Development of hieroglyphic writing

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Egyptian hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements.

Hieroglyph Evolution Data[edit | edit source]

Looking at some of the ancient objects found at for instance Hierakonpolis it may be interesting to find examples of the oldest form of hieroglyphs and see how they are used. We are looking at examples of interest in relationship to Architecture.

Note: this is not meant to be a complete list of hieroglyphs, please refer to the Resources link at the bottom for sites that offer more.

Format[edit | edit source]

Please list the following:

  • Name,
  • Date,
  • notation,
  • known meaning,
  • if made into an object like the Ankh and size.

Ankh[edit | edit source]

S34
GlazedFiaenceVesselFragmentNameOfAha-BritishMuseum-August21-08.jpg
Aha.jpg

I'm not entirely sure but the falcon on top of the serekh often seems to hold something in one of its claws. Sometimes it looks like an ankh, sometimes it looks more line a twig. In this example it looks more like an ankh. This artefact is a vessel fragment with the name of king Aha (first dynasty). The other image shows a similar scene but here the bird (falcon) does not seem to be grabbing an ankh, but some other object.

Egyptologists do not have a commonly agreed upon theory about the origins of the ankh. Over the years several theories have been put forth. Below is a list of some of the proposed origins of the ankh:

  • A union of the male and female. (Thoman Inman, 1869)
  • The belt buckle of the mother goddess Isis. Similar to the Tyet symbol (also known as the Isis Knot). (Sir Wallis Budge, and later Westendorf)
  • A sandal strap where the loop is the part wrapping around the ankle. (Sir Alan Gardiner)
  • The sun crowning over the horizon.
  • The path of the sun from east to west (with the loop representing the Nile)
  • A stylized person
  • A combination of the male and female symbols of Osiris (the cross) and Isis (the oval) respectively, and therefore signifies the union of heaven and Earth.

More on Wikipedia w:Ankh.

C-Series: Anthropomorphic Deities[edit | edit source]

C4 & C5: Khnum[edit | edit source]

C4
 
C5

"Khnum (Khenmew, Khnemu, Khenmu, Chnum), from the Egyptian 'unite', 'join' or 'build', was an ancient deity of fertility, water and the great potter who created children and their ka at their conception.... inundation and silt. Sometimes he was shown with four ram heads, aligning him with the sun god Re, the air god Shu, the earth god Geb and Osiris, lord of the dead. In his four headed form, he was known as Sheft-hat."

Source: Tour Egypt: Khnum, Potter God of the Inundation Silt and Creation by Caroline Seawright

D-Series: Parts of the body[edit | edit source]

D24 & D25; edge, lip; both lips[edit | edit source]

D24
 
D25

Note that another depiction shows 2 arc'd lines filled with segments, not as shown here

D28 & D29[edit | edit source]

Tuthmosis offering at Karnak
D28
 
D29
Statue of Hor Auibre from the 13th dynasty

D28 is a logogram representing the Ka. It could also be used as a determinant for the Ka. D29 is purely a logogram used to represent the Divine Ka. The direction and precise position of the arms is not known. Some have seen D28 as representing an embrace, while others see it as a gesture of praise or even defensive in nature.

The ka represents a soul or spirit and was part of any human being. In some depictions the ka was created right along with the person by the god Khnum on his potter's weel.

The term ka also appears in the ancient name for the city Memphis (or at least its great temple): Hut-ka-Ptah which means "House of the ka of Ptah". [1]

D34 & D34a[edit | edit source]

D34
 
D34A

Arms holding a shield and an axe. This is a logogram meaning to fight (`h3).

D34A24

means to fight.

D37, D39; derep[edit | edit source]

Tuthmosis III shown offering. This gesture is shown in D39.
D37
 
D39

D37 and D39 was a determinant meaning to offer. D37 shows an arm and hand offering a stylized loaf of bread. D39 shows an arm and hand with an offering jar. [1] (there are many styles of jars)

D40; der[edit | edit source]

D40

Arm with "stick of power"
D40 is der, or ṭer, "to destroy", for example "remit a tax"

D40

or

D46
D21
D40
 
Hand
 
letterR
 
PowerStick

D50 and D50a[edit | edit source]

D50
 
 
D50D50

One finger represented the number 10,000. Two fingers stood for accurate or precise.

I-Series: Amphibious Animals, Reptiles, etc.[edit | edit source]

I9, I10 and I11:[edit | edit source]

I9
 
 
I10
 
 
I11

The first glyph is a horned adder and is used to reresent the letter f. It means he, him or his in some constructions. His son would be written as:

G39
I9
Z1

I10 and I11 depict cobras and represent D and DD respectively. The word for eternity is Dt

I10
X1
N17

I12 and I13[edit | edit source]

I12
 
 
I13

These cobras represent the uraeus and Buto respectively. The Nebty name of a Pharaoh is always listed with the G16 glyph whiuch seems to contain I13 as a component:

G16

Nekhbet, the vulture goddess, represents Upper Egypt and Wadjet, the cobra goddess represents Lower Egypt.

I14 and I15[edit | edit source]

I14
 
 
I15

M-Series: Trees and Plants[edit | edit source]

M3: Branch; khet[edit | edit source]

M3
Ebony Label(tag) of possession of King Den w:Den (pharaoh).
(Note: Size variation of some hieroglyphs: "Lion-forepart"-
F4
 
and "branch")
 
M3

Phonetic value khet (from "khet", wood).[2] A determinative for objects made-of or related to wood.

M4: "Year"-symbol—bald palm panicle[edit | edit source]

M4
 
 
variants: M5, M6, M7:
M5
M6
M7

M4: Pronounced renpet. From w:Palermo Stone time.

N-Series: Sky, Earth & Water[edit | edit source]

N1: Sky; Heaven[edit | edit source]

N1

Pronounced pet the sky hieroglyph represents the heavens. This glyph was sometimes decorated with stars. The sky goddess Nut was sometimes depicted in a pose that reminds us of the sky sign[1].

N2 and N3: Night, Darkness[edit | edit source]

N2
 
N3

Both N2 and N3 could be used as logograms or determinants representing night or darkness.

N5 and N6: Sun[edit | edit source]

N5
 
N6

In some depictions the sun disk is shown with a uraeus on both sides. In the depictions of the sun disk as the Aten, the disk with its rays often has a uraeus depicted attached to the bottom center of the disk. The disk is related to the worship of Horus, Re, and later Amun-Re. [1] They could both be used as a logogram or a determinant. N5 may have had a slightly broader meaning. Its meaning may have included time, day, hour, and to rise.

N7: "The course of a day"[edit | edit source]

N7

An abbreviation of the word "the course of the day"

N8: Sunshine, to shine; "The people of the Sun"[edit | edit source]

N8
the Aten shown above Akhenaten and Nefertiti

The Aten was the sun god depicted as a solar disk.


The N8 hieroglyph is closely related to N5 and N6. They all represent the sun. [1]

N14: Star[edit | edit source]

N14

The star is sometimes known as seba. Stars played an important role in the development of the Egyptian calendar. The image of the five pointed star appears on ceilings of tombs and temples. There are for instance examples of the goddess Nut depicted with a dress covered with stars. The goddess Seshat's symbol involved a star. [1] N14 could also stand for dwa (dua). It was part of the title duat netjer, which is often translated as divide adoratrix and referred to a priestess of Amun.

N16, N17 : Land, Earth, Eternity[edit | edit source]

N16
 
N17
 
 
(Lord (of the) Two Lands)
 
V30
N16
N16
Phonetically: ta. These glyphs represent land, earth and eternity. One of the main titles of the king was Lord of the Two Lands which was neb tawy in egyptian. The hieroglyphics were a basket (for Neb)
V30
and usually two copies of N17 (or N16) to represent the Two Lands (tawy) - i.e. Upper and Lower Egypt. The female version of the title Nebettawy was written almost the same, except for an extra breadloaf
X1
, pronounced t, to indicate a female form.

N18: Island, Horizon, Desert[edit | edit source]

N18

N20: Sandbank[edit | edit source]

N20

Phonetically stands for Wedjeb or Udjeb (wDb) and is the determinant for the term sandbank.

N22: Sandbag, Land, Field[edit | edit source]

N22


Determinant for sandbag, land or field.

N25: Foreign Land, Desert, Desert Land, "Land of Retjen"[edit | edit source]

N25

Determinant and logogram representing foreign land, desert and desert land. The title of the King's Son of Kush (Viceroy) was for instance written sa nsw n Ksh

M23G38
n
k
S
N25

, where Kush is written with the N25 determinant.

N26: Mountain[edit | edit source]

N26


Phonetically N26 stands for Dju (Dw) and it represents a logogram of a mountain.

N27: Horizon, Akhet[edit | edit source]

N27


Double cartouche of the names of the Aten showing 3 references to the horizon.

N27 is a logogram representing the horizon. The horizon appears in the official names of the sungod Aten.

anxG9N27
N27
V28a
Z4
Y1
Aa15
N27

and

anxN5S38N27
N27
V28a
Z4
Y1
Aa15
N27

The second version being a later form of the name of the Aten, representing the elimination of names of old deities.

Interesting is that in the name of Khufu's pyramid Akhet is written "phonetically":

G25N18
X1

The bird is a crested ibis and represents the idea of spirit. Here akhet is formed by the glyphs for the crested ibis, the horizon, and the bread loaf (making it a female word?). The natural question would be: does this akhet represent the same idea as the akhet represented by the sun disk emerging from a hill? [3]

N28: Crown, Hill of the Sunrise[edit | edit source]

Cartouches of Ramesses II in Luxor, with the title Son of Re, Lord of Crowns.
V30
N28 Z2ss
 
("Lord of Risings")
N28


One of the standard titles of the pharaoh was "sa Re neb khau" which is sometimes translated to "Son of Re, Lord of Horizons"

G38N5V30
N28
Z2ss

I have also seen it translated as "Lord of Crowns" or "Lord of Diadems"

N29: Hill[edit | edit source]

Stela of Qa'a - 1st dynasty
N29

Phonetically represents q. Determinant and logogram of hill.

N30: Hill of Earth[edit | edit source]

N30


N35 and N35A: Water[edit | edit source]

Queen Kiya in purification scene
N35
 
N35A

The water glyph is a common hieroglyph found in texts. In the scene shown here - usually attributed to Queen Kiya, the secondary wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten - the royal lady is shown in a purification scene with water poured over her head.

Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I - 19th dynasty - ca 1300 BC

N36: Canal, to love, Nile, river, lake[edit | edit source]

Full name of Sety I: Sety-Merenptah. ca 1300 BC
N36
Thebes ca 1400 BC

The canal glyphs could stand phonetically for "mer" (beloved of). Sety's name translates to "Sety beloved of Ptah".

In the scene with the musiscian and the three dancing girls from Thebes three "mer" signs appear as part of the inscription in the center.

N39: Pool; N38: (sloped)-Pool; N37: (also "pool-shape")[edit | edit source]

Pond depicted in the tomb of Nebamun
N39
 
N38
 
N37
Making Lily perfume. 4th dynasty

The garden scene from a tomb in Thebes (maybe 1400 BC) shows a pond with flowers and animals.

In the perfume making scene a depiction of a pool is shown above the vat, but there are no water waves indicated (rectangle, pool-shape).

O: Buildings and Parts of Buildings[edit | edit source]

O4 & O5, reed shelter[edit | edit source]

O4
 
O5

O4 has the phonetic value h. O5 is used in a wide variety of terms.

1
 
O4G1D54
 
2
 
O4G1D58D54
 
3
 
O4
D21
G36N5
 
4
 
O4
W24
A8

1. means to descend (ha(i)); 2. means to send (hab); 3. means day, daytime (heru); 4 means jubilation (henu). [3]

O6 & O7, manor & street[edit | edit source]

O6
 
O7
Horemheb before Hathor. ca 1320 BC
The goddess Nephthys depicted on a sarcophagus

The name of Hathor actually reads hwt-hor Which means something like "House of Horus". The hieroglyph is the house glyph with Horus as a falcon depicted inside the house.

Nephthys's name is written as a house (manor) with the hieroglyph neb (the basket) on top and a bread glyph to give the female ending. Her name in Egyptian then is nebet-hwt "lady of the manor".


O18: the upper egyptian shrine; per-wer or kar[edit | edit source]

O18

O20: the lower egyptian shrine; Per-nu[edit | edit source]

From Sahure's mortuary temple in Abusir
O20


O23: Jubilee Pavilion; sed[edit | edit source]

O23

O24 & N25: pyramid (Memphis), obelisk[edit | edit source]

O24
 
O25

The O24 hieroglyph is used as a determinant in the names of the pyramids.

O26: stele[edit | edit source]

O26

O27: hypostyle hall[edit | edit source]

O27

O28: pillar[edit | edit source]

O28

O31: Door; aa & O32: gateway, door[edit | edit source]

O31
 
O32

O33: Palace Wall; serekh[edit | edit source]

Palace facade on the sarcophagus of Meresankh II (Dyn 4)
O33


O36: wall, enclosure[edit | edit source]

O36

like the perimeter wall?

O39: (short)-block[edit | edit source]

O39
 
 
also (long)-block
N37
(N37)

various size blocks of stone[2].

O40 and O41: Stairways[edit | edit source]

La tombe de Horemheb (KV.57) (Vallée des Rois Thèbes ouest) -6.jpg
O40O41


P: Ships and parts of Ships[edit | edit source]

P2: Sailing ship[edit | edit source]

P2

P3: Barque; wia[edit | edit source]

Thutmose III and family.jpg
P3
Egypte-tombe-Rosellini-78.jpg

P5: Sail; hetau[edit | edit source]

P5

R-Series, Sacred Emblems[edit | edit source]

R4: Originally gameboard & gamepiece; later, Mat w/ Loaf of Bread[edit | edit source]

R4
Pharaoh-(King) Semerkhet Vase, from 1st Dynasty, c. 2920 BC. Shows original use as gaming board (with winning) surviving Gamepiecew:Game piece (hieroglyph).[citation needed]
(The translation is at w:Semerkhet.)

Phonetic value htp, (hotep); for content, peace, satisfied, (happy, etc.). Many pharaohs used "Hotep" as part of their name: ex: Amenhotep: for "Amun is Complete", or "(The) Peace of Amun", "Satisfier (of) Amun" (etc.).

R8: Ntr (god); R9: Natron; R10: necropolis: Sail[edit | edit source]

R8
 
R9
 
R10

R12: Insignia-Carrier, iat-Support (a "standard")[edit | edit source]

R12
 

and R13 (support with Hawk & Feather)

R13
Predynastic (late 4th millennium BC) w:Bull Palette, with 3 different styles of Insignia-Carrier; the third one carries the symbol for the "Thunderbolt of Min"-(God Min)(R23)
 
R23
The w:Narmer Palette with 4 standards (3 different types).

Predynastic and Narmer Palettes. The w:cosmetic palettes have some of the first uses of hieroglyphs, with the Narmer Palette probably culminating the timeperiod.

Originally, the beginning cosmetic palettes were 'rough', 'crude', in a rhomboidal-shape, unadorned, but later incorporated with a powder mixing circle, and highly thematic, including animal-shaped (w:zoomorphic palettes.



R20: Goddess Seshat's Emblem[edit | edit source]

R20
 

and R21 (archaic form)

R21
Luxor Temple

Goddess Seshat, from the Old Kingdom, can be seen on the w:Palermo Stone: "creation of a statue to Goddess Seshat and Mafdet", from Palermo piece, at Palermo Museum (confer with article w:Den (pharaoh)).

S: Crowns, Dress, Staves, etc.[edit | edit source]

S-20: Seal[edit | edit source]

S20
 

and S19 (later (curved-cording-Seal)

S19
Alabaster vase of 1st Kingdom Hemaka, under Pharaoh Den.
Curved-cord Seal.

Alabaster vase of 1st Kingdom: "Seal-bearer-(of the)-King, H-ma-ka" (w:Hemaka). 2nd photo of later style Seal, with curved cord.



S24: Knot[edit | edit source]

S24
Knot as belt insignia.


The "reef knot" is often found on belt buckles. Ideogram in ṯst (tjst) for "knot", "vertebra", or similar words.[2]

T: Warfare, Hunting, Butchery[edit | edit source]

T26: Bird Trap (or Bird-Cage-Carrier)[edit | edit source]

T26
 

and T27 (Old Kingdom style)

T27
Old Kingdom style: also shows the actual "netting of the birds".
Regular style (?).


A scene from Ptahhotep's tomb, 5th Dynasty shows the hieroglyph

 
T27

, as well as a 'carrier-attendant' with pole, and a bird "trap" (cage) on each end. (Old Kingdom style hieroglyph)[4]

U-Series, Agriculture, Crafts, and Professions[edit | edit source]

U25: (vertical) Hand "Lathe" (=Drill)[edit | edit source]

U25
2-opposing Stone-weights, an offset handle, and a cutting-tool tip at shaft's end; used for drilling holes into stone, typically small unguent bowls, or larger ceremonial bowls.
Probable "drilled" unguent container.

2-opposing Stone-weights, an offset handle, and a cutting-tool tip at shaft's end; used for drilling holes into stone, typically small unguent bowls, or larger ceremonial bowls.

Examples of "sets" of zoomorphic bowls are known from the Old Kingdom time. First drilled, then the outside of the bowl turned into an animal figure.


V-Series, Rope, fiber, baskets, bags, etc.[edit | edit source]

V13: Tethering Rope[edit | edit source]

V13
 
V14

V14-(variant)

The famous w:Narmer Palette.
(approximately 3100 BC)
Note:
O31
 
Door-(vertical) or Gateway-(O31, which see) is above the decapitated souls. The soul's-bark
 
P3
is above the 2nd column of prisoners.

Phonetic value Th

The procession leader (behind the 4–Standard-Bearers) has their name in front of their head:
V13
X1
 
using the female determinative
X1
, unless the person's name is Thet.

W: Vessels of Stone and Earthenware[edit | edit source]

W21: 2-Wine-Jugs[edit | edit source]

W21
Queen Nefertiabet (Nefer-t-Ab-t)(Beauty-East)...("The Eastern Beauty"), a w:Slab stela.
Wood panel from Protodynastic Period, 3rd Dyn. of w:Hesy-Ra.

2-Wine-Jugs.

W25: Pot w/Legs[edit | edit source]

W25
Ebony Label(tag) of possession of King Den w:Den (pharaoh), c. 3000BC.
(Note: Size variation of some hieroglyphs: "Lion-forepart"-
F4
 
and "branch"-(M3))
 
M3

Phonetic value an.[2] A determinative for bring, brought, etc. The middle w:register (sculpture), center-right shows the destruction of an enemy stronghold.

 
O13

,

 

with the "walking pot hieroglyph" (at left).

W25

X-Series: Loaves and Cakes[edit | edit source]

X6:PAt, bread[edit | edit source]

X6

X8: give[edit | edit source]

X8

Aa-Series: Unclassified[edit | edit source]

Aa10, unconfirmed[edit | edit source]

Aa10

Note, as drawn elsewhere (see reference below) this is shown as a triangle with the bottom horizontal, shortest side vertical. ramp/stair in sed-hed court? ramp to access heights, as in for people or to build pyramids? ramp to the heavens?


Aa30: Frieze (ornament)[edit | edit source]

Aa30
 

and Aa31 (older or archaic type, different usage)

Aa31
"kheker" painted friezes, Tomb of Sennefer.

"Kheker"-Ornament. Later usage.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Gardener's Sign List from Ancient Egypt Online

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 R.H. Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art, 1992
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Maria Carmela Betrò, Hieroglyphics, The Writings of Ancient Egypt, c 1995-96, Abbeville Press Publishers, 250pp.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Collier and Manley: How to Read Egyptian hieroglyphs; 1998, University of California Press
  4. Schulz, R. and Seidel, M., Eds.: Egypt: The World of the Pharaohs, ; Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Cologne, English translation version.

Comments and Questions[edit | edit source]

Talk: Development of hieroglyphic writing. Or click on discussion tab at the top of the page.