egypt GD-EG-Karnak040.JPG
Ancient Egyptian cartouche of Thutmose III, Karnak, Egypt
Fragment of a stela showing cartouches of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Aten, from Amarna, Egypt, 18th Dynasty, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London Fragment of a stela showing cartouches of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Aten. From Amarna, Egypt. 18th Dynasty. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.jpg
Fragment of a stela showing cartouches of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Aten, from Amarna, Egypt, 18th Dynasty, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche /kɑːrˈtʃ/ is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. [1] The first examples of the cartouche are associated with pharoahs at the end of the 3rd Dynasty, but 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 it was shenu, and it was essentially an expanded shen ring. In Demotic, the cartouche was reduced 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 were given the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king and placed in tombs. Such items are often important to archaeologists for dating the 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]

in hieroglyphs

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]

As a hieroglyph, it is used to 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". [7]
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'. [8] The word can also be spelled as "r" with "n", the mouth over the horizontal n,

See also

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Egg (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

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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

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The Ancient Egyptian Brazier hieroglyph is Gardiner sign listed no. Q7 for the cooking brazier. It is shown from the Old Kingdom in the style of a vertical burning flame upon four feet, but the hieroglyph has the flame hiding the fourth foot. Another Gardiner unlisted form has the four feet, with no flame, and in a plan view.

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Pick (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

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Two whips with shen ring (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

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Union symbol (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

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Hippopotamus (hieroglyph) Egyptian hieroglyph

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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. cf. 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. Betrò, 1995. Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt, Cartouche, p. 195.
  8. Betrò, 1995, p. 195.