How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs

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How to ReadEgyptian HieroglyphsASTEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TOTEACHYOURSELFMark Collier and Bill ManleyNew illustrations by Richard ParkinsonUniversity of California PressBerkeley Los Angeles London 01L\ litorni is a z -consonant signreadi ng1111) : mr -hrw tru e of voice, justifiedYou ha veencou nt e redt hisinmorecondense d wri ti ng s. (Se c furthe r 14 onp. 18bel ow. )13Ideograms:so un d- me a ni ngsignsThefinal signs tohelookedat int h is chapterar etheso und -mean ingsigns(idcogr.nus} whic hcombine sou ndandmeaning and whichcomerlo sest toourownpreconceptions of ho wa pict u re- script shouldwork:\7 i b hca n mouth---!arm?r: thesunI.- pr hou vr

!tr fan 'iAs tht'examplesind icate, t hesesigns are oftellfo llowedbvi whichhel psto 1. " __ ._ .. __. ", 11 ... , . : _ .." 1 . ,., ,'," ,__meant; it also serves as aspace hile r togin' a convenient gro upingof thesigns. A fullerlist of ideoj T or Jll>swor!l b;'( w} dOlhesAnother way ofwri ti ngthe plura l is for a signtobe repe ate d three times: t stw) landsTh is methodisrarerin practice, al thoughit is fav ouredfor certainwor dssucha sII(W) ' la nds'. "Egyptian al sosho ws a restricteduseof adua l en ding: msc.-wv andfern. c.\\ -t y (in dicati ug twoofsomething ). but t his iscommononly' wi thrhi ngs whichtend to co me inpa irs:I"'.'!?' ' uy armstmy thetwo lands (Egypt: Delta and Valley)tlwyis wri tt enbyre peatingtwosigns, likethesecondpl uralmethodnot edabove.15 Writing the plural(seeal soRefe ren cetableonp. 149)Themos t corruuonwa y of writingthepl ural has al readybeendiscu ssedin8 above. It IS tvpicallv written with plural stro kes ( . a t d , . . ' . ' .' "1 I ma y or ma y not a -wsound-SIgn(mthe latte rcase, aIVis addedtothetransl iter ationIIIbra ckets for convenience ):=.I1b'a ll every ' b h her Ii . .' ' any , e a vesrat er like anadjective(sec I 0): it followsthenounIt goes WIthand, likean adje ctive , agree s wi thi t :=-alsooccu rs inanother comrnnnword , theword I1bmeanine ' lo rd'' maste r' hi I . . e- or, w I CI, mliS most abbrevi at edform. is writt ensimp ly:"-. '7 Il l> lord. masterFortunat ely, whenI1b means ' lord'or ' master' i t comes fir st inexpres sion s: pu re, pnc stc c..rnpt year

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sdm hear;11 land:ITHow tc read Fgyptian Ili erL'-iJ1ypllsAs alreadyno ted , we cansafely leave it tothe ancient Egypt ia ns toshowushow itsho uld bedone. Wene ed only be aware thatva ria nt spelling is aper-fectly normal featu reofhieroglyphic writing.However. it is wort h no ti ngtha t ' spellin g' is const rained byco nventionandtr ad itionwithinfairlystr ict limi ts. So, eventhoughm l ' -tlnVis wri tt ennut ina n umber of different ways,the reareusuallydistiucuveandrecog-ni sableele ment sto the phrase (in thi scase==and! ). Furthermore, bytradition, nil ' is never found written nut wi th 1-con sonant signs as* nil' (* is the symbol for'n otfound' ); rather th era ngeof 's pell-ing ' of ms: concerns whether = 1111' wa swri tt enal on gwit h>ml asaso und cOlllp k ment(oftencombinedinto .jp). andpe rhaps a lsowit hot he rsoundcomplemenls indifferin g combin atillns, tosui taest heti c and phy sicalcll ns ide ra tillns.This usag e of signs illust ra tes an import ant po int for using this book.Alt houghyoumay be able to' spe ll out ' acoupleof th e wordsgiveninthi ssect ion , most of themwill not beimmedia telyreadable(yoush ould, how-eve r, ra pidlygrowused to reading Q as\V'b. tor exa mple). The refore ween courageyo utofocuson wordsasawhole, rather th antr yingtopuzz leth ro ugh th e use of everysinglesignfromfirst princip les,We will doth eworkfor youbysupplyingyo u withwordsintheformat usedinthetableabove: hieroglyphicwritin gfollowed bytransliterationandtranslation. Ifyo uconcentra te on whol e wordsasopposedtosingle sign s, you shouldfin dth a t youmake fasterpro gres s inreading .18 Sf- ffihrrnh-ms: the Horus Ankhme sut21It oflord of I lIt-' ) \, \, 0 lands f,r underMort' USt' SofhieroqlyphsJIbtnvy{ornpt -sp regnoI yea r11ltm personmi r' likeRe'1 *ntrnlt theperko godR. i.j dt r nhh end urin gly andrepeat edl yJ;.;;.A (for ever andeternity)On the writtenor deroft he phrasetill r:'likeRe' . vou maywi shto lookaheadto22inthene xt chapter. .A co uple of other tit les o[ th eki nuu vpicallv arcompanvingth'arc : ' . ' . f- < pracnnrncn)hmis used to refer ind irectl ytotheking .Egyptian n umberi ngisde cimal, broken upinto te nsandun its. Th eten s reckonedbyrepetition of the signn(sonnn =30 ) a ndtheuni ts by of I (so111 1=4 ). Consi derthe foll owingexample(herevear28ofking Nin iaatrc Amcncmhct Ill ) which shows howt he is puttoget her andhowthe numbering syste mworks: 18 Royal epithetsTheki ngsname andtit lesareusually as sociated wi tha number of epi thets.Amongthe most common arcepit hets co nnectedwithlife:1-'n!! m' norbr(,.,j ,fll/' "WI r-;ffims


Jdb. Jcv!lStmanr s(qnsThefo llo wing J -collso na msigns we re imroduo 'd ill themaintext above.\Vrite outa nd lea rnthe se stgns a nd t helollowtng common words rhev occurin, t h e o ppo r ru nuv 10 follo w th e use (If so u nd-coruplerne nrs anddeterminillives.2.1 SignsThefollowing areaIi! 0 m-r overseer ofX7ln rhn wtty) thechamberl_ . ' ..... __,, . _., .__ .b. EpigraphyComparethis stelawi thBMEA 58 7:i Identify the differences in the shape and arr a nge ment of pa rticula rhie roglyphs(you may alsowishtocon sider the figures a ndth e offe ringtab les).ii Ide nt ify thediffer ences int hephrase ol ogy of t he offerin g formu la.VOCABULARY._ _ ______. _ _ _ .___ v_.,---------- ._. bi -mkt Barnekc t.ill.1115-11 bornofhsbcount er of111n ttw godsC', @@the double."",., n l tnwtvgranaries

dd offering- 51-Sarcne nutet&...-.D c.... )11' htp-ntr giver rnnwu- ._- _.. .. __. _. . _....,thou sands_", Ho_ , .. _ _ i't'1 [1l( IV) dbh t-htp rhe required offeringsVOCABULARYHow to read Egyptianhieroglyphsih ity-: governo r, mayorEMEA 587(carvedandpaintedlimestone; II . 56cm)It isnowtime for yo utostu dyyourfirst stela - EMEA587, th efunerary of thpovercr-r rof Ih pr hambr-r Amencmher. Tran sli te ra teandTheladen offeringtableconsrit uringth e'fune rarymeal' for th e de ceasedisreferredto as :tablescene fromthe tomb of Scnbi (consult thesectio nontheoffe ring for-mulaif necessary ).4 68 MEA585(carv edlimestone;H. 52cm)Chapter.:JScenes and captionsTile first part of this hook wasdedicated p rimarily10 building up your knowiedqe ofthe hieroglyphic siqns neededto equip youfor thetwin goals ofreading the nant es ofthe king s and the ofJering f ormula. In this part ofthe hook we will moveon to broadenyour kno wledge of the ancient Egyptianlanguage an d howit works, equipping you10 read a wider ranqe ofMiddle Kingdom stelae ill the British Museum and elsewhere,and also supp ly ing youwit h afi n n foundat ion formoving on10 studythe wealth ofsurviving ancient Eqyptianwritings.28 Captions: the infinit iveverbs typi callylabel action s or event s suc has' do' , or ' kick' , thoughsomeverbs label statesor condition ssuchas' remain' , Amaj or topi ctobedealtwith in readinghieroglyphs ishowto get the right trans lation ofverbsaccordingtowhet her theyrefer to actionsin the past. present or future.Over the next fewchapte rs wewill equip youtobringthisdegreeof accu -racytoyour translations.Agood place tostart iswithscenesandcapti ons . Scenesare oft enaccompanied by capt ionswhi chveryconvenient ly label the action :n ~ K J spt smlt Binding a skiff (Meir1[, pl. 4)(In capt ions, words arc often writt en wit hout det cr minauvcs. since' t heirnaceitself oicrurcs themc aninc. \For the vocabulary, seethene xtsection andthe excursus ontitles, p. 103.The vertical columns of stela BM EA580 comprise a hymn to Osiris which begins:51 Scenes and captionsVERBCLASS EXAMPLEANDDESCRIPTIONSTRONGVERBS e.g..11 .1\slim to hearstem does not usuallyshow any alterationDOr; BLl NGVERBS e.g.

mu ( 0 seestem ends in a doubl econsonantWEAKVERBS e. g.

mr ti) to lovestem ends with a 'weak'consona nt. usually -IEXTRAWI;AKVERBS e.g. rd(l) togivechiefly verbs with twoor!L....Jj three weak consonantsNotesi With weak verbs, the final -I is usuall y omittedinwriting andthereforein translit erati on. Forpra ctical reasons, however, we willtransliterat eth e extraweak verb ' to give'as rdl or dt .ii Extra weak verbs behave like ordinary weak verbs, but somet imesshow add an slat e ' kissing' inthe example aboveas opposed to ' kissed' or ' wi ll kiss'? ).tWOpoints sh ouldbeborneinmind :i whathelp do es the writing of thever b giveus?(the quest ion of form )ii howdoe s theverb fitinthecontextof t heinscri pt ion?(t heques tionof[unctionsAs you will see, since hi erogl yphs on ly wr it e consonants and not vow-els, th e hieroglyphic writ ingalon e will not alwaysdir ect us10 theexactform. However, oncewe takeint o accounthow the verbseems to be beingusedin th einscriptio n, th en we canusually get good se nse out of it. The first' 100 1 ofthe trade' that we need to int roduce you to is the topicofverbclasses, All the verbs in ancient Egyptian can be gathered int o a smallnumber of groups, which, whenconsidere das awhole(orparadigm ), usu-allyallow us to seeea chform somewhat more clearly. The followingarethestandardverbclasses with acon venientexampleforeachclass:The stem of a strong verb is not usuall y th at helpfu l since itrarelysho ws an ydifferences. As yo u will see below, the infinitive of strong verb s gives us littl ewr itten due. Doubling verbs havearoot whichends withthe sameconso-na nt re peatedtwi ce. Inwr itin g, some forms of these verbs sho w onlv one o ftheseconsonan ts(e.g. mJ) andinoth er formsshowtwo(e.g. mJJ) andthi scanhel p in dist inguishing certai n forms. Weak andextraweak verbs, whoseroot s e nd ina' weak con sonant ' (-lor- IV) , are the mo st interes ting becausethey sh owawider rangeof variati onindifferent verb-forms, whi chcan bemo st usefu l in spott ing a partic ularform(we shall see thatweak verb infin -itivr-c ;Hf' rar hr- rm o rr


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