Egyptian hieroglyphs

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Egyptian hieroglyphs
Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I.jpg
Hieroglyphs from KV17, the tomb of Seti I, 13th century BC
Type
Logography usable as an abjad
Languages Egyptian language
Time period
c. 3200 BC [1] [2] [3] – AD 400 [4]
Parent systems
(Proto-writing)
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
Child systems
Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Meroitic, Proto-Sinaitic
DirectionLeft-to-right
ISO 15924 Egyp, 050
Unicode alias
Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs ( /ˈhrəˌɡlɪf, -r-/ [5] [6] ) were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters. [7] [8] Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing, as was the Proto-Sinaitic script that later evolved into the Phoenician alphabet. [9] Through the Phoenician alphabet's major child systems, the Greek and Aramaic scripts, the Egyptian hieroglyphic script is ancestral to the majority of scripts in modern use, most prominently the Latin and Cyrillic scripts (through Greek) and the Arabic script and Brahmic family of scripts (through Aramaic).

Writing system Any conventional method of visually representing verbal communication

A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication. While both writing and speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs in also being a reliable form of information storage and transfer. Writing systems require shared understanding between writers and readers of the meaning behind the sets of characters that make up a script. Writing is usually recorded onto a durable medium, such as paper or electronic storage, although non-durable methods may also be used, such as writing on a computer display, on a blackboard, in sand, or by skywriting. Reading a text can be accomplished purely in the mind as an internal process, or expressed orally.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Syllabary set of written symbols that represent the syllables or moras which make up words

A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or moras which make up words. A symbol in a syllabary, called a syllabogram, typically represents an (optional) consonant sound followed by a vowel sound (nucleus)—that is, a CV or V syllable—but other phonographic mappings such as CVC, CV- tone, and C are also found in syllabaries.

Contents

The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age, around the 32nd century BC (Naqada III), [2] with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late survivals of hieroglyphic use are found well into the Roman period, extending into the 4th century AD. [4]

Proto-writing consists of visible marks communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC. They used ideographic or early mnemonic symbols or both to represent a limited number of concepts, in contrast to true writing systems, which record the language of the writer.

Naqada III Last phase of the Naqada culture of ancient Egyptian prehistory

Naqada III is the last phase of the Naqada culture of ancient Egyptian prehistory, dating approximately from 3200 to 3000 BC. It is the period during which the process of state formation, which had begun to take place in Naqada II, became highly visible, with named kings heading powerful polities. Naqada III is often referred to as Dynasty 0 or the Protodynastic Period to reflect the presence of kings at the head of influential states, although, in fact, the kings involved would not have been a part of a dynasty. They would more probably have been completely unrelated and very possibly in competition with each other. In this period, those kings' names were inscribed in the form of serekhs on a variety of surfaces including pottery and tombs.

Egyptian language Language spoken in ancient Egypt, branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages

The Egyptian language was spoken in ancient Egypt and was a branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages. Its attestation stretches over an extraordinarily long time, from the Old Egyptian stage. Its earliest known complete written sentence has been dated to about 2690 BC, which makes it one of the oldest recorded languages known, along with Sumerian.

With the final closing of pagan temples in the 5th century, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost. Although attempts were made, the script remained undeciphered throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The decipherment of hieroglyphic writing would only be accomplished in the 1820s by Jean-François Champollion, with the help of the Rosetta Stone.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

The early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages of the post-classical era. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the post-classical age, known as the Middle Ages, through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions and is variously demarcated by historians as beginning with the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Renaissance period in Europe, the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, and the Age of Discovery and ending around the French Revolution in 1789.

Jean-François Champollion French classical scholar

Jean-François Champollion was a French scholar, philologist and orientalist, known primarily as the decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs and a founding figure in the field of Egyptology. A child prodigy in philology, he gave his first public paper on the decipherment of Demotic in 1806, and already as a young man held many posts of honor in scientific circles, and spoke Coptic and Arabic fluently. During the early 19th-century, French culture experienced a period of 'Egyptomania', brought on by Napoleon's discoveries in Egypt during his campaign there (1798–1801) which also brought to light the trilingual Rosetta Stone. Scholars debated the age of Egyptian civilization and the function and nature of hieroglyphic script, which language if any it recorded, and the degree to which the signs were phonetic or ideographic. Many thought that the script was only used for sacred and ritual functions, and that as such it was unlikely to be decipherable since it was tied to esoteric and philosophical ideas, and did not record historical information. The significance of Champollion's decipherment was that he showed these assumptions to be wrong, and made it possible to begin to retrieve many kinds of information recorded by the ancient Egyptians.

Etymology

The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek adjective ἱερογλυφικός (hieroglyphikos), [10] a compound of ἱερός (hierós 'sacred') [11] and γλύφω (glýphō 'Ι carve, engrave'; see glyph ). [12]

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by Medieval Greek.

In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme that consists of more than one stem. Compounding, composition or nominal composition is the process of word formation that creates compound lexemes. That is, in familiar terms, compounding occurs when two or more words or signs are joined to make one longer word or sign. The meaning of the compound may be similar to or different from the meaning of its components in isolation. The component stems of a compound may be of the same part of speech—as in the case of the English word footpath, composed of the two nouns foot and path—or they may belong to different parts of speech, as in the case of the English word blackbird, composed of the adjective black and the noun bird. With very few exceptions, English compound words are stressed on their first component stem.

Glyph Element of writing

In typography, a glyph is an elemental symbol within an agreed set of symbols, intended to represent a readable character for the purposes of writing. Glyphs are considered to be unique marks that collectively add up to the spelling of a word or contribute to a specific meaning of what is written, with that meaning dependent on cultural and social usage.

The glyphs themselves since the Ptolemaic period were called τὰ ἱερογλυφικὰ [γράμματα] (tà hieroglyphikà [grámmata]) "the sacred engraved letters", the Greek counterpart to the Egyptian expression of mdw.w-nṯr "god's words". [13] Greek ἱερογλυφός meant "a carver of hieroglyphs".

In English, hieroglyph as a noun is recorded from 1590, originally short for nominalised hieroglyphic (1580s, with a plural hieroglyphics), from adjectival use (hieroglyphic character). [14]

History and evolution

Origin

Paintings with symbols on Naqada II pottery. 3500-3200 BC. Agyptisches Museum Berlin 057.jpg
Paintings with symbols on Naqada II pottery. 3500-3200 BC.

Hieroglyphs may have emerged from the preliterate artistic traditions of Egypt. For example, symbols on Gerzean pottery from c. 4000 BC have been argued to resemble hieroglyphic writing.[ citation needed ]

Designs on some of the labels or token from Abydos, carbon-dated to circa 3400-3200 BC and among the earliest form of writing in Egypt. They are similar to contemporary tags from Uruk, Mesopotamia. Design of the Abydos token glyphs dated to 3400-3200 BCE.jpg
Designs on some of the labels or token from Abydos, carbon-dated to circa 3400-3200 BC and among the earliest form of writing in Egypt. They are similar to contemporary tags from Uruk, Mesopotamia.

Proto-hieroglyphic symbol systems develop in the second half of the 4th millennium BC, such as the clay labels of a Predynastic ruler called "Scorpion I" (Naqada IIIA period, c. 33rd century BC) recovered at Abydos (modern Umm el-Qa'ab) in 1998 or the Narmer Palette (c. 31st century BC). [2]

The first full sentence written in mature hieroglyphs so far discovered was found on a seal impression found in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa'ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty (28th or 27th century BC). There are around 800 hieroglyphs dating back to the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Eras. By the Greco-Roman period, there are more than 5,000. [7]

Geoffrey Sampson stated that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and, probably [were], invented under the influence of the latter", [18] and that it is "probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia". [19] [20] There are many instances of early Egypt-Mesopotamia relations, but given the lack of direct evidence for the transfer of writing, "no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt". [21] Instead, it is pointed out and held that "the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy” and that “a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt..." [22] Since the 1990s, the discoveries of glyphs at Abydos, dated to between 3400 and 3200 BCE, may challenge the classical notion according to which the Mesopotamian symbol system predates the Egyptian one. However, Egyptian writing does make a sudden apparition at that time, while on the contrary Mesopotamia has an evolutionary history of sign usage in tokens dating back to circa 8000 BCE. [16]

Mature writing system

Hieroglyphs consist of three kinds of glyphs: phonetic glyphs, including single-consonant characters that function like an alphabet; logographs, representing morphemes; and determinatives, which narrow down the meaning of logographic or phonetic words.

Hieroglyphs on a funerary stela in Manchester Museum Heiroglyphs.jpg
Hieroglyphs on a funerary stela in Manchester Museum

Late Period

As writing developed and became more widespread among the Egyptian people, simplified glyph forms developed, resulting in the hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) scripts. These variants were also more suited than hieroglyphs for use on papyrus. Hieroglyphic writing was not, however, eclipsed, but existed alongside the other forms, especially in monumental and other formal writing. The Rosetta Stone contains three parallel scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek.

Late survival

Hieroglyphs continued to be used under Persian rule (intermittent in the 6th and 5th centuries BC), and after Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt, during the ensuing Ptolemaic and Roman periods. It appears that the misleading quality of comments from Greek and Roman writers about hieroglyphs came about, at least in part, as a response to the changed political situation. Some believed that hieroglyphs may have functioned as a way to distinguish 'true Egyptians' from some of the foreign conquerors. Another reason may be the refusal to tackle a foreign culture on its own terms, which characterized Greco-Roman approaches to Egyptian culture generally.[ citation needed ] Having learned that hieroglyphs were sacred writing, Greco-Roman authors imagined the complex but rational system as an allegorical, even magical, system transmitting secret, mystical knowledge. [4]

By the 4th century, few Egyptians were capable of reading hieroglyphs, and the "myth of allegorical hieroglyphs" was ascendant. [4] Monumental use of hieroglyphs ceased after the closing of all non-Christian temples in 391 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I; the last known inscription is from Philae, known as the Graffito of Esmet-Akhom, from 394. [4] [23]

The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo (c. 5th century) appears to retain some genuine knowledge about the writing system. It offers an explanation of close to 200 signs. Some are identified correctly, such as the "goose" hieroglyph (zꜣ) representing the word for "son". [4]

Decipherment

Ibn Wahshiyya's translation of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph alphabet Ibn Wahshiyya's 985 CE translation of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph alphabet.jpg
Ibn Wahshiyya's translation of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph alphabet

Knowledge of the hieroglyphs had been lost completely by the medieval period. Early attempts at decipherment are due to Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya (9th and 10th century, respectively). [24]

All medieval and early modern attempts were hampered by the fundamental assumption that hieroglyphs recorded ideas and not the sounds of the language. As no bilingual texts were available, any such symbolic 'translation' could be proposed without the possibility of verification. [25] It wasn't until Athanasius Kircher in the mid 17th century that scholars began to think the hieroglyphs might also represent sounds. Kircher was familiar with Coptic, and thought that it might be the key to deciphering the hieroglyphs, but was held back by a belief in the mystical nature of the symbols. [4]

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum Rosetta stone.jpg
The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

The breakthrough in decipherment came only with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon's troops in 1799 (during Napoleon's Egyptian invasion). As the stone presented a hieroglyphic and a demotic version of the same text in parallel with a Greek translation, plenty of material for falsifiable studies in translation was suddenly available. In the early 19th century, scholars such as Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Åkerblad, and Thomas Young studied the inscriptions on the stone, and were able to make some headway. Finally, Jean-François Champollion made the complete decipherment by the 1820s. In his Lettre à M. Dacier (1822), he wrote:

It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, in the same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word. [26]

Illustration from Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata published in Acta Eruditorum, 1714 Acta Eruditorum - I geroglifici, 1714 - BEIC 13384397.jpg
Illustration from Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata published in Acta Eruditorum, 1714

Hieroglyphs survive today in two forms: directly, through half a dozen Demotic glyphs added to the Greek alphabet when writing Coptic; and indirectly, as the inspiration for the original alphabet that was ancestral to nearly every other alphabet ever used, including the Latin alphabet.

Writing system

Visually, hieroglyphs are all more or less figurative: they represent real or abstract elements, sometimes stylized and simplified, but all generally perfectly recognizable in form. However, the same sign can, according to context, be interpreted in diverse ways: as a phonogram (phonetic reading), as a logogram, or as an ideogram (semagram; "determinative") (semantic reading). The determinative was not read as a phonetic constituent, but facilitated understanding by differentiating the word from its homophones.

Phonetic reading

Hieroglyphs typical of the Graeco-Roman period Egypt Hieroglyphe4.jpg
Hieroglyphs typical of the Graeco-Roman period

Most non-determinative hieroglyphic signs are phonetic in nature, meaning that the sign is read independently of its visual characteristics (according to the rebus principle where, for example, the picture of an eye could stand for the English words eye and I [the first person pronoun]). This picture of an eye is called a phonogram of the word, 'I'.

Phonograms formed with one consonant are called uniliteral signs; with two consonants, biliteral signs; with three, triliteral signs.

Twenty-four uniliteral signs make up the so-called hieroglyphic alphabet. Egyptian hieroglyphic writing does not normally indicate vowels, unlike cuneiform, and for that reason has been labelled by some an abjad alphabet, i.e., an alphabet without vowels.

Thus, hieroglyphic writing representing a pintail duck is read in Egyptian as sꜣ, derived from the main consonants of the Egyptian word for this duck: 's', 'ꜣ' and 't'. (Note that ꜣ ( Egyptian 3 symbol.png , two half-rings opening to the left), sometimes replaced by the digit '3', is the Egyptian alef ).

It is also possible to use the hieroglyph of the pintail duck without a link to its meaning in order to represent the two phonemes s and , independently of any vowels that could accompany these consonants, and in this way write the word: sꜣ, "son", or when complemented by the context other signs detailed further in the text[ clarification needed ], sꜣ, "keep, watch"; and sꜣṯ.w, "hard ground". For example:

Egyptian hieroglyphs

 the characters sꜣ;

Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs

 the same character used only in order to signify, according to the context, "pintail duck" or, with the appropriate determinative, "son", two words having the same or similar consonants; the meaning of the little vertical stroke will be explained further on:

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs

 the character sꜣ as used in the word sꜣw, "keep, watch"[ clarification needed ]

As in the Arabic script, not all vowels were written in Egyptian hieroglyphs; it is debatable whether vowels were written at all. Possibly, as with Arabic, the semivowels /w/ and /j/ (as in English W and Y) could double as the vowels /u/ and /i/. In modern transcriptions, an e is added between consonants to aid in their pronunciation. For example, nfr "good" is typically written nefer. This does not reflect Egyptian vowels, which are obscure, but is merely a modern convention. Likewise, the and ʾ are commonly transliterated as a, as in Ra.

Hieroglyphs are written from right to left, from left to right, or from top to bottom, the usual direction being from right to left [27] (although, for convenience, modern texts are often normalized into left-to-right order). The reader must consider the direction in which the asymmetrical hieroglyphs are turned in order to determine the proper reading order. For example, when human and animal hieroglyphs face to the left (i.e., they look left), they must be read from left to right, and vice versa, the idea being that the hieroglyphs face the beginning of the line.

As in many ancient writing systems, words are not separated by blanks or by punctuation marks. However, certain hieroglyphs appear particularly common only at the end of words, making it possible to readily distinguish words.

Uniliteral signs

Hieroglyphs at Amada, at temple founded by Tuthmosis III. Amada ( 110 miles south of Aswan, left bank ). Temple founded by Tuthmosis III.jpg
Hieroglyphs at Amada, at temple founded by Tuthmosis III.

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script contained 24 uniliterals (symbols that stood for single consonants, much like letters in English). It would have been possible to write all Egyptian words in the manner of these signs, but the Egyptians never did so and never simplified their complex writing into a true alphabet. [28]

Each uniliteral glyph once had a unique reading, but several of these fell together as Old Egyptian developed into Middle Egyptian. For example, the folded-cloth glyph seems to have been originally an /s/ and the door-bolt glyph a /θ/ sound, but these both came to be pronounced /s/, as the /θ/ sound was lost.[ clarification needed ] A few uniliterals first appear in Middle Egyptian texts.

Besides the uniliteral glyphs, there are also the biliteral and triliteral signs, to represent a specific sequence of two or three consonants, consonants and vowels, and a few as vowel combinations only, in the language.

Phonetic complements

Egyptian writing is often redundant: in fact, it happens very frequently that a word is followed by several characters writing the same sounds, in order to guide the reader. For example, the word nfr, "beautiful, good, perfect", was written with a unique triliteral that was read as nfr:

Egyptian hieroglyphs

However, it is considerably more common to add to that triliteral, the uniliterals for f and r. The word can thus be written as nfr+f+r, but one still reads it merely as nfr. The two alphabetic characters are adding clarity to the spelling of the preceding triliteral hieroglyph.

Redundant characters accompanying biliteral or triliteral signs are called phonetic complements (or complementaries). They can be placed in front of the sign (rarely), after the sign (as a general rule), or even framing it (appearing both before and after). Ancient Egyptian scribes consistently avoided leaving large areas of blank space in their writing, and might add additional phonetic complements or sometimes even invert the order of signs if this would result in a more aesthetically pleasing appearance (good scribes attended to the artistic, and even religious, aspects of the hieroglyphs, and would not simply view them as a communication tool). Various examples of the use of phonetic complements can be seen below:

Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
md +d +w (the complementary d is placed after the sign) → it reads mdw, meaning "tongue".
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
ḫ +p +ḫpr +r +j (the four complementaries frame the triliteral sign of the scarab beetle) → it reads ḫpr.j, meaning the name "Khepri", with the final glyph being the determinative for 'ruler or god'.

Notably, phonetic complements were also used to allow the reader to differentiate between signs that are homophones, or which do not always have a unique reading. For example, the symbol of "the seat" (or chair):

Egyptian hieroglyphs
– This can be read st, ws and ḥtm, according to the word in which it is found. The presence of phonetic complements—and of the suitable determinative—allows the reader to know which of the three readings to choose:
  • 1st Reading: st
    Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    st, written st+t ; the last character is the determinative of "the house" or that which is found there, meaning "seat, throne, place";
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
st (written st+t ; the "egg" determinative is used for female personal names in some periods), meaning "Isis";
  • 2nd Reading: ws
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    wsjr (written ws+jr, with, as a phonetic complement, "the eye", which is read jr, following the determinative of "god"), meaning "Osiris";
  • 3rd Reading: ḥtm
    Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    ḥtm.t (written ḥ+ḥtm+m+t, with the determinative of "Anubis" or "the jackal"), meaning a kind of wild animal;
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
ḥtm (written ḥ +ḥtm +t, with the determinative of the flying bird), meaning "to disappear".

Finally, it sometimes happens that the pronunciation of words might be changed because of their connection to Ancient Egyptian: in this case, it is not rare for writing to adopt a compromise in notation, the two readings being indicated jointly. For example, the adjective bnj, "sweet", became bnr. In Middle Egyptian, one can write:

Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
bnrj (written b+n+r+i, with determinative)

which is fully read as bnr, the j not being pronounced but retained in order to keep a written connection with the ancient word (in the same fashion as the English language words through, knife, or victuals, which are no longer pronounced the way they are written.)

Semantic reading

Comparative evolution from pictograms to abstract shapes, in cuneiform, Egyptian and Chinese characters. Comparative evolution of Cuneiform, Egyptian and Chinese characters.jpg
Comparative evolution from pictograms to abstract shapes, in cuneiform, Egyptian and Chinese characters.

Besides a phonetic interpretation, characters can also be read for their meaning: in this instance, logograms are being spoken (or ideograms) and semagrams (the latter are also called determinatives).[ clarification needed ] [29]

Logograms

A hieroglyph used as a logogram defines the object of which it is an image. Logograms are therefore the most frequently used common nouns; they are always accompanied by a mute vertical stroke indicating their status as a logogram (the usage of a vertical stroke is further explained below); in theory, all hieroglyphs would have the ability to be used as logograms. Logograms can be accompanied by phonetic complements. Here are some examples:

  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    rꜥ, meaning "sun";
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    pr, meaning "house";
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    swt (sw+t), meaning "reed";
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    ḏw, meaning "mountain".

In some cases, the semantic connection is indirect (metonymic or metaphoric):

  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    nṯr, meaning "god"; the character in fact represents a temple flag (standard);
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    bꜣ, meaning "" (soul); the character is the traditional representation of a "bâ" (a bird with a human head);
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    dšr, meaning "flamingo"; the corresponding phonogram means "red" and the bird is associated by metonymy with this color.

Determinatives

Determinatives or semagrams (semantic symbols specifying meaning) are placed at the end of a word. These mute characters serve to clarify what the word is about, as homophonic glyphs are common. If a similar procedure existed in English, words with the same spelling would be followed by an indicator that would not be read, but which would fine-tune the meaning: "retort [chemistry]" and "retort [rhetoric]" would thus be distinguished.

A number of determinatives exist: divinities, humans, parts of the human body, animals, plants, etc. Certain determinatives possess a literal and a figurative meaning. For example, a roll of papyrus,
Egyptian hieroglyphs
  is used to define "books" but also abstract ideas. The determinative of the plural is a shortcut to signal three occurrences of the word, that is to say, its plural (since the Egyptian language had a dual, sometimes indicated by two strokes). This special character is explained below.

Here, are several examples of the use of determinatives borrowed from the book, Je lis les hiéroglyphes ("I am reading hieroglyphs") by Jean Capart, which illustrate their importance:

  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    nfrw (w and the three strokes are the marks of the plural: [literally] "the beautiful young people", that is to say, the young military recruits. The word has a young-person determinative symbol:
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    – which is the determinative indicating babies and children;
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    nfr.t (.t is here the suffix that forms the feminine): meaning "the nubile young woman", with
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    as the determinative indicating a woman;
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    nfrw (the tripling of the character serving to express the plural, flexional ending w) : meaning "foundations (of a house)", with the house as a determinative,
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    ;
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    nfr : meaning "clothing" with
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
      as the determinative for lengths of cloth;
  • Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    nfr : meaning "wine" or "beer"; with a jug
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
      as the determinative.

All these words have a meliorative connotation: "good, beautiful, perfect". The Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian by Raymond A. Faulkner, gives some twenty words that are read nfr or which are formed from this word.

Additional signs

Cartouche

Rarely, the names of gods are placed within a cartouche; the two last names of the sitting king are always placed within a cartouche:

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs

jmn-rꜥ, "Amon-Ra";

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs

qljwꜣpdrꜣ.t, "Cleopatra";

Filling stroke

A filling stroke is a character indicating the end of a quadrat that would otherwise be incomplete.

Signs joined together

Some signs are the contraction of several others. These signs have, however, a function and existence of their own: for example, a forearm where the hand holds a scepter is used as a determinative for words meaning "to direct, to drive" and their derivatives.

Doubling

The doubling of a sign indicates its dual; the tripling of a sign indicates its plural.

Grammatical signs

Spelling

Standard orthography—"correct" spelling—in Egyptian is much looser than in modern languages. In fact, one or several variants exist for almost every word. One finds:

However, many of these apparent spelling errors constitute an issue of chronology. Spelling and standards varied over time, so the writing of a word during the Old Kingdom might be considerably different during the New Kingdom. Furthermore, the Egyptians were perfectly content to include older orthography ("historical spelling") alongside newer practices, as though it were acceptable in English to use archaic spellings in modern texts. Most often, ancient "spelling errors" are simply misinterpretations of context. Today, hieroglyphicists use numerous cataloguing systems (notably the Manuel de Codage and Gardiner's Sign List ) to clarify the presence of determinatives, ideograms, and other ambiguous signs in transliteration.

Simple examples

Hiero Ca1.svg
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphsEgyptian hieroglyphs
Hiero Ca2.svg
nomen or birth name
Ptolemy
in hieroglyphs

The glyphs in this cartouche are transliterated as:

p
t
"ua"l
m
y (ii) s

Ptolmys

though ii is considered a single letter and transliterated y.

Another way in which hieroglyphs work is illustrated by the two Egyptian words pronounced pr (usually vocalised as per). One word is 'house', and its hieroglyphic representation is straightforward:

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Name of Alexander the Great in hieroglyphs, c. 332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum Name of Alexander the Great in Hieroglyphs circa 330 BCE.jpg
Name of Alexander the Great in hieroglyphs, c.332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum

Here, the 'house' hieroglyph works as a logogram: it represents the word with a single sign. The vertical stroke below the hieroglyph is a common way of indicating that a glyph is working as a logogram.

Another word pr is the verb 'to go out, leave'. When this word is written, the 'house' hieroglyph is used as a phonetic symbol:

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs

Here, the 'house' glyph stands for the consonants pr. The 'mouth' glyph below it is a phonetic complement: it is read as r, reinforcing the phonetic reading of pr. The third hieroglyph is a determinative: it is an ideogram for verbs of motion that gives the reader an idea of the meaning of the word.

Encoding and font support

Egyptian hieroglyphs were added to the Unicode Standard in October 2009 with the release of version 5.2 which introduced the Egyptian Hieroglyphs block (U+13000–U+1342F) with 1,071 defined characters.

As of July 2013, four fonts, Aegyptus, NewGardiner, Noto Sans Egyptian Hieroglyphs and JSeshFont support this range. Another font, Segoe UI Historic , comes bundled with Windows 10 and also contains glyphs for the Egyptian Hieroglyphs block. Segoe UI Historic excludes three glyphs depicting phallus ( Gardiner's D52, D52A D53, Unicode code points U+130B8-U+130BA). [30]

See also

Notes and references

  1. "...The Mesopotamians invented writing around 3200 bc without any precedent to guide them, as did the Egyptians, independently as far as we know, at approximately the same time" The Oxford History of Historical Writing. Vol. 1. To AD 600, page 5
  2. 1 2 3 Richard Mattessich (2002). "The oldest writings, and inventory tags of Egypt". Accounting Historians Journal. 29 (1): 195–208. JSTOR   40698264.
  3. Allen, James P. (2010). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press. p. 2. ISBN   9781139486354.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Allen, James P. (2010). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN   9781139486354.
  5. Jones, Daniel (2003) [1917], Peter Roach; James Hartmann; Jane Setter (eds.), English Pronouncing Dictionary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN   978-3-12-539683-8
  6. "Hieroglyph". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  7. 1 2 There were about 1,000 graphemes in the Old Kingdom period, reduced to around 750 to 850 in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom, but inflated to the order of some 5,000 signs in the Ptolemaic period. Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 12.
  8. The standard inventory of characters used in Egyptology is Gardiner's sign list (19281953). A.H. Gardiner (1928), Catalogue of the Egyptian hieroglyphic printing type, from matrices owned and controlled by Dr. Alan Gardiner, "Additions to the new hieroglyphic fount (1928)", in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 15 (1929), p. 95; , "Additions to the new hieroglyphic fount (1931)", in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 17 (1931), pp. 245-247; A.H. Gardiner , "Supplement to the catalogue of the Egyptian hieroglyphic printing type, showing acquisitions to December 1953" (1953). Unicode Egyptian Hieroglyphs as of version 5.2 (2009) assigned 1,070 Unicode characters.
  9. Michael C. Howard (2012). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies. P. 23.
  10. ἱερογλυφικός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  11. ἱερός, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  12. γλύφω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  13. Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 11.
  14. "Hieroglyphic | Definition of Hieroglyphic by Merriam-Webster" . Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  15. Scarre, Chris; Fagan, Brian M. (2016). Ancient Civilizations. Routledge. p. 106. ISBN   9781317296089.
  16. 1 2 "The seal impressions, from various tombs, date even further back, to 3400 B.C. These dates challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia."Mitchell, Larkin. "Earliest Egyptian Glyphs". Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  17. Conference, William Foxwell Albright Centennial (1996). The Study of the Ancient Near East in the Twenty-first Century: The William Foxwell Albright Centennial Conference. Eisenbrauns. p. -24–25. ISBN   9780931464966.
  18. Geoffrey Sampson (1 January 1990). Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction. Stanford University Press. pp. 78–. ISBN   978-0-8047-1756-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  19. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (June 1995). The international standard Bible encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 1150–. ISBN   978-0-8028-3784-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  20. Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards, et al., The Cambridge Ancient History (3d ed. 1970) pp. 43–44.
  21. Robert E. Krebs; Carolyn A. Krebs (December 2003). Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the ancient world. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 91–. ISBN   978-0-313-31342-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  22. Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree: A Modern Survey of an Ancient Land, Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 55–56.
  23. The latest presently known hieroglyphic inscription date: Birthday of Osiris, year 110 [of Diocletian], dated to August 24, 394
  24. Ahmed ibn 'Ali ibn al Mukhtar ibn 'Abd al Karim (called Ibn Wahshiyah) (1806). Ancient alphabets & hieroglyphic characters explained: with an account of the Egyptian priests, their classes, initiation time, & sacrifices by the aztecs and their birds, in the Arabic language. W. Bulmer & co. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  25. Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata. Acta Eruditorum. Leipzig. 1714. p. 127.
  26. Jean-François Champollion, Letter to M. Dacier, September 27, 1822
  27. Sir Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Third Edition Revised, Griffith Institute (2005), p.25
  28. Gardiner, Sir Alan H. (1973). Egyptian Grammar. Griffith Institute. ISBN   978-0-900416-35-4.
  29. Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian, A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press (1995), p. 13
  30. "Segoe UI Historic Phallus Microsoft Censorship - Fonts in the Spludlow Framework". www.spludlow.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-05-13.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

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Abjad type of writing system where each symbol stands for a consonant

An abjad is a type of writing system where each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel. So-called impure abjads do represent vowels, either with optional diacritics, a limited number of distinct vowel glyphs, or both. The name abjad is based on the old Arabic alphabet's first four letters—a, b, j, d—to replace the common terms "consonantary" or "consonantal alphabet" to refer to the family of scripts called West Semitic.

A phonetic complement is a phonetic symbol used to disambiguate word characters (logograms) that have multiple readings, in mixed logographic-phonetic scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Akkadian cuneiform, Japanese, and Mayan. Often they reenforce the communication of the ideogram by repeating the first or last syllable in the term.

Logogram Grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme

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Meroitic script writing system

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In the field of Egyptology, transliteration of Ancient Egyptian is the process of converting texts written in the Egyptian language to alphabetic symbols representing uniliteral hieroglyphs or their hieratic and Demotic counterparts. This process facilitates the publication of texts where the inclusion of photographs or drawings of an actual Egyptian document is impractical.

Maya script writing system of the Maya civilization

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Anatolian hieroglyphs writing system

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Decipherment of ancient Egyptian scripts

The writing systems used in ancient Egypt were deciphered in the early 19th century by the work of several European scholars, especially Jean-François Champollion and Thomas Young. Egyptian writing, which included the hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic scripts, ceased to be understood in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Later generations' knowledge of these scripts was based on the work of Greek and Roman authors whose understanding was faulty. It was thus widely believed that Egyptian scripts were exclusively ideographic, representing ideas rather than sounds, and even that hieroglyphs were an esoteric, mystical script rather than a means of recording a spoken language. Some attempts at decipherment by Islamic and European scholars in the Middle Ages and Renaissance acknowledged the script might have a phonetic component, but perception of hieroglyphs as ideographic hampered efforts to understand them up through the 18th century.

The Illustrated Hieroglyphics Handbook is part of a new genre of books focused on Egyptian hieroglyphs. The book is a graphics based book with four to seven word examples of each Egyptian hieroglyph; the words are graphically explained for each component of the word, and links to the other entries in the book; each hieroglyph is in extreme-artistic-detail and can vary for each hieroglyph, word-to-word. The determinatives ending a word are explained,. Some determinatives are specific to individual trades, i.e. metallurgy, for example and are not in the Gardiner's sign list of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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