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Ho w to read

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Mark Collier and Bill Manley

New illustrations by Richard Parkinson



D Mark Collier and Bill Manley 1998 Introduction vii Chapter 3 Special writings

§20 Abbreviations 32
Published by British Museum Press
Chapter I Hieroglyphs §21 Change of order: spacing 32
A division of The British Museum Company Lid
46 Bloomsbury Street, oncloit WCIB 3QQ I
§1 Introduction / §22 Change of order: prestige 33

§2 Reading hieroglyphs 2 §23 Defective or strange writings 34

Hi rsi published I 998
§3 Transliteration 2 §24 Titles 34
Kep rimed vviiii i or reel it mis 1999
Third impression 1 999 §4 1 -consonant signs 2 §25 Epithets 35

§ Arrangement of signs 4 §26 The offering formula 35

A catalogue record for this book is available from
i he British Library §6 Determinatives: meaning -signs 5 §27 The genitive 39
§7 Direction of writing 6 Egyp tia n fu 1 e ra ry dei i ies 40
ISBN 0 7141 1910 5
§S (J
t and
^ iv and plurals 8 Exercises 43

Designed by Andrew Shoolbred §9 Nouns 9

Typeset in Meridiem by Nigel Strudwick, using §10 Adjectives 10 Chapter 4 Scenes and captions
hieroglyphs from the Cleo Font designed by Cleo
Exercises 10 §2S Captions: the infinitive 49
Huggins. Extra diacritics and hieroglyphs by
Nigel Strudwick. §29 Adoration 50
Cover design by Kenneth Carroll
Chapter 2 More uses of hieroglyphs §30 Verb classes and the infinitive 50

§11 2 -consonant signs 15 §31 The forms of the infinitive 52

Printed and bound in Great Britain
by The Hath Press §12 3 -consonant signs ! 7 The cult of Osiris at Abydos 54

§13 Ideograms: sound-meaning signs 17 Exercises 56

Cover: Inscription on a ritual implement, dedicated
by King Senwosrei I to his ancestor King
§14 Variant writings IS
Menijuhotep Horan explanation of the inscrip-
§ 1 5 Writing the plural 19 Chapter 5 Description
tion, see page 126. The Metropolitan Museum of
§16 rtb , 'all, every, any' and §32 Introduction: description 65
Alt. New \ork arc. no. 24.2
r I r Rogers Fund. 1924.
nb lord, master'
f 19 §33 The past: sdm.n (=f) 65

§17 Royal names and titles 20 §34 Auxiliaries 66

§18 Royal epithets 21 §35 Omission of the first person suffix

§19 Dating 21 pronoun 67

Chart of royal dynasties 22 §36 Suffix pronouns 67
Exercises 2 3 §37 The past relative form: sdmt n(=f) r 68
5 9 4

Na mi\< and kinship terms 69 §54 The appeal lo the living 111

Exercises 72 §55 Wishes, expectations and recpiesis:

I h c future sdm (~ f) 1 1

Chapter 6 Further aspects of description §56 The Abydos formula 114

§38 Continuation 80 §57 Purpose and causation 115

§39 Negation 81 §58 Negation 115

§40 Making someone do §59 Forms of the sdm tv. fy and the future
something 82 sdm(=f) 116

§41 Dependent pronouns 82 §60 Adjectives in -y 117

The present tense 83 Exercises

The airn of this book is to enable you to read and enjoy the hieroglyphs
§42 1 1

and the language of ancient Egypt. It is chiefly aimed at those who have
§43 Other things going on 84 About the front cover 126
had no previous experience of reading hieroglyphs, but should also ben-
Exercises 85
efit others who would like to improve their knowledge in line with con-
Hieroglyphic sign-lists for the exercises temporary research. Above all, this is a practical guide: from the very
Chapter 7 Characterisation I 1 -consonant signs 127 beginning you will be introduced to genuine hieroglyphic lexis, with full
§44 Adjectives 93 II Some common 2-consonant signs 128 supporting explanations and study aids. In order to do this, we have con-

§45 Adjectives used as nouns 94 HI Some common 3-consonani signs 128 centrated on monuments in the British Museum, in particular the stelae
(or funerary inscriptions) of Egyptian officials, as well as coffins, tomb
§46 Participles 94 TV Some common ideograms 128
scenes, and the famous Abydos King-list of Rarnesses II. Each chapter
§47 Participles and epithets 95 V Full sign list 129
introduces you to a new feature of the hieroglyphic script or the language,
§48 Participles as nouns 96
and ends with copies of inscriptions on which you can practise your skills.
§49 Characterisation with ink 96 Reference tables VVe believe this approach has a number of advantages.
§50 Passive participles 98 Verb forms 144 First, by reading genuine ancient inscriptions from the first lesson,

§51 in + noun + participle 100 Pronouns, nouns and adjectives 148 you can build up your familiarity with the tricks of the trade: everything
§52 Relative forms again 100 here (from individual signs to whole inscriptions) is typical of the kind of

Middle Kingdom
monuments displayed, not just in the British Museum, but in museums
titles 101
Egyptian-English vocabulary 151
throughout the world. Secondly, by reading these monuments, we hope
Exercises 104
Key to the exercises 162 you will feel a real sense of achievement at each stage of the book.
Thirdly, concentrating on a coherent group of monuments will allow us
Chapter 8 The future Bibliography and further reading 174
to raise some important topics - such as the role of Osiris, god of the dead,
§ 3 The sdm ty.fy t o rrn 111 index 177 and the Mysteries celebrated at his cult centre, Abydos - which will help
you to understand the cultural background of these monuments.
Rather than cramming in unnecessary detail, we
you will give
plenty of practice in reading hieroglyphs, and introduce you to the most
common features ol the ancient Egyptian language as it appears on these
monuments. This will give you a firm basis on which to build, if you later
move on to study other genres of the wealth of texts which survives from
ancient Egypt - literature, religious wisdom, royal decrees, or whatever.
This book lias developed out of a course which we have been teach-
ing since 1992. It was clear to us back then that the existing introductions
to ancient Egyptian were either too brief or too detailed, and that there
was a need lor an up-to-date course adapted to the needs of beginners
vui How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Introduction ix

studying at home. We have taught the course in various guises lor sever- demanding project. We would specially like to thank Nigel Strudwick lor

al groups and institutions: the University of London Centre for fcxtra- undertaking the English and Egyptian typesetting, and Helen Strudwick
Mura! Studies, the Egvpt Exploration Society, the UniversiTv of Glasgow, for correcting proofs in Nigel’s absence. Finally our thanks are due to

the Workers Educational Association, the Sussex Egyptology Society and Mark Meehan, who prepared the map of Abydos on page 5 5.
the Thames Valley Egyptological Society at the University of Reading. At It is customary to add a final word about partners, but in the present

the Bloomsbury Summer School in particular, we have had the chance to case our love and genuine heartfelt thanks are due to our wives, Joanne
introduce people to hieroglyphs in the hot-house ol a single, concentrat- Timpson and Kathy McFall, who have put up with us, and this project, for
ed week ol study. This book owes a great deal to the constructive feedback a long time. In particular, Joanne, as well as coping with the arrival of
of the students at all these venues, who have helped us (sometimes forced Oliver and a preoccupied husband, still found time to comment on the
us!) to refine and clarify the text, and as a result it is much clearer and final draft.

more accessible. Although it would be impossible to acknowledge so

many by name, we are immensely grateful to each and every one of them Mark Collier

lor their enthusiasm and feedback, and for encouraging us in our belief Bill Manley
that this book - and the approach it embodies - is a worthwhile project.
In developing this project into book form, we have had the good for-
tune to be able to draw on the knowledge and support of many people.
At the British Museum, Vivian Davies, Keeper ol Egyptian Antiquities,
first brought the project to the attention of British Museum Press, and

encouraged us make use of Richard Parkinson's expertise in copying


hieroglyphic monuments; Stephen Quirke freely shared his considerable

knowledge of Middle Kingdom officialdom, as well as encouragement and
the first round of drinks; as noted, we are especially grateful to Richard
Parkinson for his outstanding line drawings. At Bloomsbury Summer
School, we would like to thank the Director, Christopher Coleman, who
allowed us carte blanche to develop language courses, and also his
admirable staff for diligently keeping us all (tutors and students) alive.
Several colleagues have helped us to teach hieroglyphs at the School:
Ludwig Morenz, Toby Wilkinson, and especially Jose-Ramon Pcrez-
Accino, who is now a regular partner in our teaching. At the University
olLondon Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, our grateful thanks are due to
Tony Lcgge and Lesley Hannigan, who allowed us the freedom to devel-
op the course as we saw fit, and also to Louise Lambe. Mark drafted his
contributions to the book while a resident Fellow at All Souls College,
Oxford, and completed them after his appointment to the School of
Archaeology, Classics and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool; he
would like to acknowledge the support of both these institutions. His
work on the language sections of the book has developed in tandem with
his comprehensive undergraduate grammar course. Introduction to Middle
Egyptian, which will be published separately.
We are grateful to the staff of the British Museum Press, not least for
agreeing to take on such complex book; above all our editor, Carolyn

Jones, for her dedication and good humour in dealing with such a
Chapter 1

Illustrations Hieroglyphs

§1 Introduction
The line drawings of the stelae reproduced in this book were drawn by
Hieroglyphs are pictures used as signs in writing. Many depict living crea-
Richard Parkinson, Department of Egyptian Antiquities, British Museum.
tures or objects (or their parts):
The scenes from the Middle Kingdom tombs at Meir arc from A.M.
Blackman, The Rock Tombs of Meir, vols I and IT, Egypt Exploration Society,
London 1914 and 1915; we are grateful to the Society for permission to
M seated man mouth water-put

reproduce them. The photographs on pages 31, 44, 63, 64, 108 and 125 And, as you might expect, some signs represent The object they depict. So,
are supplied courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum, © British for example, the mouth-sign <=> is used to write the word for mouth, usu-

Museum Photographic Service. Mark Meehan prepared The map of Abvdos ally in combination with a stroke-sign (see §1 3 below for this sign):

on page 55.
r mouth

However, very few words are actually written in this way. Instead, hicro-
J. j. j-

Authors' note: Due to refurbishment work at the British Museum during

glyphic picture-signs are used to convey the sound (and meaning) of the
1997-8, it has not always been possible lor the authors to collate their
ancient Egyptian language, just as the letters of our own alphabet convey
own copies against the original monuments. the sounds of English. So, for example, the hieroglyphs above the figure
roasting the goose do not read reed, duck, man, face etc., which makes no
sense; rather, they convey the sounds of various words in Egyptian which
together have Lite following meaning:

have been roasting since the

beginning of time - have never I

seen the like of this goose'

(Meir TIT. pi. 23)

Tlie purpose of this book is to show you just how this is done.

2 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Hieroglyphs

§2 Reading hieroglyphs contributes a single sound towards the reading of a word, rather like the let-
How then can hieroglyphs be read to show us something of the sound of an ters of our own alphabet:
amictn Egyptian word? rhe easiest way lo see this is through looking ai a
real example. The sign n depicts a schematic house (in plan) and is used to SIGN TRANS-
write the word for house’ as follows (I is the stroke-sign already noted
m ill 1 3 S sh

^ pr house
n n A k k

As it happens, this word based on the two consonants p and r combined

or r r k k
to give pr. We shall discuss the way the ancient Egyptian word is put into our

own writing system - how it is transliterated -in §§3 and 4 below. Now, there h h E 9 g


another word which makes use of
word for 'go out', 'leave'. In hieroglyphs this
the same sound combination p and r,
is written as: V ? h


t t

A Pr g° out, leave J t tj

h kh d d
In this word, n is no longer being used to depict a house, but rather to
'picture' the sound combination pr (this is discussed in Chapter 2). Put more r f s s d j

formally, n is being used as a sound-sign or phonogram. This is termed the

rebus principle; it is as if we were to write the English word belief with a pic-
We shall concentrate here on the reading of these signs. If you wish to iden-
tify the objects the signs depict, consult the full sign-list beginning on 129.
ture of a bee and a leaf as On this basis hieroglyphs can be used to p.

indicate sounds rather than things and can thus be used The proper value of each sign is the transliteration value given in the
in words quite unre-
lated in meaning to the objects they depict.
second column; the third column simply gives a way in which we, as English
The word a pr, 'go out', also displays another two signs whose use
speakers, can vocalise these signs for our own convenience.
will be explained more fully later. The mouth -sign reads r as it did in
<=> Most of these sounds resemble their English counterparts and can be
r 'mouth', although it has nothing to do with 'mouth' here, being used transliterated directly into familiar letters from our own alphabet. However,
instead to complement or clarity the reading of m pr (this is discussed in
some 1 -consonant
or written English,
signs are used to represent sounds not present in
and these require
Chapter 2). The walking legs A are used as a determinative, a sign sometimes specially adapted transliteration sym-
placed at the end of a word to give a general idea of its meaning, here of
bols of their own:
motion (see §6 below). like trying to say 'ah' while h like German 'ich'
swallowing. Made by
§3 Transliteration clenching the throat muscles:
to imitate, say 'a/o' with s as in 'ship'
In the last section w'e rendered into our writing system as pr. It is the finger on throat
normal practice among Egyptologists to transliterate the sounds of a hiero-
glyphic word in this way. It is a very good discipline to get used to this right glottal stop, like Cockney back k, made further back
from the beginning and 'bo^le' for 'bottle' ^ in the mouth
we encourage you always to transliterate when
reading. The only real oddity about this is that hieroglyphs are not used to emphatic h, made in the
^ s=> t like 'tune'
write vowels (a, e, i, o, u), only consonants; although this will seem a bit throat

strange at first, you should soon get used to it.

h like Scottish 'loch'
like French 'dieu' or
English 'joke'
§4 -consonant signs

It is now time to get you started reading hieroglyphs for yourself. The most Each -consonant sign represents a distinct sound in the ancient Egyptian

important hieroglyphs are the 1 -consonant signs, where each hieroglyph language and so each needs its own transliteration symbol. It is important to
4 Howto read l gyp turn hieroglyphs Hieroglyphs

include all the various dots and dashes when transliterating - they are not and then carry on as normal. You will see a number of examples ot grouping
optional. In transliteration you should use the proper symbol given in the throughout the rest of this chapter. You may wisli to read this paragraph
second column ol the table on p. 3. his ts true even we rind it diificult to
I it again when reading $7 on the direction of writing.

tell the difference between two sounds. For example, k and k are quite dif-
At this point, you may wish to attempt Exercises LI and 1.2 on pp. 10-11.
ferent sounds in Egyptian, even though distinguishing between them is
rather difficult for us as English speakers.
There is no need to try and pronounce ancient Egyptian words exactly §6 Determinatives: meaning-signs

(in any case this is impossible, since the vowels are not written out for us).
So far we have studied words written out with sound-signs alone. However,

and vocalise in hieroglyphic writing words are sometimes written with meaning-signs, or
However, it is useful to be able to read out your transliterations
them out by purely con- determinatives , placed at the end ol the word after the sound-signs. The fol-
whole words, rather than spelling sign sign. So, a

ventional pronunciation, entirely for our convenience, is usually adopted.

lowing are examples of some common determinatives and words written
with them:
These are the renderings given in the third column in the table on p. 3.

Many signs have values similar to letters of our own alphabet and present
man and his occupations s man
no problem, whereas the more unusual ones are usually given a convenient
English approximation. We also need to add vowels. The convention nor-
mally adopted is to insert an 'e' between each consonant, except in the cases god, king skr tthe god) Soker

of? and r
, where ‘a’ is used, and w, where 'u' is sometimes used because they
are easier to pronounce. Once again, these pronunciations are purely a prac- sun, light, lime hrw day
Jr w
tical convenience and are not intended to bear any relation to spoken
Egyptian. For example, the following is the word for 'birds', tpdw (a writing
motion hib send
discussed in §8 1, given with its transliteration and its English meaning:

ki V> 3
*P dw birds small bird used for bad.
weak or little things Jx
n ft

bin bad. evil

Purely for our own convenience we could pronounce this 'apedu'.

town, village kis Qis (place-name)

§5 Arrangement of signs
It may already have struck you, from looking at the examples discussed so Determinatives do not contribute to the sounds of the word and so are not
far, that hieroglyphs are not arranged one after the other as in our own transliterated. From our point of view, they simply help us to gel some gen-
alphabetic system, but in balanced groups or 'blocks' arranged to fill the eral idea of themeaning of a word. A large number of signs can be used as
available space. In particular, some signs are placed over others in order to determinatives, but for two reasons this fact should not get in your way.
fill the space in a more pleasing manner. As an example, here is the name of First, as already mentioned,
we do not transliterate determinatives, so they
the official Senbi (snhi) from Exercise .8 on p. 13: 1 do not need to be at the centre of your attention, especially early on in your
studies. Secondly, in the inscriptionsyou will be reading in this book deter-

X minatives are quite frequently omitted. However, if you are bothered by a
A 1 svA

particular determinative, consult the full sign-list beginning on p. 129.

Two other common determinatives require a lit lie more description.
j£j) (not to be confused with
what can be taken
^ 'man') is the meaning-sign used with words
for in or expelled through the mouth, either literally (eat-
The name is written from left to right, starting with the s (1). But notice that
ing, speaking) or metaphorically (emotions, attitudes, thinking) as well as
the signs making up the name are grouped together, so that the n (2), as a
the relevant activities connected with these, for example:
long thin sign, is placed above both the tall thin signs for b (3) and (4), i

forming a block. The rule for such arrangements is quite simple: when you n
rwS* nis call out, summon
meet a block of hieroglyphs, read the top one(s) before the bottom one(s)
6 How to rood Egyptian hieroglyphs llieroglyphs /

The most common determinative, however, is the papyrus roll, used for ticular, they often formed a fundamental part of the aesthetic scheme of a
abstract words or concepts. Although such words could not easily be repre- monument. Although we shall continue to present the hieroglyphs in left -

sented by a picture, they could be written down, for example on papyrus, lo-iiglu uider within the text of Lliis book, when you study teal examples of
thus acquiring a tangible physical form. This written form could then be inscriptions, these may well be organised from right to left (this is in fact the
depicted in the shape of the rolled- up papyrus sheet: more usual direction) and possibly in columns. Fortunately, there is a very
simple trick to reading hieroglyphs in the right order:
snb health, healthy
Read into the front or faces of the various signs , and from above to below.
0 © I shr counsel, plan, conduct, manner
Put another way, signs normally look towards the beginning of the text.
One important word often written with the papyrus roll determinative is: So, if we look at the following scene, the hieroglyphs are to be read in
the order numbered. Notice that the orientation of a figure helps, particu-
ht thing(s)
Ql I I
larly when there are not many signs with a clear 'front':

The word ht is often written with the plural strokes i

(see §8 below),
although it is not itself a plural word. Notice that, for reasons of spacing, the
papyrus roll can be positioned either horizontally or vertically -you will find
that a number of long thin signs can be arranged like this.
Sometimes a word can have more than one determinative:

£~n individual, ordinary man, person Offering scene from the

u j^JaL " (from root meaning 'little, small')
tomb of Senbi at Meir
(read from right to left)
Having a determinative thus gives us a second way of getting at a word
(Meir I, pi. 9)
- a general clue as to its meaning. This has the advantage that we can distin-
guish between two words written with the same sound-signs:

°ld' die °ld a d° ra bon, praise

As we shall see in Chapter 2, there are other features of the hieroglyphic In this case, the inscription is fitted into the space surrounding the figure.
script which tend to ensure that different words are written differently even The overall direction of writing is indicated best by the foot-sign (10): to read
when they share the same sounds. into the front of this sign we need to read from right to left, the direction we
In practice, however, as on the monumental inscriptions we shall be would also need to look into the face of the accompanying figure. Vertically,
studying in this book, determinatives are often omitted. For example, in we always read from top bottom (sec §5 above), so the text begins at the
Exercise 1.2 you are asked to transliterate the following words (from the top right. The first three signs read horizontally above the top of the foreleg
roasting scene in §1) without determinatives. They are shown here along- of beef carried by the figure. The remaining signs then read down the col-
side examples with a determinative: umn, but still from right to left within each block, as indicated by nos 4-13.
You may well recognise the name of Senbi discussed in §5 above. Compare
r ° as ’ KC-ose
the right-to-left writing of this name (nos 8-11) with the left- to-right order-
ing given in §5 (taken from another inscription in Senbi's tomb). To increase
At this point, you may wish to attempt Exercise 1.3 on p. IE your confidence in this skill, a full vocabulary for this inscription is provided
at the end of this chapter, so that you can practise reading it for yourself.
§7 Direction of writing
As an example reading from left to right, we can look once more at the
So far, we have ordered the hieroglyphs following our own system of writ-
ing, i.e. writing them in lines from left to right. However, hieroglyphs were
inscription we used to introduce this book, shown on p. 8 with the order of
the signs of the first line.
used in a more decorative manner than letters in our writing system; in par-
iS How U 1
ii’iiii } ijyplhin luthylyphs HiL'nhjlyphs

indicate the plural, the -wending is often simply left out of the writing (and
transliterated in brackets i, leaving a more compact group of hieroglyphs:

0 tx t ipdw or ipd(w)
^ bird:

§9 Nouns
Learning to read hieroglyphs however, only one part of reading a hiero-

glyphic inscription, especially if you aspire to making real progress with your
studies. Since hieroglyphs were used by the ancient Egyptians to write down
their own language, it is necessary to build up a familiarity with how words
are put together in Egyptian. Throughout this book, we will introduce you
step by step to the most common features of ancient Egyptian which you are
likely to meet in the sort of inscriptions studied here. Some of the ways
Egyptian works are rather like English, and so will seem quite normal to
you, but some of its features are not as we would expect from English, and
Tn this example, there are two rows of inscriptions, an upper one will need a little more discussion and thought.
which is read first and a lower one, read second. Notice, once again, that the As a starting point, it is useful to know something about nouns in
hieroglyphs have been fitted around the figure. So, Line 1 reads from left to
Egyptian (nouns are the words typically used to refer to people, objects,
right horizontally (reading into the face of the chick, the sealed man, the owl living things and the like). In Egyptian, all nouns are treated as being either
and the bird in flight) and then at the end turns the corner, as it were, drop-
masculine or feminine, even if there is no obvious reason (to us) why this
ping down column with nos 13-15. As with our writing system,
to finish in a
should be the case; you may be familiar with a similar convention in French.
we then return to the start of the next line and read along once more (into Fortunately, this distinction is very easy to spot in ancient Egyptian, since
the face of signs such as the seated man and the chick).
feminine nouns almost always end in ^ -t, whereas masculine nouns rarely
As these examples also indicate, hieroglyphic signs were placed in a
do. For example:
continuous sequence without any punctuation marks or word spacings. No
doubt this will seem quite intimidating at first, but we hope to show you by .s' man si woman
example that, as you become familiar with the script and gain a grasp of
useiul words, this Also there are no special words for 'the' or 'a' in classical Egyptian and so
is nothing like as bad as it might seem. Exercise 1.8 (see
pp. 1 3-14) will give you further practice in this skill. § i
s 'man' can mean either 'a man' or 'the man' (although one or the other
often suggests itself in translation into English).

§8 J
i and w and plurals One feature of Egyptian which is rather like English is the use of prep-

Hieroglyphic writing is quite economical. Along with vowels, the conso-

ositions (words which are 'pre-posed', or put before, others) to indicate
nants i and w are often omitted in writing, except at the beginning of locations ('in'), directions ('towards'), limes ('during'), accompaniment

words. This is particularly true for grammatical endings. For example, the ('with') and how things arc done ('by'). As in English, the simplest
plural is indicated by a -w ending (just as it is typically indicated in English
prepositions tend to be very short words and are written with -consonant 1

by adding '-s', as in 'bird', 'birds'); this is sometimes fully written out, but
more often the - it' is omitted. The word for 'bird' (singular) is:
js\ m in, with, from, as by
a fpd bird, fowl

n to (wards) (people), for hnr wi h i

For our convenience this word can be sounded 'aped'.

This is made plural by adding on a -via A plural determinative of three to (wards) (place), at

strokes i i is also usually added. Since the determinative i i i suffices to

10 How to rend Egyptian hieroglyphs Hieroglyphs

For example: 1.2 Words from the roasting scene

In the roasting scene used in our introduction, some words are written out
^ L J nt nr in the house ,
~ . r nr to the house
with 1 -consonant signs. Transliterate the following and sec if you can isolate
utfS I I

the words in the original scene in §1:

n srtbi for Senbi 1 in snbl by Senbi
§10 Adjectives 1.3 Gods' names
An adjective is a word used to describe a noun, to give it a particular prop- The names of certain gods are typically written with 1 -consonant signs.
erty or quality (e.g. 'a stupid man', 'a clever woman'). The distinctive Transliterate the following. Once again, the traditional English rendering
feature about adjectives in Egyptian is that they follow their nouns and also
will help to guide you inmost cases (although 'Anubis' is derived from a
they agree with the noun - if the noun is feminine and ends in -t, then so Greek version of the god's name - 'Inpu' or 'Anpu' might be a more conven-
does the adjective: tional rendering into English). Remember to use the proper transliteration

s bin the/an evil man si bint the/an evil woman symbols from the second column in the table in §4. Any unfamilar sign
(such as the seated dog) is a determinative and so not to be transliterated:
The word for 'this' behaves in a similar manner:
pn this (masc.) tn this (fern.)
q US Hekct

Ptah Sebek or Sobek

Like adjectives, pn and In follow their noun and agree with it. An example
Ra or Kc Seker or Soker
of this occurs in the inscription used at the beginning of this book, where the
text ends with the phrase 'this goose':
'Sobek' and 'Soker' arc usually rendered with an 'o' because of the Greek
srw pn this goose forms of these names. There is nothing of importance in this traditional

Many readers of this book will be familiar with the famous pharaoh
Akhenaten, his w’ife Nefertiti, and Akhenaten's innovative religious pro-
Exercises gramme centred on the solar disc, the Aten. In hieroglyphs, the Aten is

written as follows. Once again, try to transliterate:

1.1 Kings' names
A Aten
You are now in a position to read the names of several Old Kingdom kings.
First, here name of the famous builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza,
is the 'Aten', like Anubis', show's the alternative conventional use of 'a' for initial
who is usually known by a Greek adaptation of his name as 'Cheops'. In / ('Iten' would be the other way of pronouncing this word in English).
hieroglyphs his name is written as follows (we have given you a conven-
tional rendering in English afterwards to guide you in your transliteration: 1.4 Transliterating words
for the use of the name-ring or cartouche see p. 20): Transliterate the following words written with 1 -consonant signs and deter-
minatives (any sign which is not a 1 -consonant sign is a determinative and
need not be transliterated):

Here are two iurther names of Old Kingdom kings. The first is one of
individual, ordinary
two names of a 5th dynasty king, Djedkare Isesi. Which is given here? The man, person name
second is a name shared by two kings of the 6th dynasty:

12 ® festival bad. evil

excellent, effective,
bird, fowl
12 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Hieroglyphs 1 }

The scene on p. 12 was used to illustrate the use of hieroglyphs written in

right-to-left order in §7 above. Have a go at translating the caption with the
help of the vocabulary provided and the ordering of the signs given in §7.
(The context of the scene is that the figure is offering the foreleg of a slaugh-
tered bull to the tomb owner Senbi; the inscription relates his speech.) This
exercise is useful in illustrating a couple of other points as well. First, these
are drawings of real hieroglyphs found on the wall of the tomb of Senbi and
not the standard hieroglyphs of a font such as that used in this book (recall
how English written letters differ a little from standard type fonts). This is

really just a matter of getting used to variability, particularly in the infill of

signs - use the vocabulary provided to see the standard hieroglyphs. Sec-
ondly, the inscription contains words written in other ways than with 1-

consonant signs which you will not be able to read through at present.

Instead, use a 'cut-and-paste' approach, relying on us to isolate the correct

groups of hieroglyphs in the vocabulary and to give their correct reading and
meaning. You should just 'cut-and-paste' the relevant groups into your
translations. By the end of the next chapter, even these words should be
clear to you.


tm r -hrw the justified n ki n for the ka of

foreleg (of ox used

Senbi (name)
in offering)

( mf-hrw is used like our own R.I.P as a phrase referring to the blessed dead;

offerings are made to the ka-spirit of the deceased.)

Note the interaction of art and text in this example, where the foreleg
is an integral part of the scene, but also serves as the determinative of the
word hps (it can be 'read' at the correct point of the inscription at the end of
the word for foreleg).
This inscription comes from the Middle Kingdom tombs at Meir, the
cemetery site for Qis, the principal town of the 14th Upper Egyptian nome
(province). We shall make use of these tombs, particularly that of the gov-
ernor Senbi, for scenes to supplement your study of the Middle Kingdom
stelae in the British Museum.

1.8 Study exercise : A fishing and fowling scene

Transliterate and translate the labels above the scene on p. 14 using the
vocabulary and notes below the picture.

14 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

Chapter 2



More uses of hieroglyphs


o TO
2 ^
3 r
c ft
v. A*
V) i—
The aim of this chapter is to introduce you to the 2-consonant and 3 -consonant signs,
Q- ^ which provide much of the subtlety and flexibility of the hieroglyphic script. It will also

^ 3" supply you with the information needed to read the names of various famous kings of
3 2 ancient Egypt including the names on the Abydos king-list in the British Museum.

^ o §11 2-consonant signs

hrt n Cj o 2,
X ,, -• cr The second major group of signs are the 2-consonant signs, which contrib-
a TO. rt
r-j — 3 to. ute two consonants to the reading of a word. We have already seen an

n rr
cu 21
c — iu example in the use of the 2 -consonant sign pr in the word L - y\ pr ‘go 1

3 ^
, .

V ^ C~ to*

(out)'. The 2-consonant signs are rather common - over eighty are used in
5 c n ;£
CL 3. a
this book - and becoming familiar with them represents the major hurdle to

be overcome in reading hieroglyphs. The sign-list on p. 128 gives a table of

5 1
the most common 2-consonant signs used in the inscriptions studied, and
vve shall also introduce several at a time in the vocabularies to the various

1 s- e
exercises to allow become familiar with them in convenient num-
you to
bers. The following are some common examples of 2-consonant signs to get
V) _ you started, along with some common words in which they occur (including
r; ft
pr again so that you can see how the table works):
C. n 3

LA £u
< _
= to
r f?
i bi bik servant
** Cj large
c in ^
x x - to
"C c ^ < great, love,
^n ^
C ^ 'IT
Si mr



^ nb nb
master n pr pr go out
c Jf
to rt ft
“7 ,-v i-»

~ to1

Ui hs
favour i
hi thousand

£ ST3
to c ^ ft
Consider the word b\k 'servant'. most basic form, the word is built up
In its
r C —
n 4J
cr ^
n through using the 2 -consonant sign hi followed by the -consonant sign 1

2 rT
tor* k, which together give the reading of the word as Ink (it may also be fin-
«—- r: ft
•H ^
£ ished off by a seated man determinative - see §6 above - showing us that
16 How to rend Egyptian hieroglyphs More uses of hieroglyphs 17

the word refers to a person). Notice how 1 his gives a more visually distinctive §12 3-consonant signs
writing for the were simply written out with 1 -consonant
word than if it The final major group of sound-signs are the 3-consonant signs, which con-
signs. Although we might view the number ui 2-consonaiil signs as rather tribute three consonants to the leading ol a word. 3-consonant signs are also
forbidding, it is nothing compared to the enormous number of words which often accompanied by one or two 1 -consonant signs as sound complements
any language contains. By having a mixed system in which they can be writ- helping to flesh out the reading of the sign. There are far fewer of these signs
ten with differing combinations of hieroglyphs, words take on more and also many of them are emblematic - they are used only in certain words
distinctive and memorable writings than if they were simply written out in and are often connected the words in which
to, or come to be emblems for,
an alphabet-like system (think of the difficulties of English spelling!). they are used. Perhaps the most famous example of these signs is f- r nh,
The second noticeable point in the writing of some of these words is 'ankh', used in the word for 'life':

that 1 -consonant signs often occur as sound complements fleshing out the
reading of a 2-consonant sign, helping to jog the memory, as it were, about
reading. There simple rule about a -consonant sign shares the strong,
its is a this: if 1
& r nh
f ©
nlj life j wsr
IPS wsr
same value as an accompanying 2 -consonant sign, then this 1 -consonant
sign is not read as a separate sound. So, ifwe look at again, we read pr
and not prr even though it is written with Cl pr + r, because r jogs J
,,fr nfr good
T ntr god

our memory about the r of pr.


htp hpr become


If, however, the 1 -consonant sign has a different value from the a htp ~P r
<=>Q satisfy

sounds of an accompanying 2-consonant sign, then it should be read as a

separate sound. So, if we look at the word ^^ Ink. then the 1 -consonant ,— i
>m r mv
true, right,
proper |
hrw hrw voice

sign k must be read separately, since the sign only reads In on its

own. So read ink. The two words mV and hrw have already been met in the phrase mv-hrw
From our seem an unnecessarily complex
point of view, this might 'true of voice' or 'justified'. This, as already noted, is a common epithet
way to go about writing words, but there are a number of advantages. For bestowed on the blessed dead (whose conduct has been judged before the
example, such a system provides the flexibility to be able to write words in gods to be true) and is used after the names of the deceased in a similar
blocks as noted in §5. More importantly, it allows a good deal of flexibility manner to our R.I.P. ( is a 2-consonant sign reading mi):
in the actual choice of signs used; this was particularly useful in view of the
fact that most hieroglyphic inscriptions were written on fixed and inflexible
^ mv-hrw true of voice, justified

surfaces such as stone.

You have encountered this in more condensed writings. (See further §14 on
Suppose that we have two inscriptions, each with a different-sized
p. 1 8 below.)
space left at the end of a line, and we wish to write the word Ink 'servant' in
each of these spaces. The hieroglyphic system allows us a convenient and
§13 Ideograms: sound-meaning signs
elegant way out of our problem. In the smaller space we can write btk as it
The final signs to be looked at in this chapter are the sound-meaning signs
is written in the table above:
fleshing out the
. In the larger
space, we could include
of the Z7*-sign and thus fill

(ideograms) which combine sound and meaning and which come closest to
our own preconceptions of how a picture -script should work:
slightly larger space:

The two words readjust the same, they are just 'spelt out’ slightly dif- ib heart r mouth
1 1

ferently. Words in hieroglyphic writing, therefore, do not have one single

correct spelling but are rather 'elastic' and can be contracted or expanded
arm © rr the sun

through, for example, the inclusion or omission of sound-complements.

pr house hr face
Fortunately, we can leave it to the ancient Egyptians to do all the spelling for i

us - the important point for us is just to be aware of the flexibility of the

As the examples indicate, these signs are often followed by which helps to I

script and observe it in action.

highlight the ideogram usage, as well as noting that only one 'heart' etc. is
18 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs More uses of hieroglyphs 19

meant; it also serves as a space filler to give a convenient grouping of the §15 Writing the plural (see also Reference table on p. 149)
signs. A fuller list of ideograms is given on pp. 128-129. The most common way of writing the plural has already been discussed in
Sound-meaning signs can he accompanied by sound complements or §S above. It is typically written with plural strokes (i i) and may or may not i

determinatives: show a -w sound-sign (in the latter case, a w is added to the transliteration
in brackets for convenience):
r pure, priest rnpt year

hbsw or hbs(w) clothes

r° r l J

n I

Another way of writing the plural is for a sign to be repeated three times:
This usage of signs illustrates an important point for using this book. «==> n(\v) lands
Although you may be able to 'spell out' a couple of the words given in this
section, most of them will not be immediately readable (you should, how- This method is rarer in practice, although it is favoured for certain words,
ever, rapidly grow used to reading
Q as w b,
for example). Therefore we such as ti(w) 'lands'.

encourage you to focus on words as a whole, rather than trying to puzzle Egyptian also shows a restricted use of a dual ending: msc. -wy and
through the use of every single sign from first principles. We will do the fern. £*\\ -ty (indicating two of something), but this is common only with
work for you by supplying you with words in the format used in the table things which tend to come in pairs:
above: hieroglyphic writing followed by transliteration and translation. If

you concentrate on whole words as opposed to single signs, you should find ^ ' in- arms tiwy the two lands (Egypt: Delta and Valley)

that you make faster progress in reading.

tiwy is written by repeating two signs, like the second plural method noted
§14 Variant writings
Hieroglyphs are written
and the
in groups,

limits of physical space

by using differing combinations of
aesthetic considerations
signs. For
§16 nb 'all, every, any' and nb 'lord, master' ^
There arc two important words which can be written alike. The first is the
these reasons, words can be written in a number of different ways. For
word for 'all', 'every' or 'any':
example, we have already encountered the phrase ms r -hrw True of voice' or
'justified' in a number of different writings: nb all, every, any

nb 'all, every, any', behaves rather like an adjective (see §10): it follows
the noun it goes with and, like an adjective, agrees with it:
As already noted, we can safely leave it to the ancient Egyptians to show us
how it should be done. We need only be aware that variant spelling is a per- hi nbt everything
I I cs
fectly normal feature of hieroglyphic writing.
However, it is worth noting that 'spelling' is constrained by convention
also occurs in another common word, the word nb meaning 'lord' or
and tradition within fairly strict limits. So,
'master', which, in its most abbreviated form, is written simply:
even though rm f -hrw is written
out in a number of different ways, there are usually distinctive and recog- nb lord, master
nisable elements to the phrase (in this case and | ). Furthermore, by
tradition, mr is never found written out with 1 -consonant signs as Fortunately, when nb means 'lord' or 'master' it comes first in expressions:
* 0—m*r symbol for 'not found'); rather the range of 'spell-
ing' of w? r concerns whether <= tm f was written along with <^7 nb ibdw lord of Abydos
Jy im as a

sound complement (often combined into

), and perhaps also with other

sound complements in differing combinations, to suit aesthetic and physical

(See Exercise 2.2 for ibdw 'Abydos'.)
So the rule is quite simple: when nb comes second in its phrase (and
agrees with the first noun) then it is the word nb 'all, every, any'; when it

comes first in its phrase, it is the word nb 'lord, master'.

20 Howto read b.qyviian hieroglyphs More uses of hieroglyphs

§17 Royal names and titles A couple ot other titles ot the king (typically accompanying the praenomen)
One of the principal goals of this chapter is to equip you to read the names are:

ol the kings ot Egypt. In the next tew paragraphs, vve will deal with some ol
I ntr rtfr the perfect god nb nwv lord of the two lands
the background about royal names, focusing on the titles, epithets and the w

dating formula. In the Exercises to this chapter, we shall set you loose on the
names of the kings themselves. §18 Royal epithets
The king in ancient Egypt had an elaborate titulary made up ol his The king's name and titles are usually associated with a number of

names, titles and epithets. From the Old Kingdom onwards, each king had Among the most common are epithets connected with life:
five names, of which three are particularly common on monuments (the -2 *77 nth dt living enduringly di ' nh given iile

other two - the 'two ladies' and the 'golden Horns' names - arc used less
often). The three common names are the Horus name and the names con- often extended:

tained in cartouches - the praenomen and the nomen.

emluringly Jnd re P eatedly
The l otus god Horus, the son and suc-
name designates the king as the O) U mi r f
;e Re '5k U dt r nhh
(for ever anti eternity)

cessor of Osiris (for whom, see pp. 40-42). The name is introduced by the
falcon hr. As an example the Horus name of Senwosret 1 is:
On the written order of the phrase mi rr like Re', you may wish to look
ahead to §22 in the next chapter.
J2. ft % h r r n h - nswt> the Horns A nkhm c s u
fit £
§19 Dating
The other two common names are written in cartouches (name-rings). The
Dates were recorded in ancient Egypt according to the regnal year of the
praenomen, or first cartouche-name (a name assigned on the king's acces-
reigning king and not by some absolute dating system like bc/ad. The dating
sion), follows the nsw-bitv title 'king of the dualities', 'dual king' - i.e.
'i rx
formula has a fixed and regular form based around the following words,
the king as ruler of the dualities which composed the Egyptian world: Upper
along with the names, titles and epithets of the king and the number of years
and Lower Egypt; desert and cultivation; the human and the divine. It has
of his reign:
been traditional to focus on the division of Egypt into the Nile Valley and the
Delta and to translate this title as 'king of Upper and Lower Egypt'. The « *7 rnpt-sp regnal year hr under
t_ _>

praenomen of Senwosret I is:

hm person

nsw-btty hpr-ki-r
. . , , « of Upper
the king
^ n and Lower Egypt
hm used to refer indirectly to the king.
^'©1 ar . is

Egyptian numbering is decimal, broken up into tens and units. The

The nomen or second cartouche-name,

is the king's own birth name and tens are reckoned by repetition of the sign n (so nnn = 30) and the units by
might be common to other members of the dynasty. It is also the name by repetition ol I
(so llll = 4). Consider the following example (here year 28 of
which scholars nowadays refer to the kings: hence we have Senwosret I, king Nimaatre Amenemhet III) which shows how the formula is put
II, and III in the 1 2 lit dynasty. The numbers are a modern convention and
.i %.
together and how the numbering system works:
do not occur in the ancient names. The nomen is typically introduced by
the si r r title 'son of Re' - i.e, the king as the heir of the sun-god Re on
The dare in the lunette of BM EA 82

earth. The nomen of Senwosret I is: .a n - n w,

©llll + 'vjC[©< Jt3
y 0

si rr s-n-wsrt son of Re Senwosret BM EA 827: rnpt-sp28 hr hm n nsw-biry (n)-rm f t-r ’nh dt
Regnal year 28 under the person of t e king of Upper a
r nd Lower

(See Exercise 2.7 on pp. 26-27 for the readings of the car touche names Egypt Nimaatre living enduringly
themselves, and the ordering of the signs.)
(On the title and epithets of the king, see the previous paragraphs. On the
cartouche name ol the king himself, see Exercise 2.7 on pp. 26-27. The n of
Nimaatre was omitted in the original.)
*> 1 How to rood Ugyptian hieroglyphs More uses ot hieroglyphs
Jr L. " m
2 3

Excursus: chart of royal dynasties Exercises

Kings of Egypt prior to the invasion by Alexander the (jreat{332 bc) arc
2.1 Signs
organised by scholars into thirty dynasties, further arranged into major pen-

ods knownKingdoms (normally when only one king at a time ruled

as The following are a list of signs to be used in the Exercises. They are worth
Egypt) and Intermediate Periods (when the kingship was often divided).
memorising writing them out is a good way of familiarising yourself with

This book principally concerns monuments from the First Intermediate them).
Kingdom (c.2150 bc-c.1641 bc), but the kings listed a, 2-consonant signs
Period and Middle
are discussed on pp. 26-31. Some of these sign occnr in the word exercises below; others will be of use
when studying kings' names in Exercises 2.7 and 2.8:

?b or mr XJ wp mr \ ^ nb
u &
Archaic Period
Dynasties 1-2
or i
> "* i — r mr hr ch\

4 Wf r— )
ms dci
2500 BC 12th Dynasty <c. 1937-1759 BC) 5 \ fj

Old Kingdom Sehetepibre Amenemhet (l)

h. 3 consonan t signs
Dynasties 3-6 Kheperkare Senwosret (1

Nubkaure Amenemhet (IT) The following 3-consonant signs were introduced in the main text above.
Khakheperre Senwosret (11) Write out and learn these signs and the following common words they occur
Khakaure Senwosret (III)
1st Intermediate Period in, using the opportunity to follow the use of sound-complements and
200 Dynasties 7-10 Nimaatre Amenemhet (III)
Maakherure Amenemhet (IV)
Middle Kingdom Sobekkare Ncfrusobek J
Dynasties 11-13 nh r
nh Hie wsr wsr powerful

2nd Intermediate Period 18th Dynastv (c. 1539-1295 BC)

Dynasties 14-17
«. m-

nfr 1 nfr ntr "1 ntr god

Nebpehtyre Ahmose

1500 BC
Djcserkare Amerhotep (I)

Aakhepcrkare Thutmose (1) htf hip resl, satisfy $1 hpr become

New Kingdom Aakheperenre Thutmose ill
Dynasties 18-20 Menkheperrc Thutmose (III) A further useful 3 -consonant sign is: U hum
Maalkare Hatshepsut-khenmetamun
c. Ideograms
Aakheperure Amenhotep (II)
1000 S'
Menkheperure Thutmose (IV) SIGN EXAMPLE
3rd Intermediate Nebmaatre Amenhotep (III)
N eferk heperu re-w aenre Akhcnaten dj A 5 5, vase with water flowing, combined with leg MMMA w r
b pure
Dynasties 21-25 *
Ankhkheperure Smcnkhkare
===. C9, fiat alluvia] land with grains of sand land
Nebkheperure Tutankhamun- n :

500 BC Dale Period

f=Et F42, road bordered by shrubs wit road, way
Dynasties 26-30 Kheperkheperurc Itnetjer-Ay ^ I

Djeserkhe pc ru re-set epenre

Ho re mheb- mer yam u n To aid you in further study, these signs have been quoted with their
19th Dynasty (c 1295-1 186 BC) classification (composed of a letter and a number) as found in the sign -list
Menpehtyre Ramesse (1)
on pp. 129-143.
BC Menmaalre Sety
U sc rmaatre-set e pe n re
Note: == often occurs without the grains of sand as _ (CIO) alone.

AD Ramesse- mer vamun (II)

2.2 Words
a. Copy out and transliterate the following words (you may wish to refer to

Note: all dates are approximate; you will Find slightly different schemes used the list of signs above or the sign-tables at the end of the book):
in different books.
Aj oi e uses of hieroglyphs
24 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

> fUAVWl
5/ JT

ka (the spirit
LJ or %
% sA or tx son of sustenance

As so often, the same phrase can be wrilleii in a mote condensed iiidiinei

Since both of these common words on a single 2 -consonant sign, it is

rely (although it is read in the same way), for example:
not at all unusual to find them written at their briefest with just the 2 -con-
sonant sign.

love, wish, (You may wish to consult §§9 and 10 on nouns and adjectives in Egyptian.)
road, wav want, desire

f open, separate
2.5 Words
com pan i on v

I Some very common words are written with otherwise uncommon signs and
(Notice that in the word for 'road', 'way', ^ can be used as a determinative with some idiosyncracies of their own. Copy out the following and read the

with the word 'spelt out', or as an ideogram as in Exercise 2.1.) accompanying notes:

h. Two important town-sires which occur in common epithets of the god

Itseems that is an obscure determinative here;
ci a
I ,
Osiris are: or however, the phrase it=j 'his father' is

probably influential too (cl. §§33, 36).

Abydos Djcdu (Busiris)

Written with E60-seat above A36-eye for reasons

Osiris which are still obscure, ear is a recently suggested
c. Some more names of gods: J <,r
i $ isir

reading (rather than older wsir)

it n
* i 1
< -i.
Written with D25 and F9 or FI 0-bread
bread determinatives and plural strokes. In offering
Try and transliterate the name of the god Wcpwawet (you may need to
formulae it is often abbreviated to 0.
consult §15 again):

VJ Wepwa we I 2.6 Dating

The following are examples of dates from British Museum stelae. It is per-
The names of these gods can be written with or without the determinative haps better to do this exercise after the study exercises on pp. 26-30, when
for gods: jfj (A3). you will be able to read the kings' names more easily.

23 Variant writings The lunette of the round-topped stela of Senwosretsenbu (BM EA 557) begins:
In §14 you were introduced to the notion of variant writings,
in the text,
BM EA 557: » o _n >-*
which allow a word to be stretched or compressed to fit space. The example
used was the' phrase mr-hrw 'justified' or 'true of voice', used as an epithet
of the blessed dead. The variants given in previous examples are repealed In the first line of BM EA 586 the king s cartouche is surmounted by the sky hiero-
here. Work through the writings, identifying the various signs, and satisfy- glyph, which is not read:
ing yourself that despite the differences, they all yield the same trans-
literation: mr-hrw.

~tP © BM EA
_n c— 586, c
Line 1
4Tu»q) n l

2.4 Expressions
Transliterate and translate the following phrases oth of which are
common elements of the c ering formula which y will study in more
depth in Chapter 3):
2o How to n\hi iufypiiiin hieroglyphs More 1 s oj hieroglyph*

BM BA 567 begins with a dale; the writing of nsw-bhy is to fit the rounded shape:

Senwosret (11) s-n-wsrt

Lines 1-2:

2.7 Study exercise : Middle Kingdom kings of the 12th dynasty




« +

i b a

It is now time for you to read through the cartouche names of various kings
Am enem h et ( IV )
inm -m-hit

of Egypt. The kings we have selected come from the some of the most cele- / pA

brated dynasties of ancient Egypt: the 1 2th dynasty in the Middle Kingdom,
Nefrusobek nfrw-sbk

v —
and the 1 8th, 19th and 20th dynasties in the New Kingdom. You can either
piece their names together from the sign resources provided below or you List of first-cartouche names (in jumbled order):
can go further and refer back to Chapters 1 and 2 (as well as making use of *
h r -k;w-r r
h r -hpr-r
vj< i
hpr-ki-r r nvy-hnv-r'
the sign- tables at the end of the book) to improve your familiarity with the Khakaure Khakheperrc Khcpcrkare Maakherure
n - m$ r t-r e n b w - ki tv- r r shtp-ib-r r sbk-ki-r r
The two most common names of the king - the praenomen and nomen Nimaatre Nubkaure Sehetepibre Sobckkarc
- are written in cartouches and are thus easy to spot. However, Lite way that

the names themselves are written is actually surprisingly complex, pla ying SIGNS
with the various resources of the script for aesthetic and spacing reasons.
ib r ri
J ‘
1 amun/amen-

The one factor we have not covered so far (because more appropri-
it finds a ih
heart s L (the god) Amun
ate place in Chapter 3) is that elements drawing on divine names are written
m was ret em

first, regardless of the order in which they are read. For example, the sun- 0 wsrt
the powerful one
m in
disc r r (the name praenomen
of the sun god) regularly appears first in the maat
but is read last (as the transliteration values and Anglicisation of the names
below show). For the purposes of this exercise, we would ask you to follow
true > >

a n
bS mrt (the goddess)
Maal (truth)

the reading order we give below, but you may wish to look forward to §22
en or ni
of gold
in Chapter 3 for an account of this peculiarity.
Fill in the first cartouche names from the list below into the proper
nefru hetihat
be a ut v (fore) front
place in the following table (the first one is done for you). Notice, once J

again, that the element r c is written before the other elements of the name kha kheper
(similarly with wsrt in s-n-wsrt), although it is not read first:
appear (ance) $ tpr

Sehetepibre shtp-ib-r r
h rw
— S
Amenemhet (I) imn-m-hit
sebek/sobek —^— sehetep
sbk fl

(the god) Sobek make satisfied
* i*»B m m m m m. mi m *

ka kau
Senwosret (I) s-n-wsrt ki uu kiw
the ka-spirit Li file ka-spirits

* - a « - -i * * fc p * p

Amenemhet ill) imn-m-hit

28 How to ii’iui hiiyptian hieroglyphs Mote uses of hieroglyphs

the first cartouche names contain the following element Menpehiyre O 'J

Ramessc (I) u
i\ior re
rrt r
pile god) K L ( Ul I\ii i

Menmaatre 9 jfn fi krA

Sety-meryenptah (I)
©j?£m f\ L L i 1 /

Many of these elements have proper meaning as words on their own, which Usermaatre-setepenre
we indicate here. However, there is no need to try and translate the names. Ramcssc-meryamun i II lit .VWVAA •
Use rm a at re - m cry am un Jp JL \
2.8 Study exercise: New Kingdom kings Ramesse-hekaiunu c III)
'AWM ziy j

Transliterate both the cartouche names for each of the following New King-
dom kings, using the aids provided. A complicating factor is that, during the VOCABULARY
New Kingdom, it is not at all uncommon to find epithets included within a kh (i)ah
exam- h
roval cartouches. Some of the names below contain such epithets (for spirit
pie that of the ruling queen Hatshepsut, which regularly includes the epithet
hnmt-imn - 'joined with (the god) Armin'). If the epithet contains the name mmc iu nu
A a or imn
(the god)

of a god, this divine element may be written at the front of the cartouche, Annin

even if it is not read first. Follow the lead given in the Anglicised versions of atm aa
/U7 l or
Aten (solar disci
the names below:
Nebpehtyre nh w
Mil one
lile/living the (sole)
Ahmose y qzaca /
waset weser/user
Djeserkare w?st ws r
Thebes (place-name) powerful
Amenhotep (I) V ^L
pint piah
Thutmose {[) 1
0 JSU m tj

p h ty
strength rs X
p tl i (the god)

Aakheperenre em maat
Thutmose (II) _ rm r
Maat (truth)

Hatsh eps ut - k hen met a mu n >iu: J) c^a ran
or V. T ! or ^ mry

Thutmose (III) W, ft? ms ^AAAAaA
bear, lorirt

Amenhotep hekaiunu (II)
® Sin': nh
neb nefer
lord perfect
Thutmose (IV) f ©
iiii relra
© or
(the god) Re
front, flrsi
( © & f, r-^i
Amenhotep hekawaset (III) & If
?S hr (the god)
Neferkhepr u re - wa e 1 1 re
eni Horus
frt) A
Akhenaten A
heka hetep f hotep
hfo or kip
Ncbkheperurc /'
(V) O ' ’-1
ruler satisfied
'K -+
Tulankhamen-hekaiu nusliema r&»] ,WM‘A
kheper kheperu
hpr hp rw
Djeserkh eperure-setepen re r

O w^0 being/form beings/forms

.j fcr 1

Horemheb-meryarnnn ,
2=.- ! I !
Jtr &
khenmet .we, am, se
hum -L or
joined (with) s ( w) h i m

30 How io read Egyptian hieroglyphs



AM sty Sely, i.e.

(the god) Seth

man of - Stp

shepsut r
spswt St11
>1 distinguished women southern
ka tut
u ki
the ka-spirit $ twt
Thut- djeser
> dh wty
(the god) Tholh

2.9 Study exercise: BM EA

117 (the Abydos king -list of Ramesses II)
The 'king-list' oi Ramesses II shown on p. 3 1 originally came from his temple
at Abydos. Modelled on a similar list in his lather Seti I's mortuary temple
nearby, the list forms part of an elaborate offering formula htp-di-nsw see ( ;
Chapter 3) for the cult of previous kings. Originally, there were 78 car- n rr

touches in the upper registers (the 76 found in the Seti % >

I list plus the two <

cartouche names of Ramesses II). This number probably reflects cultic tradi- o- ^
CD .

tion, the space available on the wall, and possibly the 76 forms of the sun- - H
god enumerated in the religious text known as the Litany of Re. The kings
are identified by praenomen beneath which are determinatives of seated
— -<
kings alternately wearing the white (J and red ^/crowns. The names of
Ramesses II (alternating between nomen and praenomen) are repeated in
— . yi

the bottom register and show a range of variant writings for the nomen. rz
£ 30
Reconstructing the top line from the Seti king-list, the overall format is as

3 y>

[An offering which the king gives before Ptah-Sokar-Osiris

“ A*
... a thousand
bread and beer, etc.] to king X as a gift of Ramesses II: n
^ ,

n u sw for the king

as a gift of (literally, in the giving of)

The word nsw is written using q? which is also a variant for common in
the New Kingdom (compare the more usual spelling of nsw in §23).

The king-list shows some interesting gaps between the Middle and New
Kingdom (between the fourth and fifth cartouches of the second surviving
register)and within the 18th dynasty. Use the royal names listed in the pre-
vious Exercises and the chart of royal dynasties on p. 22 to identify the
missing kings and dynasties for yourself.
, - .

Special writings

Graphic transposition also occurs in vertical columns:

Chapter 3

Special writings 48 />

® ddw Djedu, instead of l


Sometimes graphic transposition is a regular feature of the writing of a word:

_ Ik mu see, look at

In this chapter we introduce you to a number of special writings: abbreviations

changes in the order of signs and defective writings. Since This is regularly written with the determinative placed under the 2-con-
all of these are rather com-
mon, particularly in the rendering of titles and epithets, a knowledge of them is
sonant sign mi.

essential for successful monument reading in a museum. You are also introduced to

the offering formula, probably the most common form of hieroglyphic inscription to §22 Change of order: prestige
be found on funerary monuments surviving from ancient Egypt. This chapter should For reasons of prestige, names for gods and kings and related words some-
also serve as a convenient reference resource to which you can return when studying times precede closely connected words, although they are actually read

various monuments later on in the book. afterwards (this is termed more formally honorific transposition) Honorific
transposition is particularly common in epithets and titles:

§20 Abbreviations
T q
^ — ,
rh nsw
K1I1K dUVIMJl, can
servant of the
Abbreviated writings are common in the writing of titles and epithets: T J1L ,

royal intimate

god, priest

hity- r governor, mayor hry-hbt lector priest —

t 3
mry him beloved of Amun 0£ mi rr like Re
|^jj (j (j (j

hity- r (literally, 'foremost of position') is written with the ideogram hit (Notice that abbreviated writings are also common.)
(front part of lion) over .— r
(arm); hry-hbt (literally, 'the carrier of the book
of ritual') is written with abbreviated writings of both hry and hbt (without You have already encountered this phenomenon in the writing of royal
sound complements or determinatives). There is also graphic transposition, names in Exercises 2.7 and 2.8. A rather dramatic illustration of this point is
with the two tall signs placed either side of M hr(y) (see §21 below). Clearly the following writing of the nomen of Ramesses II (Ramesse-meryamun,
such writings cannot be read sign by sign with any ease. Even after more 'Ramesses beloved of Amun'):
than a century and a half of study, the exact reading of some words remains
contentions among Egyptologists! Hence we strongly recommend that you
follow our general advice of concentrating on whole words rather than get-
ting bogged down in the study of individual signs. 'iitJ
As we have already seen, abbreviated writings of the epithet usually Here the two divine elements (Ra of the name Ramesses and Amun of the
bestowed on the blessed dead are common: epithet 'beloved of Amun') have been written as seated gods and placed at
the top of the cartouche facing each other, creating a vertical division. The
mr-hrw written in full as: true of voice, justified
low flat been placed in the middle of the car-
sign of mr(y) ('beloved') has
touche, creating a horizontal division. The vertical division is mirrored in the
§21 Change of order: spacing bottom half of the cartouche (giving the ms-sw or 'messe' part of Ramesses)
The second feature is the switching of the order of signs to enable them to where the three-pronged ms - sign stands in the centre between two tall thin
fit into the available space in a more satisfactory manner (termed more for- signs (the .we and the s) both of which bend away at the top from the central
mally graphic transposition): ms- sign.

instead of Djedu
34 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs 5 pedal writings

§23 Defective or strange writings

A few common words are written without the full set of sound-signs, prob

ablv for reasons ol grouping; raw king is written in an unusual manner;

i£U\ r(m)t people h(n)kt beer

c* s(my)t
f desert nsu
;wi ’

§24 Titles §25 Epithets

Office-holding played a central role in the elite culture of ancient Egypt, Egyptian texts abound with epithets of gods, kings and officials. Here are a

locating the individual within society, most notably in relation to the king couple of related epithets particularly common on stelae:

(see also pp. 101-104). Titles come in two forms: official or administrative
venerable one, revered one,
titles and conventional titles connected with status and authority. Abbrevi- inuhy or iimhw
honourable one
ated writings are common to both.
nb irmh possessor of venera lion/reverence

a. Conventional titles of status and authority

and other variants based on the fuller writings such as: 'reverence',
The two most common conventional titles are:

htmty hity seal -bearer of the king
I ^ smr w r
t(v) : companion These epithets are primarily applied to the blessed dead. After a life of

official duty and ethical behaviour, the blessed dead were revered by the
(The leading of htmty-bity is unsure: other possibilities are htmw-biiy and living (who perpetuate their memory on earth, particularly through offer-
sdmly-bity; for bity 'king', see p. 102.) These two titles often occur together. ings) and honoured before the gods (with whom they exist beyond death as

transfigured spirits). The latter is often expressed in the following way:

h. Titles of office
Titles of office can be divided into secular and religious titles
W hr
h- -W
ssir the revered one before Osiris

Secular lilies
§26 The offering formula
& Crr—

n iwww\
"" ,

overseer of the
Formulae comprise relatively fixed combinations of words and so can be
read without a detailed understanding of their internal grammar. The most
common example, the offering formula, is a ubiquitous feature of the hier-
A number of titles are composed with the element m-r (fully irny-r)
oglyphic monuments found in museums throughout the world. By working
through, and becoming familiar with, the elements of the formula discussed
steward, overseer At v overseer of below, you will gain access to a vast number o! hieroglyphic inscriptions.
m-r pr r ms r
of the estate the iirmy The offering formula merges two related functions: official and per-
sonal. In official terms, the status of the deceased as one of the blessed dead
m-r probably means literally 'the one in whom is the word' (i.e. the one who was linked to the successful performance of official functions in royal service
has the authority to issue orders). On the basis of a graphic pun around r
and ethical behaviour in life. This success was instrumental in qualifying the
(which means both 'mouth' and 'word'), it is occasionally written with

deceased for access to the means of commemoration in terms of memorial
B44 tongue (the tongue being 'the one in the mouth'):
inscriptions and funerary monuments. One purpose of the offering formula
m-r pr steward was to allow the deceased to partake of the offerings presented to the deities
in the major cull temples in the name of the king, particularly on festival

occasions. This reversion of offerings displays the importance of official life.

*6 How io read Egyptian hieroglyphs Sp ei ia l writings M

panicularly in terms of the person of the king, in the relationship between a. The offering to the god(s)

the living and the dead.

i lie second, personal, uncLion relates l more to the private family -based

aspects of the funerary cult of the deceased. The private offerings to the dead
could be either physical (the offering of food, drink and goods) or verbal
(through the utterance of the offering formula); furthermore, these offer-
ings could be perpetuated in pictorial and verbal form (through art and
writing). In this way, the offerings made at the burial could be perpetuated
by family members (particularly the son and heir), or by people visiting the

tomb or passing by the stela.

First of all here is an example of the offering formula, which you may (For the writing of the verb 'give', see Exercise 3.5.)
wish to refer back to as you read over the discussion below: The expression htp-di-nsw is often used to refer generally to the offer-
ing formula and its associated offering rites (and might less literally be
The offering formula from BM EA 558: translated as 'the offering The actual rendering of this stereotypical

42^ phrase is notoriously obscure and still exercises the minds of scholars. What-
? Hr htp-di-nsw isir nb ddw ntr o nb ibdw
rlkJ\ 1
ever its original form, it is clear that by the Middle Kingdom the phrase had

rp & come compound expression. Here we have adopted

to be treated as a fixed,
5 di-f prt-hrw
t hnkt
mm h ipd ss mnht
okl? i,
yf l I

a standard rendering which we encourage you to follow, rather than trying

ht nb(t) nfr(t) w b(t)

r r
nht ntr im to work out its meaning from the individual signs.

The name ,
title and epithets of the god(s)
n ki n irmh(y) kv
jWWW\ 1 The name god then follows. The god most commonly named in the
of the
offering formula (as in the example above is Osiris and we shall concentrate
An offering which the king gives (to) Osiris, lord of Djedu, great god, lord
of Abydos, so that he may give a voice offering (in) bread, beer, ox, fowl,
on him in this chapter. For the other common divine recipient of the offering
alabaster, linen, everything good and pure on which a god lives for the ka
formula, Anubis, see BM EA 1783 and for an example with a
in Chapter 5,

of the revered one Key i

number of gods, see BM EA 584 in Chapter 8. The standard names and titles
of Osiris are introduced separately in the notes on funerary deities at the end
The most common form of the offering formula is composed of three parts, of this chapter.
which can be divided according to the characteristic Egyptian expression
found in each: b. The offerings are passed on to the deceased

D htp-di-nsw an offering which the king gives
The voice offering
A This section of the offering formula centres around the following expression:
b. HP prt-hrw a voice offering
ok prt-hrw a voice offering

Ui n hn for the ka of

We you through each of these parts in turn, assembling here the

shall take
material you need to be able to read the standard Osiris offering formula. If
you return to this section when reading stelae such as BM EA 587 on p. 46
at the end of this chapter, you should find all the help you need. As you

study the various stelae in this book, you will no doubt gain more and more
familiarity with the various parts of the offering formula.
f n ) m

38 How to vcad Egyptian hieroglyphs Special writings

The term prt-hrw is regularly written with the bread and beer signs, even Other offerings sometimes occur (particularly in later 12th- and 1 3th-

when the voice offering itself is intended without any reference to the bread dynasty stelae) and are usually more fully written out:

and Deer.They are depicted whether bread and beer are mentioned
mrht oil, unguent ^luooo snlr incense
separately in the subsequent inventory of offerings or not (in which case they

may have been thought of as being included within the writing of prt-hrw). =^ or litp or htpt offerings df(iw) provisions
By the Middle Kingdom prt-hrw had become a fixed expression used qDq i

as a cover term for the offerings themselves (and might be loosely translated
The inventory’ is wrapped up:
as 'the ritual offerings'). As a fixed expression, prt-hrw can even be written
As well as listing a standard set of offerings, the offering formula also usually
with a determinative for the whole phrase, such as <=> 'loaf for offering':
includes a more generic and all-embracing phrase:
prt-hrw a voice offering
ht nh(t) nfr(t) w r
h(t) everything good and pure

The second part of the offering formula either starts off with prt-hrw imme-
diately or marks the passing over of the offerings from the god by the use of:
You have already studied this expression in Exercise 2.4. It is often qualified
by the following fixed expression:
4 — di=f prt-hrw so that he may give a voice offering
°oio r
nht ntr ini on which a god lives

di-f is again a form of the verb rdi 'to give' (see Exercise 3.5). Once again, at
this stage we advise you to follow our suggested translation (see Chapter 8 Since this is a fixed expression, you should read and translate it as a whole
for an explanation). for now, without worrying about its internal grammar (which will be
prt-hrw alone is typical of 1 lth-dynasty stelae. di=f prt-hrw is more explained in Chapter 7).

typical from the mid- 12th dynasty onwards (prt-hrw alone being rare by
c.The recipient of the offering
then). During the early part of the 12th dynasty a mixture of both usages is
The deceased recipient of the offering is introduced by one or both of the fol-
lowing phrases:
The inventory of offerings:
The offerings are usually enumerated via a standard list of items, usually U |
n ki n for the ka of inuh(w) the revered one

written with abbreviated writings (given here alongside fuller writings):

In the 1 1th dynasty and into the early 12th dynasty (after which it dies out),
Qan we usually find imih(w) on
own. The combined usage n ki n inuh(w)
0 or bread
t <>r hnkt beer its
© 1 1 1
0 |£g
begins in the early 12th dynasty and reaches its peak in the mid- 12th
or ki ox ipd fowl dynasty. The use of n ki n on its own is rare in the early 12th dynasty, but

or =•,, becomes the most common form from the later 12th dynasty onwards.
5 = Ss alabaster II or mnht linen
A A /wvwa A~ X A A
Once you have reached this point, then you will find the name of the
Often the offerings are numbered with hi 'thousand' or T 'a thousand deceased, usually with a title, and ending with the common epithet:
mv-hrw the justified
The voice offering from the stela of Tjeti:

§27 The genitive

The genitive 'of' (as in 'the king of Egypt') occurs in two forms:
P rl 'hrw hi t hnkt hi ki ipd hi ss mnht
Column 1

A voice offering (of) a thousand bread and beer, a thousand ox and a. Direct genitive
fowl, a thousand alabaster and linen
The two nouns are put together without any linking word. This construction
is only common between closely connected words or in fixed expressions:
(prt-hrw here written with bread and beer signs but simply read prt-hrw
is ,

contrast with BM EA 558 on p. 36.)


40 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Speeial writings 41

pute as to the exact reading - in this book we adopt the more recent
overseer of n (vyj nh lord of
m r pr
(h e estate 'I @ ibdw (epithet of Osiris) suggestion to read tslr rather than wsir, not least since this brings out the par-
allel with the writing of the name of Isis (tor which see p. 42):
„ m-r overseer of rib lord of Djedu
djnwty the chamber LI ® Jr" ddw (epithet of Osiris) Written with E60-seat above A36-eye for reasons
J or j] $
*sir Osiris
which are still obscure.
It also occurs in certain compound expressions, such as those compounded
with ib 'heart': The writing of Osiris' name (and the number and nature of his epithets)
altered at different periods of Egyptian history, as follows:
st-ib affection, intimacy (literally, situation of the heart)
Osiris writtenwithout determinative Alternative writing
st-ib occurs in a rather common epithet: j tsir (written with determinative in the Lf from the late 12th
11th dynasty) dynasty

The stela of Ameny identifies his subordinate, Sahathor, with the epithet:
As a 'great god' ( ntr r
i), the cult of Osiris was celebrated at many shrines, the
x? y r /"""wv
which are reflected in his

most important of titles 'lord of Djedu' and 'lord

BM EA 162, of Abydos', the writings of which you studied in Exercise 2.2. In BM EA 587
Central column: bik-f mi c n st-ib=f
His true servant of his affection
(see Exercise 3.8 below) they are written as follows:

nb ddw lord of Djedu (written with graphic transposition, see §21)

b. Indi reel gen i ti ve

ntr r
i great god ^^9 nb ibdw lord of Abydos
The two nouns are linked by forms of the 'genitival adjective' n. This
behaves like an adjective and agrees with the preceding noun, taking the fol- These three together represent the classic Middle Kingdom combination of
lowing forms:
epithets, particularly common in the early 12th dynasty.

The writing of Djedu itself changes over time (as well as sometimes dis-
playing graphic transposition):
11th- 1 1th - late 12th
O nw tit mid-12th # L® or early 12th dynasty
uUJr onwar d
An example occurs in btk-f tm r n st-ib-f above. Another example occurs in
the phrase: The pre-eminence of Osiris is reflected in his other name, Khentyimentu
( hnty-imntw ), 'the one who is foremost of the westerners' (i.e. the dead
n ki n for the ka of
gathered in the realm of the setting sun); the name evokes his subjects (the

— 'of' is written in exactly the same way as the preposition ~~~ n 'to', 'for'.
dead spirits) arrayed before his throne:

However, in translating into English, one or other of these usually suggests hnty-imntw Khentyimentu
itself (cf. 'for the ka of'). Also there is a tendency for n to be used for all num-
bers and genders, as in hmt=f n st-ib-f ‘ his wife of his affection' in Exercise 4.6.
As will become clear from a number of the stelae which you will study in
this book, the name Khentyimentu is often included in the offering formula
Excursus: Egyptian funerary deities amongst the epithets of Osiris (again typical of the early 12th dynasty).
In mythology, Osiris had been a living king at the beginning of history,
Osiris but was murdered and dismembered by his ambitious brother, Seth. Osiris'
Osiris (
isir was a central figure in the funerary cults of the ancient Egyp- remains were magically restored by Isis (ist) - his sister - who was then able
tians. As noted Chapter 2, his name is written in an idiosyncratic manner
in to conceive his child, Horus; Horus grew up to defeat Seth and inherit his
and cannot easily be broken down sign by sign. Indeed there is still some dis- father's throne in legitimate fashion. Osiris is represented as a deceased king.
- 1

42 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Speeial writings

mummiform but with royal regalia, and a green or black complexion allud- Exercises
ing to the fertility of the Nile floodplain. 3 . Signs and words
or ^ ist Isis hr Homs a. 2-consonant and 1-consonant signs

in the name Wenennefer

ib or mr , _ bh or hw
The passion of Osiris is also reflected (wnn-nfr), ^

which means 'the one who continues to be perfect' and hints at his myste-
^ w wr nw or
O in
rious post mortem potency:
As you will see below, the name of the god Khentyimentu displays the tw-
wnn-nfr Wenennefer
bird (B5 long-legged buzzard), a sign which reads tw or tyw (in this book we
shall go for the simpler reading tw), but looks similar to the i-bird (B3 Egyp-
Wepwawet and Anubis tian vulture). The fw-bird has a more rounded head, but often the two birds
Funerary stelae from Abydos and elsewhere often invoke Wepwawet and are very similar in writing (sometimes we add a tick to the fw-bird to distin-
Anubis alongside Osiris. Represented as a dog or jackal, Wepwawet wp ( guish it). Fortunately the fw-bird has a very restricted usage:
wiwt) was an ancient god of Abydos and an active participant in the cult of
Osiris: the annual passion-play at Abydos began with the procession of Wep-
wawet 'to protect his father', Osiris. More generally, Wepwawet was b. Ideograms
associated with cemeteries and funerals, as reflected in his title 'lord of the
sacred land' (nb h dsr), where 'sacred land' means the cemetery. Even the SIGN EXAMPLE

name Wepwawet (literally, 'the one who opens the ways', see p. 96) recalls E7 feather on standard imnt the west
the untrodden paths over the desert along which he guided the souls of the
newly deceased to the kingdom of Osiris. B49 forepart of lion hit front
^ i

The other major funerary deity was Anubis, whose iconography is

close to that of Wepwawet; he also appears in canine form and bears the title 3.2 E60
in st place, position

'lord of the sacred land'; his other titles are more obscure. Nevertheless, the
funerary gods have distinct roles, apparent in the mythology of the funeral: *$
A24 soldier with how and quiver ms r army, expedition

Anubis embalmed the body of the deceased and conducted the burial cere-
monies; Wepwawet led the deceased from this world to the next; and Osiris, Notice that the sign
3.3 J has appeared in two different words which should not
king of the dead, represented arrival and rejuvenation in the next life. be confused:

or *sir Osiris st F^ acc P os hion

Anubis il jj
^ Jri '

The name and standard epithets of Anubis:

I7M inpw Anubis tp(y) dw=f upon his mountain Transliterate the following words (one uses a sign introduced in an earlier
l i\ o > /
lm <y>- wt
v , the one
nb U dsr lord of the sacred land
+ &Q in the w
great Ameny (name)

Gods' names
Wepwawet shares a major epithet with Anubis:
You have already been introduced to two forms of Osiris: Khentyimentu and
wp-wiwt Wepwawet == nb ti dsr lord of the sacred land Wenennefer. These are written as follows. Transliterate:

Khentyimentu Wenennefer

Special writings 45
How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

Transliterate and translate, using the template provided in the text (§26
3.4 Titles
two were introduced. Here they are written above), and study the individual writings of the various component parts of
In the text, the following titles

way. Transliterate them, using the sign-tables above: the formula. You should also make use of tile vocabulary inlioduced in the
in a slightly different
other exercises above.
overseer of sole
the chamber companion VOCABULARY

he, his
ir-n born of =f (pronoun)
3.5Common verbs
Some common verbs are written with otherwise uncommon signs and with general-in- before,
m-r ms r wr r
some own. It will be useful for you to be familiar with
idiosyncracies of their chief JL -
in front of

these when reading Chapter 4 (where the presence of (?) in brackets will also kbw Qebu (name)
be explained):

n , , 'bring', written with a combination of O D33 pot and A577^ Notes:

1,1 ’

JL walking legs, often with sound complement n i ir-n means 'whom such-and-such a person made' but this is not a satis-

factory idiom in English.

ir(i) 'make', 'do', 'act' - written with the 2-consonant sign ir
ii m-r ms r wr means literally 'great overseer of the army'.
mu 'see', 'look - written with /ct- determinative placed
at' iii In line 1, the damaged hieroglyphs are part of the standard epithets of
Ik mu under mu Some forms of this verb are written with only
Osiris: hnty-imntw (with an extra Pv-bird), ntr ri, nb ibejw (see p. 41).
^ i - transliterated im

'give', 'place' - 4 a A41 arm giving loaf, orA E61 conical loaf. 3.7 Offering table scene
or "T rdi Without r as 4 _ or transliterated di. From the hieratic,
' n A
also written with arm as rdi or =— q di

3.6 The offering formula from BM EA 162

BM EA 162
(carved limestone; w. 75cm)

The offering formula is usually written in a telegram-like style with very

abbreviated writings and certain prepositions omitted. The top portion of the Meir I, pi. 9

stela of Ameny (BM EA 162), however, rather unusually provides us with a

In scenes, the offerings are often shown placed on a table before the
more fully written out version of certain sections of the offering formula.
deceased. Transliterate and translate the hieroglyphs below the offering

40 How to rani Egyptian hieroglyphs Special writings 47

table scene from the tomb of Senbi (consult the section on the offering for- translate the hieroglyphs written within the registers (and not those accom-
mula if necessary). panying the vases at the top left, written without registers). You should
consult the sections on the offering formula in the text {§26/ where neces-
sary. You may also find it useful to read through the notes on Osiris given

jE) hitv- r governor, mayor ??? ln(w) thousands on pp. 40-42.

The laden offering table constituting the 'funerary meal' for the deceased is
m-r overseer of imn-
referred to as: Amenemhet
hnw(ty the chamber m-hit

or Os
T 1

dbht-htp the required offerings

(See p. 102 for some remarks on the title m-r rhnwty.)

3.8 Study exercise: BM EA 587
Notice that the inscription has been carefully laid out: the htp-dl-nsw for-
mula takes up the first line; the prt-hrw formula the second line and the
epithets, name and titles of the stela owner the third line.

3.9 Study exercise: BM EA 585

BM EA 585, shown on the next page, has another standard offering for-
mula, this time written from right to left.

a. Translation
Transliterate and translate, using the notes and vocabulary below.
Notice how the names of Sarenenutet and his mother Bameket are
written to fit the space available. The scenes and figures are in raised relief
and the inscriptions in sunk relief. The element -mkt in the mother's name
is written in the scene area and in raised relief.


) bi-mkt Bameket i ms-n born of


counter of
fl a hsb
Q ntrw gods the double
i snwty

]] 0 -Ab
dd offering- Si-
— litp-ntr giver —Ij' AMM*A JX EES rnnwtt

b. Epigraphy

BM EA 587
Compare this stela with BM EA 587:
i Identify the differences in the shape and arrangement of particular
(carved and painted limestone; h. 56cm)
hieroglyphs (you may also wish to consider the figures and the offering
It now time
is for you to study your first stela - BM EA 587, the funerary ii Identify the differences in the phraseology of the offering formula.
monument of the overseer of the chamber Amenemhet. Transliterate and
48 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

Chapter 4

Scenes and captions

The first part of this hook was dedicated primarily to building up your knowledge of
the hieroglyphic signs needed to equip you for the twin goals of reading the names of
the kings and the offering formula. In this part of the book we will move on to broaden

your knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language and how it works, equipping you
to read a wider range of Middle Kingdom stelae in the British Museum and elsewhere,
and also supplying you with a firm foundation for moving on to study the wealth of
surviving ancient Egyptian writings.

§28 Captions: the infinitive

Verbs typically label actions or events such as 'do', or 'kick', though some
verbs label states or conditions such as 'remain'. A major topic to be dealt
with in reading hieroglyphs is how to get the right translation of verbs
according to whether they refer to actions in the past, present or future.
Over the next few chapters we will equip you to bring this degree of accu-
racy to your translations.
A good place to start is with scenes and captions. Scenes are often
accompanied by captions which very conveniently label the action:


BM HA 585
(carved limestone; h. 52cm)

°PD sptsmh Binding a skiff (Mcir II, pi. 4)

(In captions, words are often written without determinatives, since the
image itself pictures the meaning.)
50 How to read Hgyptian hieroglyphs Scenes and captions 51

In English the -ing form of the verb translates rather well here, example above as opposed to 'kissed' or 'will kiss'?),
translate 'kissing' in the

whereas using the simple English past 'bound a skiff' seems a little incom- two points should be borne in mind:
plete and unsatisfactory. Exactly the same is true in Egyptian. In such what help does the writing ol the verb give us? (the question of form)

captions, Egyptian uses a particular form of the verb which, as you will see ii how does the verb fit in the context of the inscription? (the question of

in the next chapter, differs markedly from the form for expressing the past. function)

In Egyptian the equivalent of the -ing form in this usage is termed the infitt- As you will see, since hieroglyphs only write consonants and not vow-
itive (see §31 below for its forms). els,the hieroglyphic writing alone will not always direct us to the exact

Before we progress further, there is one general comment we would form. However, once we take into account how the verb seems to be being

like to make. The terms for the various Egyptian verb-forms are now rather used in the inscription, then we can usually get good sense out of it. The first
traditional; they are not always very clear in their meaning, nor do they 'tool ol the trade' that we need to introduce you to is the topic of verb
always agree with the use of the same term in describing the grammar of classes. All the verbs in ancient Egyptian can be gathered into a small
English. So the term 'infinitive' and meaning is not really important - it
its number of groups, which, when considered as a whole (or paradigm), usu-

will, however, serve as a convenient label by which we can readily refer to ally allow us to see each form somewhat more clearly. The following are the
the verb -form. standard verb classes with a convenient example for each class:

When the actor is mentioned in an Egyptian caption, this is usually

introduced by (| — in 'by':

STRONG VERBS stem does not usually

owner a lengthy adoration caption, the bare bones of which
e.g. sdm to hear
Before the figure of the is show any alteration
stem ends in a double
DOUBLING VERBS e.g. nw to see

BM FA 567: sn U n hnty-imntw m prt n ... in m-r sn r (w) imn-m-hit

WEAK VERBS stem ends with a 'weak'
eg- mr(i) to love
Kissing the ground to Khentyimentu in the great procession ... by consonant, usually -i
the overseer of the provisioning areas Amenemhet
EXTRA WEAK VERBS chiefly verbs with two or
e.g. rd(i) to give
A 0 three weak consonants
For the vocabulary, see the next section and the excursus on titles, p. 103.

§29 Adoration i With weak verbs, the final -i is usually omitted in writing and therefore
The owner of a stela often expressed a wish to participate in certain impor- For practical reasons, however,
in transliteration. we will transliterate
beyond death, particularly the Osiris Mysteries (for which see
tant festivals the extra weak verb 'to give' as rdi or di.
pp. 54-56). He either wished to participate in them directly - through seeing Extra weak verbs behave like ordinary weak
verbs, but sometimes
(ma )> adoring (dwi ), kissing the ground (sn U |^~|)' or show additional features.
giving praise ( dit Uw A(| j^'j]) to the god - or through having offerings
made to him at such times. For example: The stem of a strong verb not usually that helpful since
is it rarely shows any
differences. As you will see below, the infinitive of strong verbs gives us little
The vertical columns of stela BM HA 580 comprise a hymn to Osiris which begins:
written clue. Doubling verbs have a root which ends with the same conso-
nant repeated twice. In writing, some forms of these verbs show only one of
BM EA 580, these consonants (e.g. tm) and in other forms show two (e.g. mu) and
liw n isir sn ti n wp-wiwt this
Lines 1-2: dit
Giving praise to Osiris, kissing the ground to Wepwawet can help in distinguishing certain forms. Weak and extra weak verbs, whose
roots end in a weak consonant (-i or -w), are the most interesting because
they show a wider range of variation in different verb-forms, which can be
§30 Verb classes and the infinitive
most useful in spotting a particular form (we shall see that weak verb infin-
So how does this all work? The first and most basic point is that when
itives are rather more easy to spot than strong verb infinitives).
deciding on the exact translation to be adopted (for example, should we
How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Scenes and captions 53

One important point to note about weak verbs is that the -/’
and -w (<s Dll coil of rope is a common determinative for ropes, cords and actions
performed with them.)
with which their root or dictionary forms end do not usually appear in
writing and so need not be transliterated. However, so that you can see read-
-/ or -w of weak verbs will be
ily whether a verb is a weak verb or not, the

added in brackets (as in the table above) in the vocabularies in this book.

§31 The forms of the infinitive

So let's turn to the infinitive and see how all this works out. The infinitive

in Egyptian has the following form:



- no change


- doubling sptsmh Rinding a skiff

WEAK VERBS loving Just like English dictionaries, dictionaries and word-lists of ancient Egyptian
- end in -t

just give you a standard citation form (the root), here sp(i) 'bind (together)',
- end in -l
or a rdit or dit (r optional in both
writings, see p. 44)
and do not whether you need 'binding', 'bound' or whatever in your

actual translation. All the citation form tells us is that sp(i) is a weak verb.
But if we look at the actual example we find the following form, showing an
Here are some examples to illustrate this: extra 1:

- fl -=a -D ]
D spt binding
STRONG VERBS Meir I, pi. 2: c
m r
i r ipd(w)
Throwing at the birds and also, of course, it is being used in a caption. Together this information
allows us to decide that spt is an example of the Egyptian infinitive and can
be translated well into English as 'bind-ing'.
doubling verbs Meir pi. 9:
llUi IWiW We advise you at this stage to follow our example here in adhering to
Seeing the cattle a small number of suggested translation schemes for the various forms we will
(]*=^ introduce you to, since this will help you to get good sense out of the hier-

WEAK VERBS Meir 11, pi.

oglyphic inscriptions you will read in this book. At first, it is better to refrain
Binding a skill
from trying to be more imaginative or to 'guestimate' the meaning. So our
first translation scheme is for the infinitive (simply substitute the necessary


mzM >

liW n iS i r
verb for 'do'):

Giving praise to Osiris infinitive translation scheme doing or to do

The most noticeable feature of the table form of the infinitive of

is that the
In the examples in this chapter 'doing' will be the right choice, btit on other
weak verbs ends in a -t. Consider again the scene and caption with which
occasions 'to do' will fit better. If the range of meaning seems a bit loose,
compare the English 'To study hieroglyphs is interesting' with 'Studying
we introduced this chapter (repeated on p. 53).
the end of the book, you will find the
hieroglyphs is interesting' where the English 'to do' and 'doing' forms have
you look at the vocabulary
If at
a similar usage.
following word listed:
sp(i) bind (together)
54 How to rend Hgyptian hieroglyphs Scenes and captions 55

Now, and doubling verbs do not offer us

of course, infinitives of strong Here we shall concentrate on the route of the festival. In Exercise 6.5,
much help in their writing. But the context and sometimes other parallel you will study one of the principal surviving ancient sources for the festival
examples can help out. As an example, we can consider again the lishing procession The exact location and scope of die various Egyptian place

and fowling scene from the tomb of Senbi which you studied in edited form names used are still a matter for debate. However, the map below gives a
in Chapter and which you can study in its original, complete form as Exer-
1 plausible version.
cise 4.6. The two edited labels were:

a. Scene of spearing fish:

Meir I, pi. 2.
^ rm(w) in snhi mr-hrw
Spearing fish by Senbi, the justified

h. Scene of throwing the throw-stick at the birds:

Meir pi. 2:
1, r
m r
i r tpd(w) in snhi im r -hrw
Throwing at the birds by Senbi, the justified

st(i) 'spear' is a weak verb, hence the infinitive stt 'spearing'. r
m r
p however,
of Seti I
Temple of
is a strong verb and does not provide a particularly helpful writing. Yet the Ramesses II
context of the caption and the parallel with the other caption showing us
'spearing' urge us to consider the infinitive
Notice also how
and the
using the suggested translation scheme helps us to draw
translation 'throwing'.

together a decent English translation of the whole: 'throwing at the birds by
Senbi the justified', whereas reasonable alternatives such as 'throws at the
birds' do not:
good English.
'throws at the birds by Senbi the justified' is not particularly inrittM
Excursus: The cult of Osiris at Abydos The point was the Osiris Temple
starting of the festival procession
^ dousing the statue of the god. As you will see for your-
The heart of the cult of Osiris at Abydos was the annual festival at which his
( 1'

cult-statue was brought, in a ritual boat carried aloft by

self in Exercise 6.5, there were actually two outward processions - the
priests, in procession
from his temple to his supposed tomb at Umm el-Qa r ab ('mother of pots').
'procession of Wepwawet' ( )
anc then the 'great procession'

The festival procession had two fundamental components - a public section

of Osiris ( 20 .
were concentrated near the western entrance to
0 ,
). Stelae

during which the divine image passed through the cemetery abutting the the temple, in an area of high ground known as the 'terrace of the great god'

temple's western side, and a private section out in the desert where the
secret rites concerning the mysteries and passion of Osiris were performed.
^ ), so that the deceased could look upon the emergence and

return of the gods (hence the references to 'kissing the ground' and 'giving

During the Middle Kingdom at Abydos, members of the elite dedicated praise' as the images of the gods pass by - the cult images of the gods are
often referred to as their nfrw 'splendour'). The procession crossed the
stelae, or erected offering chapels as

tinued participation in the festival after their

cenotaphs, hoping to ensure their con-
own death. The cemetery at
terrace before descending into a wadi (the sacred land, |wj ). The god “
Abydos was therefore a veritable city of the dead with a wealth of monu- then proceeded out into the desert on the God's boat-journey ~j ^^57 (

to Poker D where the divine mysteries and rites were performed.

ments, and, as you will see, Abydene stelae form an important body of the ( )

Middle Kingdom monuments studied in this book. Abydos had a long history as one of the most sacred sites in the country since
it was at Umm el-Qa r ab that the earliest kings were buried. By the 12th

56 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Scenes and captions 57

Dynasty, the tomb of t he lst-dynasty king Djer was believed to be that of

Osiris himself.


r prl procession terrace

the great hwt-

prt r
;t temple
procession IB ntr

prt the procession sacred

n dsr
wp-wiwt of Wepwawet land

god's boat-
J® pkr Poker dit nlr

Meir II, pi. 4

The bull is also labelled separately between the two figures at the top.

4.7 Signs
a. Sound signs:

in sn whm
1 1 J

q hm
h m(w)l * dwi

b. Determinatives:


j-p. F6 basin combined

with canopy IJ® festival
Meir I, pi. 1

^ A20 man with

Jj outstretched arms

Roth of these determinatives are used widely, for various festivals and for u
wp(i) separate, open

m or ®
words to do with praise and supplication. Note, however, that when used on >«=o

Sd sph lassoo h bull

their own, they are abbreviated writings of the two specific words given.

4.2 Words 4.4 Translation

Transliterate the following words: Transliterate and translate the following sections from the top of BM EA
101, the stela of Nebipusenwosret, dating from the reign of Amenemhet III
sister wife
V C±
(shown on the next page - ignore the sections in grey). You may wish to
read the notes on the cult of Osiris at Abydos on 54-56 for useful hack-
*1 adore, praise kiss
ground information.

m brother
JSd repeat
The following notes will help you in translating the central section:

4.3 Translation i The eye emblem in the centre can be read as a verb 'to see'. It is thought to
Transliterate and translate the two captions on the following page: read ptr 'to see, view', rather than nw. The form is the infinitive.

58 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Scenes and captions 59

ii See §§17-18 on the king's name and epithets (the epithets are divided
his wonderful procession
into two columns mirroring the general division into a section on Osiris
on the left and one on Wepwawet on the right), mry is used in the epi- the great procession

thet 'beloved of the god X'. The name of the god (and his titles) are
hb(w)-f nfrw his wonderful festivals
written first for reasons of prestige (as noted in §22 above).

4.5 Translation
Transliterate and translate the following sections on the next page from BM
EA 581, one of the three stelae of the overseer of the chamber Intef son of
Senet in the British Museum. These stelae are extremely elaborate in their
wording, so we will only consider two sections. Ignore the parts in grey.

BM EA 101
(carved and painted limestone; w. 66cm)

The deceased king Senwosret III forms the central focus of the scene. As
recorded in the middle section of the stela, Nebipusenwosret had this stela
sent to Abydos in the care of the elder lector-priest Ibi who had come, as part
of the priesthood of the temple of Abydos, to the residence of the then reign-
ing king Amenemhet III.


ptr viewing the

prt procession e/FUlXs
nfrw splendour

=f his
& m in, during BM EA 581
(carved limestone; w. 36cm)
nb(=i)- Nebipu- perfect,
pw-snwsrt senwosret 1 wonderful
perfection, beauty,
nfrw hb(w) festivals Q 'Www
intf Intef ir-n born of
ill wonder, splendour 1

dt r enduringly and mn see, look at nfrw splendour, wonder

*1 dwi adore, praise
© nhh repeatedly asQklk i:
sn kiss snt Senet
As noted in §10, adjectives follow and agree with their nouns. Exercise 4.4 u land, ground
provides examples of feminine and plural agreement (cf. §§8 and 1 5 above):
60 How to rood l-ijyption hieroglyphs Scenes and captions
62 How io read Egyptian hieroglyphs Scenes and captions 63

4.7 Study exercise: The coffin of Nakhtankh (BM EA 35285)

Although book we concentrate on stelae in the British Museum, the
in this

material that you are working through also puts you in a position to study
inscriptions on other kinds of museum objects, particularly where they
include the offering formula. In this exercise you will study the inscriptions
on the outside of a Middle Kingdom coffin (BM EA 35285, the coffin of
We shall concentrate on the two exterior sides of the coffin, omitting
the inscriptions on the head and foot ends. The inscriptions are aligned on
the coffin as follows:

BM EA 35285 (eastern side)

(painted wood; l. 212cm)

i iimh(y) hr displays haplography where the last sign in one word

and the first in the next are the same and the sign is written only once).
ii im r -hr\v is (a) written occasionally with the papyrus-roll and (b) omit-
ted in the northernmost column.
iii the gb-goose (B8) is different from the 57-duck (B7).

The body was laid on its left side, facing towards the east, in order to be able VOCABULARY
to look out through the eyes on the eastern side towards the newly rejuve- AA*WA WAV.^
nht-'nh Nakhtankh
nated sun at sunrise. Hence the inscriptions run from the head at the
northern end towards the feet at the southern end. This represents the typ- hnt(y)-imm\v Khentyimentu
ical arrangement of a Middle Kingdom rectangular coffin. On the eastern ,

side (the side with the eyes looking out towards the sunrise), the main THE FOUR SONS OF HORUS OTHER DEITIES
inscription is an offering formula to Osiris. On the western side is an offering
formula to Anubis. At the corners, the inscriptions invoke the four sons of intsti lmseti sw Shu
Horus, protective deities for the body of the deceased (with the classic
Middle Kingdom arrangement of lmseti and Duainutef on the east side and i
* ^ dwi-mwi=f Duainutef gb Geb

Hapy and Qebehsenuef on the west). The central columns invoke deities
hpy Hapy tfnt Tefnet
closely linked to Osiris: Shu and Geb on the east side and their female con-
sorts Tefnet and Nut on the west. 0^
khh-sn\\-f Qebehsenuef nwt Nut
The eastern side
The eastern side of the coffin is shown on the next page. Transliterate and
The western side
translate with the help of the vocabulary and notes below:
The principal inscription on the western side of the coffin is an offering for-
mula to Anubis. Whereas the Osiris offering formula concerns the offerings
to sustain the ka of the deceased, the Anubis offering formula concerns the
burial itself.

Transliterate and translate with the help of the following notes:


64 I to ir to read Egyptian hieroglyph

Chapter 5


In the next two chapters . we will introduce you to the past tense, concentrating on

which the deceased back upon, and describes, his official We

BM EA 35285 (western side)
inscriptions in reflects life.

will also introduce you to the ancient Egyptian pronouns.

i The standard organization of the Anubis offering formula is: htp-di-nsw §32 Introduction: description
followed by Anubis with his epithets and then krst nfrt without being In a typical type of funerary inscription -which we can term self-presentation
introduced by di-f You may wish to introduce your translation of krst - the owner presents himself (rarely, herself) according to the ethical values
nfrtwith a dash or colon after the htp-di-nsw section. of Middle Kingdom elite society and in terms of success and achievement,
ii Read is=f nfr n hrt-ntr with the indirect genitive (see §27 above). is=f particularly in royal service, in order to describe the activities which the official

means 'his tomb'; for =/ see §33. participated in, the tasks he accomplished, and his ethical behaviour, the past
iii Anubis is invoked with his standard epithets (see p. 42) and a further tense is generally used.

The official Intef son of Senet proclaims his ethical behaviour:

hnty sh-ntr the one before the divine booth
Line 10: iw krs.n=i U(w)
good, perfect, buried the old
is tomb I*— nfr

This construction comprises the past form of the verb kt S

^ Q (

1 hrt-ntr
necropolis ^ |^j
krst burial '

cf. English 'bury' + '-ed' - see §33 below) followed by the subject (T) and
other elements; the sentence begins with an auxiliary Jj^ iw which is not
translated into English (see §34 below).

§33 The past: sdm.n(=f)

The past form is termed the ^ sdm.n(-f) (pronounced 'sedjemenef')
'he heard', using the verb sdm To hear' in the 'he' form ('he heard') as the
standard example. In this form, an affix — .n '-ed', is added to the verb-
stem (written after the determinative). As a standard convention, in trans-
literation the .n is usually separated from the stem of the verb by a dot - this
just makes it easier to spot. The forms of the sdm.n(=f) for the verb classes
(§30 above) are:
66 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 67

Inhuretnakht extols his proper conduct as a responsible official:


STRONG VERBS sdm.n-f he heard BM EA 1783,

Line 4: iw rdi.n(-i) t n hkr hbsw n Iny
n ~T1 nu.n=f I gave bread to the hungry and clothes to the naked
no doubling
(There no word for and' in Egyptian; for vocabulary, see Exercise 5.4.)
WEAK VERBS mr.n-f he loved There is no simple English equivalent for iw and so it is left untrans-
lated. It invokes a sense of involvement in the assessment or presentation of
EXTRA WEAK VERBS he gave what is said/written. In self-presentation inscriptions, iw sdm.n(=f) gives a
— (1 r optional
sense of looking back over one's life. In other contexts the perfect ('someone
When there is a pronoun subject (e.g. 'I heard', 'he heard'), the suffix pro-
has done something') also suits, particularly in recorded speech.
nouns are used (sec §36 below); the pronouns for 'I' and 'he' are given here
(compare with the example above): §35 Omission of the person suffix pronoun


The first person suffix pronoun ('I-me-my') is sometimes omitted in writing,
particularly in texts where a figure of the person is present (e.g. stelae and
$ =' sdm.n-i I heard
tomb inscriptions) or strongly implied (e.g. where the text is all about that
[•A ***** person):
Hc/It =/ sdm.n=f he heard

Another of Inhuretnakht 's stated ethical acts:

The suffix pronouns (see the reference tables on p. 148 for a full list) attach

to the verb; this is indicated in transliteration by the symbol Once again /r/t— \
BM EA 1783, \

this has the practical value of making the suffix pronouns easy to spot in
Lines 4-5: iw di.n(=i) iww <m> mljnt(=l) ds(=i)
transliteration: sdm.n=f is much easier to read (sdm 'hear' + .n '-d' + =/'he') I ferried the boa ll ess in my own ferry
than sdmnf.
With an ordinary noun subject (e.g. 'the man heard'), the noun follows
i 'the boatless' is written with a doubling of the 2-consonant sign
the verb, but does not fix onto it (hence there is no '=' in transliteration):
^ B32.
ii Repeated consonants are sometimes omitted: here only one m is writ-
Hekaih records an inspection of his property by the ruler:
ten in m mhnt(-i) 'in my ferry’.
iii ds is used for the emphatic reflexive '(my/hiin)self' or 'own'.
BM EA 167,
Line 10: iw ip.n hki iwi(w)(=i)
§36 Suffix pronouns
The ruler inspected my cattle
Although, as we shall see, there are different sets of pronouns in Egyptian
(For the omission of =i in iwt(w)=i 'my cattle', see §35 below; see p. 73 for with different usages, they do not correspond to the difference between T-
vocabulary.) me-my' or 'he-him-his' The Egyptian pronouns translate by
in English.
whatever happens to be the most appropriate English form of pronoun. The
§34 Auxiliaries suffix pronouns are used:

The sdm.n(-f) is usually preceded by an

inscriptions iw sdm.n(-f) often translates well as a simple past ('someone did
auxiliary such as

^ iw. In stela a.

As the subjects of verbs ’hej

official Intef son ofSenet proclaims his ethical behaviour:

Q’fe fd
BM EA 562,
Line 10: iw krs.ti=i h(w)
I buried the old
68 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 69

b. As' the possessor of a noun ( my', ‘his') in Egyptian, the described event 'I assembled 100 bulls' is expressed by using
the sdm.n(=f) form However, the characterised event 'what 1 did
The top part of BM HA 101 behind the figure of Nebipusenwosret (see p. 58):
myself' is expressed by using another verb-form - the past relative form:
irt.n(=i). In this usage, there is no separate word for 'what' or 'which', rather

BM EA 101:
the verb-form shows a -t in its writing, so irt.n(=l) in itself means 'what 1 did'
dwi isir m hb(w)-f nfrw dt r nhh
Adoring Osiris in his wonderful
without needing extra words. Notice that missing out a word such as 'what'
festivals enduringly and repeatedly
in translation leaves the sentence with poor sense: 'I assembled a hundred
c. As the object after a preposition ('me', ‘him ')
bulls through I did myself'. You will often find this to be the case: the relative
forms (and their cousins, the participles introduced in Chapter 7) scream out
From the Abydos formula on BM HA 162:
for the inclusion of an English word such as 'what' or 'which' in translation.
VtWM E=4 The same stela provides another similar example:
BM EA 162,
Line 5: dd.t(w)=f n=f iw m hip in wrw n ibdw Between the figures of Inhuretnakht and Hui, the following dedication label about the
May 'Welcome in peace' be said for him by the great of Abydos
stela appears:

(For the meaning of dd.t(w)=f see p. 115.)

For the full list of suffix pronouns, see Reference table, p. 148.
BM EA 1783:
irt.n -n-f ss=f smsw=f mry=f dbi
What his eldest and beloved son Debi made for him
§37 The past relative form: sdmt.n(=f)
The following paragraph discusses a more advanced point which some of Notes
you may wish to work through at this stage in order to gain the maximum i -n-f precedes si-f smsw=f mry=f in word order.
understanding of the inscriptions read as study exercises to this chapter. ii In Si=f smsw=f mry=f both smsw and mry share the following =/ and the
Others may consider these points a little abstruse at this stage and may phrase means literally 'his son, his eldest, his beloved'.

prefer to return to this paragraph later on.

As well as being described ('someone did something'), events can also In this book we shall focus on shows the extra
the relative form only when it

be characterised (treated as -t. In this way we can isolate the following convenient translation schemes
a 'thing which someone 'what/which some-
one Egyptian has a special way of
did'). characterising an event - by using for the past sdm.n(=f) form and the past relative form sdmt.n(=f) discussed in

the relative forms - which is quite different from English and is often seen as this chapter:

one of the more difficult aspects of ancient Egyptian. However, the use of '~~a
PAST TENSE ir.rt-f he did
the relative forms is extremely common and will crop up in a number of
examples, and so we will attempt to open up this area of Egyptian for you past relative form irt.n=f what he did
by the use of our notion of a translation scheme. The difference between
description and characterisation can be seen in the following example:
Excursus: Names and kinship terms
Names and family relationships play an important role on funerary stelae.
The self-presentation of Inhuretnakht ends:
We present here a number of the names to be found on the monuments
and the kinship terms used, for you to refer to. As the
studied in this book,
BM EA 1783, section on names indicates, many Egyptian names (like our own) have a
Line 5: iw ir.n(=i) hw 100 m irt.n(-l) ds(-i)
meaning. Nevertheless, in translating Egyptian monuments, it is better to
I assembled 100 bulls through vvhal 1 did myself
stick to the name itself, rather than trying to translate the name into English.
i ^ is the number 100. Names
ii m here has the meaning 'through' or 'by the means of'.
Names referring to personal condition

iii ir(i) 'to do' has a wide range of idiomatic meanings. In a society with high infant mortality, it is not surprising that many names
iv =; is omitted (see §35 above). reflect anxiety about new-born children or wishes for their future health:
) ) )

70 How to road Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 1 1

Senbi (Meir tomb- various relatives and dependants on the monument of the deceased, these
snbi healthy
chapel B, No. 1 too enjoyed the benefits of being commemorated by figure and by name.

Nakhti (BM EA Access to such monuments as funerary stelae was rather limited, mostly to
143) n h ti strong, vigorous
those holding some form of elite position. The crucial relationship was that

hw between the father and the eldest son: in social terms, this was the route of
P ^ —Zi
Khu (BM EA 57 1 protected
inheritance, providing family continuity; in cult terms, the eldest son was the

Names referring to deities chief celebrant for his father (as Horus was for Osiris).

One type associates the individual directly with a deity: Principal kinship terms:

«\ ^ mwt mother
Isis (BM EA 143) ist it

- often hi husband hmt wife

A second type invokes a close familial - relationship with a god:

sn brother
jlt* Jl r\
Sarenenutet (BM EA 585) si-rnmvn son of Renenutet II 17 $ sni sister

Satsobek (BM EA 586) sn-sbk daughter of Sobek

si son
¥$ su daughter

ibt family, household

man of the l^d cQa
Senwosret (BM EA
i l l

571 s-n-wsrt
powerful one
Family members are often referred to as being 'beloved'.
A third type involves a pious statement in response to the child's birth:
Label before one of the sons of Khuenbik offering fowl:
D Ptahhotep (BM EA 584) pth-htp Ptafi is content
QA} qD

f <=>
lnhurctnakht (BM EA 1783) inhrt-nht Inhuret is strong BM EA 584:
si=f ry=f p th -htp
His son, his beloved, Plahholep
Loyalist names
Names which associate the individual with the king: Sometimes, though, we find a more abbreviated writing.

o Intef .

1 th dynasty nomen Label before the first sons in the third row of BM HA 571:
Jl*£. (BM EA 581 )

(BM EA 587) imn-m-hit 12th dynasty nomen BM EA 571:
si-f mry=f imny
1 1 is son, his beloved, Amenv
Nebipuscnwosret ... „ .

(BM EA 101)
nb(=i)-pw-snwsrt Senwosret is my lord
(In idiomatic English we might prefer ‘his beloved son'.)

The birth names of the kings themselves accord with the standard naming
conventions. Hence Amenemhet means 'Amun is in front', i.e. Amun is
The parentage of the owner is usually introduced by one of the two
guiding the child's fortunes (compare with Senwosret above). following phrases:

Ir-n born of ms ~ n born of

Kinship terms
Stelae emphasise family relationships by naming members of the deceased's Literally, ir-n means ‘whom X made' and ms-n means 'whom X bore'.
family and household (often including servants and dependants). The living Usually ir-n used ol both the father and mother, whereas ms-n is used of

members shown
presenting offerings to the offering-table, thus
are usually the mother alone. When the person this phrase is applied to is feminine,
eternalising the offering cult to the deceased owner in stone. By including the both, as usual, show a ^ -t (before n).
72 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 73

The name and filiation of the wife of Ameny on BM EA 162 (see Exercise 8.5): b. The official Intef son ofSenet proclaims his ethical behaviour:

BM EA 562, Line 10:

562. /) ^ 21 fl^s&Alk

BM EA 162 m(jfr w mst-n imny mi r t-hrw>

;. Inhuretnakht extols his proper conduct as a responsible official:
Mcdhu born of Ameny, the justified
BM EA ,783. Line 4:

Properly speaking ir-n and ms-n are probably masculine relative forms - see
d. Another of lnhnretnakht's stated ethical acts (m added for clarity):
§52 below. However, in this book we will stick to the distinctive translitera-
tion using ir-n and ms-n. 1783, Lines 4-5:
e. lty notes his success and achievement:
BM EA 586, Line 2: L
^ jU“~ $ * 1 “
5.1 Signs
For e. keep to a literal rendering of the Egyptian.


h(w) the old iwi(w) cattle

i i i

iww boatless D
5.2 Words t lie f

ip inspect

Transliterate the following words written with these signs:

whm repeal n prt procession

favour, praise friend

mhnt ferry nsw king
lr/j[ 'VVxWvA

boat-journey fay the naked hkr the hungry
go, set out

ruler m
amethyst hr before krs bury

formal di(i) ferry ds=i myself, my own

wrong Ti$
5.4 Study exercise: BM EA 1783
In this exercise, you can make a start on studying a more complex stela in
nmtt is the word used for the formal and festal journeys of the god and the the British Museum: BM EA 1783, the stela of the governor Inhuretnakht
king. It is a collective term and not a plural (and hence does not require (w) and his wife Hui from Nag ed-Deir. The stela r
is shown on p. 74.
in transliteration despite the presence of plural strokes). a. and translate the offering formula at the top of the stela
(Lines 1-2 ending with the word dd just before the end of Line 2), using the
5.3 Translation notes given.
Transliterateand translate the following sentences. Some were used in the b. Transliterate and translate the section starting at the beginning of Line 4
text above and so give you the chance to work through these examples thor- (we shall return to the section from the end of Line 2 to the end of Line 3 in
oughly. You may wish to consult §35 on the omission of the pronoun =z. Chapter 7).

a. Ikhemofret relates his role in the Mysteries of Osiris: The cemetery

Nag' ed-Deir, opposite modern Girga, was the ceme-
tery for Thinis ( tni), the capital of the 8th Upper Egyptian nome
Berlin 1204, Line 18:
(which also includes Abydos); in-hrt (Inhuret or Onuris) was its principal
(The verb ir(i) 'to do' is used with a wide range of idiomatic meanings; here deity.Nag r ed-Deir was an important cemetery centre from Predynastic
the sense is 'conduct'.) times to the 11th dynasty and the start of the Middle Kingdom, at which
time Thinis seems to have been eclipsed by Abydos.
74 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 75

BM EA 1783 dates from the First Intermediate Period and is a classic

example of the regional Nag r ed-Deir style of that period, both in terms of its

artwork and the conventional phraseology of the inscription, which is ori-

entated around the family and ethical behaviour.

i c=> is a determinative of prt-hrw. See §26, p. 38
ii See Chapter 3 for the various titles of Inhuretnakht and the use of
inuhw 'the revered one'. Be careful with the title at the start of line 2.

iii Self-presentation inscriptions are usually cast as a speech, and are intro-
duced by dd 'who says' or dd=f' he says'.

iv See §35 for the omission of the first person pronoun.

v ds(-i) is used as the emphatic reflexive (as in 'I shall do that myself' or
'my own house').
vi Before mhnt the preposition m 'in' has been omitted.
vii ir(t) 'do, make' is used here in the sense of 'acquire' or possibly 'raise'.


USA household Sa,
the boatless

gentle nxm

it father mwt mother

\ love mhnt ferry

lord of
^ nb pt the naked
the sky !M)T buy

X hs(l) praise

A snw siblings, brothers

the hungry
IBM snwt and sisters

*=Tl| ki(w)
100 bulls di(i) ferry

The Family
c. Transliterate and translate the labels around the other family members.
Hui has the following titles:

sole lady in hm(t)-ntr priestess

hkit nsw w r
waiting hwt-hr of Hathor

BM EA 1783 The form of the kinship expressions are alike, although some writings
(carved and painted limestone; h. 66cm) exhibit sharing of elements:
How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 77

a\ hmt-f mrt=f his beloved wile si-f mry-f his beloved

w son
st-f smsw-f his beloved
mry-f eldest son


hwi Hui dbi Debi OOO (]


5.5 Study exercise: BM EA 571 (top)

The top section of the stela of Khu and her two husbands, shown on p. 77.

a. Translate the offering formulae above the two scenes.


3 m-r pr overseer

rhnsw king's advisor Sahathor

mry nb-f beloved of his lord (name)

nb imnt lord of the

hw Khu (name)
MI nfrt beautiful west

The second offering formula contains a different set of offerings:

mw water mrht oil, unguent

hnkt beer sntr incense

The general word for a festival is hb: festival

The procession of Osiris to Poker: ^ (1

' 1

1 tIie goc *

journey to Poker
s ^ oat '

A number of particular or periodic festivals are often mentioned on stelae.

The following is a list of the ones which appear on BM EA 571, arranged in
the typical order in which they occur:

, , the monthly the half-monthly

,bd ?
festival festival, i.e. full moon
Wi9 the Wag-festival dhwtt the Thoth-festival

The reading of the half-month festival is still unclear. An old suggestion to

read smdt has problems. More recently, the suggestion has been made that
the reading should be based around the number fifteen, as mddint.
BM EA 57 1
The presence of the festivals on such stelae reflects the desire of the
(carved limestone; w. Mem)
deceased to partake in the offerings made before the god in the temples on
78 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Description 79

festival days; once the god had satisfied himself with them, hey were passed t OCCUPATIONS
on to the blessed dead. See the conclusion of the festival list on BM EA 162
entering-maid l J

in Exercise 8.5 for a further illustration of this point. k(y)t 7ET hrt-pr domestic
(literally, 'the enterer') n
Offering bearers

b. Transliterate and translate the inscriptions accompanying the offering bear- h wbit cup-bearer (fern.) sftw butcher

ers in the two scenes. The inscriptions accompanying the two major offering

bearers in the top scene fit the hieroglyphs around the figures. This can lead & rhty washerman smsw attendant

to unusual arrangements. They are given below in a conventional order:

accompanying the son accompanying the overseer of the storehouse


cup-bearer, overseer of the

or wbi m-r st
! i butler JTJ storehouse

Emsaf hnms-f his beloved

(name) mry(=f) friend

Sehetepib (name,
si-mnht shtp-ib more fully

(Names ending with m-st=f usually start with a god's name, as in hr-m-st-f

5.6 Study exercise: BM EA 571 (bottom)

The bottom section of stela BM EA 571, shown on the following page, shows
further family members and members of the household and estate staff.
a. and translate the inscriptions. You may wish
Transliterate to make use of
the Excursus on names and kinship.
b. Elere are the names and titles in the scene. Some of the names are not
transliterated. Transliterate them yourself:


Ameny sd-mntw Satmentju

1 MWAA 1 1

tiW Tjau
£11 sst-wsr(t) Satwosret

Amenemhet bt Bet BM EA 571 (bottom)

Je (carved limestone; w. 51cm)
hw Khu si-hwthr Sahathor

a a A
ddt Dedet Hetep
A 0

s-n-wsrt Senwosret hm-ntr priest

IPS 11
i urthet aspects of description

Chapter 6 I gave bread to the hungry

and clothes to the naked

Further aspects of description f (j!&)

rdi.n(=i) 'I gave' is shared: 'I gave bread to ihe hungry and (1 gave)
clothes to the naked'.

Ity notes his success and achievement:

iw whm.n(-t) hst hr nsw

In this chapter, we will look at how complex descriptions are presented, in particular BM EA 586,
s ri ib(-i) r itw(=i ) hprw r-hit=i
and noting other things going on at that time. Line 2:
continuing to the next point 1 repeated favour before the king
Now is a good time for you to start using the Egyptian-English vocabulary and advanced my heart further than my
forefathers who existed before me
(starting on p. 151), when reading the examples in the text.

§38 Continuation
i 'i ..-(e)d' is shared: I repealed favour ... and (1) advance(d)
Descriptions are often presented as a series of connected episodes. In past
descriptions, as we saw in Chapter 5, the first episode is introduced by an
ii r ‘to, in relation to' sometimes has the sense of 'more than'.
auxiliary such as iw, then described by a verb in the past tense made up of
iii hprw 'who existed' is a participle (see Chapter 7).
the sdm.n(=f) form. A past description is continued on simply by carrying on
with the sdm.n(=f) without any further introductory auxiliary. In translating

such a series, it is useful to translate the following sdm.n(=f)s with ‘and ...' §39 Negation
(there is no separate word for ‘and' in Egyptian), or to use commas or semi- The negative of the past (T did not do that') is made up of the negative word
colons, depending on English style: n followed by sdm(-f) (it is not, as we might expect, formed by n
The official Intef son ofSenet proclaims his ethical behaviour in general terms:
Following on immediately from his statement of positive ethical virtues (see above),

Intef adds:
BM EA 562, iw krs.n=i ii(w)
Lines 10-11: hbs.n=i lay
I buried the old BM EA 562, Line 1 1:
and 1 clothed the naked n ir(=i) iwit r rmt
I did not do wrong against people (or: I did no wrong ...)

Here the second past tense form hbs.n-i clothed' carries on the
jj^ jfr 'I
This negation also occurred in the opening scene to this book (notice the
description of Intel's ethical behaviour, rather than starting a new point.
slightly stronger translation with 'never'):
Notice how this gives a sense of shape and connection to episodes; for a clear
example of the use of auxiliaries and sdm.n(=f) s to give shape to description,
Above the man roasting a goose:
see Exercise 6.5 below.
Sometimes elements are shared, just as in the English translation:

Meir III, pi. 23:

Inhuretnakht is extolling his proper conduct as a responsible official:
n im-i mity srw pn
I have never seen the like of this goose

BM EA 1783, Sometimes the negation is written (rather confusingly!) with

Line 4: iw rdi.n(=i) t n hkr
libs n hiv
) )

82 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs hit niter aspects of description

The official Key notes his ethical virtues: Tjetji records that, after Intefll died, he served the new king IntefUI:

BM EA 558, Line 5:
n dws(=i) s n hry-tp-f
BM EA 614,
iw sms.n(=i) -sw s(w)t=f nbl nfrt nt shmh-ib
Line 1 3:
Idid not denounce a man to li is superior I followed him to all his places of the heart's delight

(i.e. wherever the king wanted to go)

Negations with do not go with auxiliaries and so the pattern can either
Notice that the suffix pronouns serve as subjects of the verb (see §§33 and
be used to start up or to carry on a series of connected episodes without any
36) and dependent pronouns as objects of the verb.
obvious written mark.
The dependent pronouns display an important feature of word order-
ing: the dependent pronouns attach to and directly follow the verb and so
§40 Making someone do something (tor use with Exercise 6.5)
someone do something', precede any nouns:
Causation, the notion of 'making is expressed in
the following way in Egyptian: the verb rdi 'give, place' is used with the
The official Semti refers to his early favour at court:
sense of 'causing' and is followed by another verb, rdi appears in whatever
form is suitable (in the example below it appears in the past tense sdm.n(=f
form) whilst the other verb appears in a fixed form (as it happens, the other
BMEA 574 ,

Lines 2-3: hv di.n -wi hm-fr rdwy-f m nhnt(-i)

verb appears in the future sdm(=f), for which see Chapter 8; however, this is His person (i.e. the king) placed me at his feet in my youth
not important at this point):
If you look carefully at this example, then -wi is a dependent pronoun and
After the festivities are over Ikhernofret has the image of the
, ; god placed back in the therefore should be the object of the verb (someone must have placed me)
bark (see Exercise 6.5 for the general context of this example): and so the sentence must mean that the king placed me at his feet, despite
the order of the words. This sentence cannot mean: T placed the king at his
feet in my youth' (for 'V to be the subject, this would require the suffix pro-
Berlin 1204, ,,

at.n=i wcu-J r-limv wrl


noun =/) and in any case such a sentence scarcely makes much sense.
mes - .
j h a(j him proceed inside the great bark
(literally, ‘I caused that he proceed inside the great bark') §42 The present tense
The monuments discussed book do not include many inscriptions cast
in this
It may help to think of this as 'placing someone in the position to do some- in the present tense. However, for your information, and to allow us to cover
thing' or 'giving someone the opportunity to do something'; hence the
one inscription we would otherwise have shown you hut not equipped you
example would mean: '1 pul him (in the position) to proceed inside the great
to read, we will briefly note the present tense forms.
bark' or 'I facilitated his proceeding into the great bark'. The precise meaning
Middle Kingdom Egyptian distinguishes, just as English does, between
can range from nuances of compulsion ('make someone do something') to
a general present (usually expressing habit - She goes to visit her friend every
permission ('allow/let someone to do something’) and guidance ('have
week' - or things which just generally are - 'two and two make four') and
someone do something').
a specific or ongoing present ('She is leaving right now'). In Middle Egyptian

§41 Dependent pronouns

these have the following form (using sdm to label the form and the weak
verb lr(i to exemplify it):
The second set of pronouns are the dependent pronouns (see Reference table,
sdm-f hr sdm
°r -wi or -w(i) or 1 -sw

^ he/il

ir=f he does hr irt (he) is doing

you (,r -tw or -tw she/it p\\ or |1
In the specific present, the verb appears after hr in the infinitive form discussed
The major usage dependent pronouns are as the objects of verbs
of the (typ- in Chapter 4. For a full list oi forms, see the Reference tables on p. 145.
ically the person or thing to which the verbal action is applied): Both tenses have a fondness for the auxiliary iw introduced in §34 (j

as illustrated by the examples below. They also share the same intricacies of
o |

84 How 10 read kgyptian hieroglyphs Further aspects of description

linage as their English equivalents (lor example, in Egyptian, as in English, Notice that there no Egyptian word for 'when', 'while', 'as' in these usages,

verbs of state and condition prefer the general present to the specific present although the appropriate English word may be needed in translation. In
even when referring to things going on now: '1 know the answer now', not English, the notion of 'going on at the same time' is expressed by connecting

'I am knowing the answer now'): words such as 'as', 'whilst', 'when'. In Egyptian it is the verb itself which

a. sdm(=f )
expresses this by appearing in a present tense form (present or going on at

that time). Indeed,you may have noticed that whereas in English connec-
To the left of the main offering formula inscription on BM F.A 5 87:
tions are shown by words such as 'and' and 'as', in Egyptian the same
meaning is achieved by stringing together different tenses such as sdm.n(-f)
BM EA 587:
and sdm(=f) and letting the verbs do the work.
iw w b hi m
r hnkt sntr mrht

The thousand(s) of bread, beer, incense and oil are pure


b. hr sejm
6.1 Signs
An example of this construction occurred in the first inscription shown to
2-consonant and 3-consonant signs:
you in this book:

Above the man roasting a goose: mi dr hsf

£ y

j mi kd Sms
| ^
Meir III, pi. 23:
hv=i hr m r
k dr pit 6.2 Words
I have been roasting since the beginning of time
Transliterate the following words written with these signs:
Egyptian, like many languages, concentrates on the fact that the subject is ^ since 0 f\ like, as

continuing to roast despite the long time he has been doing it: 'I am still

roasting and have been since the beginning of time'. protect, save hJ|L drive away, repel

the like,
§43 Other things going on (advanced notes for use with Exercise 6.5) peer, equal
J=L r — i night of vigil

However, there is one use of the present tense which will be useful when you follow
study Exercise 6.5. In past description, as we have seen, the past events are
described by using the past tense sdm.n(=f) form. By stringing together a
present scim(-f) form or hr sdm form after a past sdm.n(=f), Egyptian expresses
Transliterateand translate the following (see §35 oil omission of =/ T).
the notion of something else going on at the same time as that event expressed
The first one repeats examples from the chapter above and is written
by the sdm.n(-f) form (something else current or present at that time):
here without any breaks (as in the original inscription):
a. The official Intef son of Senet proclaims his ethical behaviour in general terms:
Jkhernofret relates his activities during the performance of the Mysteries of Osiris:

BM EA 562,
Lines 10-11:
Berlin 1204,
iw ir.n=i prt wp-wnvt wdi=f r nd it=f
Line 17: b. Hekaib asserts his ethical behaviour:
Iconducted the procession of Wepvvawet
when he set out to protect bis father
BM EA 1671,
0 &
Hi jiy —
Notes Lines 4-5: n<=>
i zcd- ir(i) literally, 'to do/make', here with the sense of leading or
conducting. This First Intermediate Period stela shows a number of idiosyncracies in the

ii r nd preposition + infinitive 'to protect'. spelling, such as the form of dt <> — instead of ^ —n) and the form of the deter-
minative for 'clothes'.
86 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs burl her aspects of description 87

The final example is slightly more complex and is written in the right-to-left VOCABULARY (CONTINUED)
order of the original:
-|0« advance,
hry-tp superior, chief S

c. Tjetji describes his advancement by king Intefll:

I l

BM EA 614,
Lines 4-5:
srw goose
PT^D srh
about, accuse

i -w is written for -wi.
PffiT shut
promote hM skbh
put (someone)
at ease

place, position, si
ii Read di.n-f-w(i) in clause 3. St confidence
status hrt-tb
iii Also read rh=f n w rr w.

6.5 Study exercise: The Abydos

Osiris Mysteries at
6.4 Translation The celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris at Abydos was clearly one of the
It has been a long time coming, but you are now in a position to read for major festivals of Middle Kingdom Egypt. The festival centred around the
yourself the speech of the man roasting the goose, which we used to begin
burial and rejuvenation of Osiris, with its promise of burial and rejuvenation
this book. This is shown again helow. for the blessed dead. Indeed, as discussed in Chapter 4, a number of the elite
erected stelae or cenotaphs in the area bordering the route to ensure their
eternal participation in the rites.

The festival itself seems to have comprised five parts:

1 The first procession led by Wepwawet and culminating in combat
against the enemies of Osiris. This seems to have been a celebration of
kingship with the repelling of the forces of chaos and disorder (possibly
reflecting the threat of disorder at the death of the old king Osiris - see
p. 41 for the mythological account).
2 The great procession of Osiris himself. This seems to have been the start

of the burial procession of Osiris as the dead king, when he was

equipped and prepared for burial. Osiris here appeared in his form of
Khentyimentu 'the one who is foremost of the westerners' and was
Notes taken out from the temple through the surrounding cemetery site.
i On suffixpronouns, see §33 and §36. 3 The god's boat-journey to Poker. The god was conveyed in the great
ii On the hr + infinitive tense, see §42. bark out into the desert to his supposed tomb at Poker (probably the
iii On negation, see §39. tomb of King Djer of the First Dynasty at Umm el-Qa ab). r

4 A night of which the god was rejuvenated as Wenennefer (see

vigil in
p. 42), including the Haker-festivities and a slaughter of the enemies of

twit wrong 'i(w) the great Osiris at Nedyet (the mythological place of his death). Unfortunately,
_,Mfi this remains the most secretive and elusive part of the mysteries,
palace —a w rr w privacy
h 1

t though later accounts mention that Osiris w-as crowned with the crown

the beginning of justification £# ^ (

m}r ~b rw an d transfigured or enspirited
pn pn this l

of time
< P^JL s<t}) -

ordinary folk, 5 The return journey to Abydos among general rejoicing and the re-entry
m r
k roast nds(w)
=iP*$ the lowly of the god into his temple.
The stela of the Treasurer Ikhernofret, now one of the prin-
in Berlin, is
rmt people
UPT hbs clothe (verb)
cipal sources for the Osiris Mysteries. Ikhernofret was sent to Abydos by

88 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Hurther aspects of description

Senvvosrct III image of the god and to perform the necessary

to repair the VOCABULARY
ritual acts. He subsequently erected a stela in which he recounts how he (for other words, see Egyptian-English Vocabulary, beginning on p. 151)

organised the festival (an account which draws on previous versions given
by earlier generations of officials sent by the Middle Kingdom kings to father h
wUw)t ways, roads
a. Transliterate and translate the following sections from the stela of
Ikhernofrel: wnn- Wenennefer the great
vn|- wrt
n fr (name of Osiris) ,

\ ;
proceed, go,
/\ wdi *
set out

tomb, often
pkr Poker m r
h rt

There follows a brief description of the manner in which Ikhernofret equipped the Neshmet-
nmtt journey nsmt
bark and put the proper regalia on the god, then:

ix n
W if: \&i
$ or 1
n -
r S°d

P r ° tect
ndyt Nedvel

1 I
=> '

5 nl
0 ^ y*

hrw day

The stela is un fortunately silent on the most mysterious features of the festivities such
(up)on, at enemies
as the night of vigil and the Haker-festivities (compare with BM HA 567 in Study I I !

Exercise 83). There follows a description of the rejoicing along the route back, ending
(which is) at the drive away,
with the boat arriving at Abydos, then: forefront of repel

hnw inside
P or I
®* 1 Mw < >
shr overturn skd(i)
i r nd preposition + infinitive, translate 'to protect'. On the writing of it,
fell, sail, travel

'father', see Exercise 2.5: read here /?=/'his father'.

ii You may find §43 helpful in translating wdi-f and sms-i. r follow n (sand)bank
f jPi

iii You may find §27 on the direct and indirect genitive helpful.
iv dsr as an adjective means 'sacred' (in U dsr 'sacred land') and as a verb the god's boat
means 'to clear (something) out'; in this text the verb is deliberately
chosen to mark the transition of the festival from the public view to the
hidden mysteries to take place at the tomb, and this happens once the
procession has passed through U dsr. IT] fk fukr the Haker-festivities 1 .
5^4 sdrt night of vigil
v See §40 on di.n=i followed by a verb to express causation.
b. Look at the episodes in this section from the stela of Ikhernofret and
vi hrwpf that day ...'
day', translate '(on) that
examine how iw and the past tense sdm.n(-f) form are used to give shape to
vii The bark of Osiris is called the Neshmet-bark nsmt or else is simply ( )
the passage. As a guide, note that in most instances, the auxiliary iw is fol-
referred to as the great bark wrt ); both are feminine words and are ref-
lowed not by one but by two or three past-tense verbs; only in the sentence
ered to by the feminine pronoun =s 'it' in in.n-s 'it brought' (for in(i
beginning iw dsr.n—i is Iw followed by a single verb. How does your gram-
'bring', see p.44). See the reference table on suffix pronouns on p. 148.
matical account correlate with the different sections of the festival?
90 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Further aspects of description 91

6.6 Study exercise: BM EA 586

a. The stela on p. 90 is by no means an easy text, but with the help of the
following notes, have a go at transliterating and translating the top section
of this stela or use the key on p. 170 to work through it.
i On dating and the titles of the king, see §§17-19. The king's cartouche
is surmounted by the sky hieroglyph, which is not read.
ii whm hst 'to repeat favour' with whm in the sdm.n(=f) form. On the
omission of =i T, see §35.
iii s r i 'to advance' (one's position, here 'heart') literally, 'to make great'.

The full form would have been s r i.n=i, see §38 on coordination and
sharing, r has the sense here of 'more than'.
iv hprw 'who existed' is a participle (see Chapter 7 for discussion).
v The section beginning iw ts.n is another example of coordination, here
dealing with the king's gift of a great seal htm <v) and a staff (tryt) to Ity.

ts(i) lit. 'to tie on', is used for the seal which the king tied around Ity's
neck, but this precise meaning does not really go with the decorated
staff which Ity was also given, so translate 'assign (to)'.
vi mi sps-nsw nh 'just like any dignitary of the king' (which you might
wish to put in brackets) goes with the first gift (the seal), and contrasts
with the special gift of the staff (with which Ity is depicted in the lower
scene), sps-nsw is a conventional designation.
vii sw r bt is a participle with feminine agreement with sryt 'staff', translate

'(which was) decorated'. See Chapter 7.

viii it-ntr 'god's father'. In the Middle Kingdom, this seems to have been a
title bestowing high rank and favour on an official, typically for per-

forming special commissions for the king to do with the cult of the
gods, and also legitimating him for this task. Perhaps here the title is

directly connected to the episode of the king's assignment of the great

seal and a staff to Ity.

ix The text ends abruptly with the names of Ity and Iuri. The wife's name
is separated off by a vertical bar.


r sew iryt staff iwri Iuri (name)

O’ ib heart it(w)
1 fathers

> or it-ntr god's father

Mil ity Ity (name)

Jk whm repeat
jD nsw king

3 r-hit before
hbny ebony

92 How to read b.gyptian hieroglyphs


hmt-f his beloved {

2V2 mrt-f wife
list favour
(jEB come into

£ hpr
being, exist

hpr-ki-r f © hr before
(®iuj (Scnwosret I)

htm seal
S'i advance

dignitary of This chapter concentrates on the elaborate epithets which abound on stelae particu-

swcb decorate Hh
the king larly epithets characterising the owner as haring lived an ethical life or having
performed well in royal service. This will also allow us to introduce you to another
ts(i) tie, knot lx*. d'm elect rum
extremely common Egyptian verb- form - the participle. To start with, however, we
need to return to adjectives.

The family
b. Transliterate and translate the labels above the sons and daughters of Ity.
§44 Adjectives
You have already been introduced to adjectives in §10. In Egyptian, these

vocabulary: names follow and agree with the noun they noun feminine and

describe. If the is

ends in the adjective will also end in To wrap up this topic properly, the

-t, -t.

hlt Amenemhet int-f Intef full list of endings are:


IP TV s!, - wsrt Satwosret sit-sbk Satsobek SG. MSC. no special ending nfr

SC,. FFM. -t nfr l

You will be asked to study the inscription from the bottom scene at the end
w Q
of Chapter 7. PL. MSC. -w or o nfr (wl

PL. HEM. Jfe nfn

(The plural can be written with or without the plural strokes i i i; moreover,
the -w of the masculine plural agreement is often omitted in writing, leaving
no ending at all - this is indicated by the symbol o in the table above.)
Compare the following examples showing feminine singular agree-
ment and masculine plural agreement:

Ikhernofret relates his role in the Mysteries of Osiris

Berlin 1204, — ^ o
Line 18: hv lr.n=l prt 'it
1 conducted the great procession

The top part of BM EA 101 has Nebipusenwosret adoring the gods. Behind the figure
of Nebipusenwosret:

BM EA 101:

94 How 10 read Hgyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 95

dwi isir m hb(w)=f nfrw dt r nhh There are two groups of participles: the present participle has the meaning
Adoring Osiris in his wonderful festivals cnduringly and repeatedly '(one) who does something'; the past participle has the meaning '(one) who
did something'. The forms of the participles in different verb classes are as

§45 Adjectives used as nouns follows:

Adjectives are typically used to describe other words, but they can be used
on their own to mean 'a person/people with that particular quality'. For
example, in English '1 am an Egyptian', means 'I am an Egyptian person'
(one) (one)
(not a soldier, or a donkey, or anything else!); compare also English expres- who hears who heard

sions such as the 'the rich' and 'the poor'. In Egyptian this is rather common: (one) (one)
who sees ztk who saw
The official Intef son ofSenet, proclaims his ethical behaviour in general terms:
(one) (one)
WEAK mrr mr
who loves 2s Si who loved
BM EA 562,
Lines 10-11: iw krs.n=i ls(w) hbs.n=i Ivy EXTRA i 0 dd (one) rdi (one)
Iburied the old and I clothed the naked WEAK • a (no r) who gives (with r) who gave

However, in Egyptian, the adjective can be singular with the meaning 'a rich (Participles also sometimes have a -w ending.)
onc/(somc)one rich', whereas English prefers to add a rather general word
such as 'someone' (so Ivy probably means more accurately 'someone naked' Basically, any verb other than a strong verb has a doubled consonant in the

or ‘the naked one'). present participle but not in the past participle. In the case of strong verbs,
If the idea is indefinite, abstract or general: 'anything good' or 'what is however, it is not possible to tell the two apart on the basis of their forms
good', the feminine form of the adjective is used: alone. As you will see in the examples below, there is no need in Egyptian
for a separate word meaning 'who' (or 'which' or 'what') since this is an
good (n.)
nfrt from nfr good, perfect integral part of the meaning of the Egyptian participle verb-form.
'what is good'

n f\ WMV, evil n(
. §47 Participles and epithets
bint from bin bad
'what is bad' js: ( Since a participle behaves a lot like an adjective, it is often used to qualify a
noun. For example, participles are commonly used in the epithets charac-
Key proclaims his own ethical behaviour:
terising an official:
O ^

BM EA 558, The stela of Ameny identifies his subordinate, Sahathor, with the epithet:
Line 4: ink dd nfrt
I was one who said what is good

Notes BMEA162, bik-f im r n st-ib=f

Central column: irr hsst-f r r rib
i For ink see §49 below.
His true servant of his affection,
ii dd is a participle meaning 'one who said', see §§48 and 49. who does what he favours every day
{hsst=f ‘ what he favours' is a present relative form, see §52 below.)
The meaning of the feminine form of the adjective as 'what is good' is similar
to the meaning of the relative form mentioned in §37.
In the first part of this example both 3? n
mr 'true' and n st-ib=f
'of his affection' help to characterise bik-f' his servant'. Similarly in
§46 Participles /TT" . _2*
the second half of the example, irr is the present participle ('who does')
The participles are special forms of the verb which have many of the quali-
ties of an adjective, particularly because they can be used to qualify nouns. and is also used to elaborate the character of bik-f' his servant'.

96 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 97

Just like an adjective, a participle must agree with the noun it describes person with certain qualities or attributes; in effect, it answers the question
and so will end with <=> -t if the noun is feminine: 'what was I like?', 'who was I?', focusing on ethical behaviour and success
and achievement:
Before the figure of Medehu, the wife of Ameny:

The self-presentation section of the stela of I lekaib begins in the following way:
BM HA 162,
Left col u mn: hmt-f mrt=f irrt hsst-f r r nb
His wife, beloved of him, who does what he favours every day BM EA 1671,
Line 1: ink nds ikr
r~i xi I was an astute individual
In this example, irrt ('who does') agrees with hmt 'wife'; for <dp mrt
'beloved', see §50, below.
ink is the T-form (first person) of a third and last type of pronoun, called the
Alternatively, a participle may show an extra % -w with masculine
independent pronoun because it can come at the beginning of a statement:
Independent pronoun, written with the
Ity asserts that he advanced himself more than: D33 pot, read here as in.

BM HA 586,
^ Q ^ Notice that in this example there is no word for 'was' in this construction

Line 2: it(w)=i hprw r-hit-i (the statement could also be translated in the present tense, i.c. 'I am an
my (fore- Bathers who existed before me astute individual', but here the past tense seems appropriate to the idea of

an official looking back over a life presented as now ended).

§48 Participles as nouns It is not unusual to find the use of qualifying expressions such as
Again, like adjectives, participles can be used on their own to mean 'a person participles:
who does something' or more succinctly 'one who does something'. For
example, BM EA 614 (the stela of Tjetji) introduces Tjetji himself with a long The self-presentation of Hekaib continues:
of his titles and epithets, including:
C w /l ^
Bjy i =z\ i i

zs BM EA 1671, ink nds ikr

BM EA 614, rh hrt-ib nb=f Line 1: dd m r-f
Line 1: Sms -sw r nmit-f nb 1 was an astute individual,
one who knows the desire of his lord, who spoke with his (own) mouth
one who follows him at all his journeys

(For vocabulary, see p. 106.)

The owner is referred to the second time in the third person: =f moving
from the specific individual to a generalized social characterisation by char-
In this example, and i } j\ sms are participles used on
rh their own to
acterising the first person 'I' (specific individual) in generalized third person
mean '(a person) w ho knows' and '(a person) who follows'.
r terms ('one who spoke w’ith his own mouth').
Incidentally, the participle is the form used in the name of Wepwawet, In this example, the adjective ( ^ ikr 'astute') and the participle (

'the one who opens the ways' (compare this with his role in the Osiris Mys- dd 'who spoke') both qualify
}UJS Often, however, ink is followed -

teries studied in Exercise 6.5): by a participle used on its own, to create a statement which means 'I was
someone who did' (when using the past participle):
wp-wiwt Wepwawet
The official Key makes a common statement about appropriate behaviour:
(Participles used on their own sometimes translate well as an English agen-
tive noun ending in '-or', here 'the opener of the ways'.) v« ==4 ©
BM EA 558,
Line 4: ink dd nfrt
§49 Characterisation with O ink I was one who said what is good
This construction is typically used to characterise someone as the type of

98 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation

This characterisation construction tells us about what he was like. It does

ink mry nb=f
not mean what is good' -
I said this would be a description, using the past hsy-f m hrt-hrw nt r r -nh
tense sdm.n(-f) form, and would tell us about what he did, rather than what I was one beloved of his lord
and favoured of him (or, his favoured one')
he was like:
in the course of every day

A made-up example to illustrate the point in the text:

In expressions of familial affection, m mr(i sometimes occurs in the
present/incomplete participle form mrrw. The reason for this is still
much discussed and may have
do with the presence of the following
iw dd.n=i nfrt
plural genitive expression. However, a much easier way to understand this
I said what is good
in the next example is to note that that the previous generation (the owner's
mother and father) take the past passive participle, whereas his siblings (i.e.
The two constructions differ clearly in form and also in meaning, just as their
the present generation from his point of view) take the present passive
English translations do.

§50 Passive participles completes Study

Inhuretnakht 's full declaration of his status within his family (this
Participles can either be active (‘one who loved') or passive ('one who was
Exercise 5.4):
(be)loved'). Unfortunately, the passive participles do not usually have a dis-

tinctive writing in Egyptian. However, the most common examples in our

£ VI HZ A\ MX Z > 51
inscriptions concern the verbs
which, as weak
tnr(i) 'love'

verbs, in the past passive participle

and J ^ hs(i) 'favour'
do sometimes show a dis-
BM EA 1783,
Lines 2-3.
„ il= f /7<v n mwt=f mrrw snw=f snwt=f im(i
one beloved of his father, praised of his mother, beloved
) n ?bt=f

tinctive l|i] -y ending in the past passive participle. Since this is a rather his siblings, and one gracious of/to his household

common usage, we will discuss the point in some detail:

As an alternative, mrrw might be translated as a masculine relative form -
see §52 below - and the translation reshaped: 'one whom his siblings love
Inhuretnakht declares his status within his family:
and one gracious to his household'.

BM EA 1783, Finally, you have already encountered the past passive usage on a
Lines 2-3: ink mry n it=f number of occasions in various labels of filiation. A particularly good exam-
I was one beloved of his father
ple occurs on BM EA 584, to be studied in Chapter 8:

In such a usage, the passive participle is often followed by the genitive 'of',

either the indirect genitive (as in the last example) or the direct genitive: Label before one of the sons of Khuenbik o ffering fowl:

BM EA 584:
si=f mry=f pth-htp
His son, his beloved, Ptahhotep

Often, though, we find a more abbreviated writing:

Label before the first sons in the third row of BM EA 571:

BM EA 571:
si=f mry-fimny
His son, his beloved, Ameny

(In idiomatic English we might prefer 'his beloved son'.)


1 00 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 1 0

§51 in + noun + participle The offering formula in BM EA 358:

The participles are also used in a construction introduced by in: in +

noun + participle ‘it is so-and-sowho did'. Like its English equivalent, this BM EA 558.
construction highlights the person who performs an action. It occurs quite Line 2: ht -nbt nfr(t) w b(t)
nht ntr im r

formula which identifies the donor of everything good and pure on which a god lives
commonly in a dedication a stela:

The label above Niptahkau on the stela dedicated to his father Khuenbik (see Chapter Also, just like adjectives, the relative forms show this helpful extra ^ -t

8, pp. 122-3): when used on their own with the meaning ‘what someone does/did':

PLEMEM, The stela of Ameny identifies his subordinate. Sahathor, with the epithet:

BM LA 584: in Si=f s r nh rn=f m-r ikdw n-pth-kiw c

It is son who made his name live (on),

his A

the overseer of builders Niptahkau BMEA162, bik=f m? n sl-ib-f

Central column: irr hsst=f r r nb
His true servant of his affection,
§52 Relative forms again who does what he favours every day
in §37 above we introduced you to the past relative form. The relative form
is in fact similar in usage to the participle. First of all, here is a table of the Masculine relative forms do not show such a ^ -t and thus are harder to
forms of the relative forms in the present and the past. As with the previous spot. Fortunately they are also fairly uncommon and need not concern us in
section on the relative form §37, we shall exhibit the form with a -/ this book. As noted in Chapter 5, p. 71, the filiation expressions for males ir-

(although, as you will see, this is actually the -t of feminine agreement): n and ms-n may well be examples of masculine relative forms.

Excursus: Middle Kingdom titles

STRONG In Chapter 3, various titles were introduced to provide you with a resource
for your reading. In these notes, the lilies are gathered together according to
their function, to provide another convenient reference resource (the list

WEAK includes some titles from other stelae in the British Museum).

extra weak 1
— -s ddt=f what he gives General terms
Generic terms for office holding and status amongst the elite include the

STRONG sdmt.n-f what he heard

TT nt °^ ce sr of fi ciai
DOUBLING V. \ www. rmt.n-f what he saw
servant individual
WEAK mrt.n-f what he loved

c — _>
The term in is the general term for a regular office or function.
EXTRA WEAK A -fl rdit.n-f what he gave
Such an office brought status, position and power, and also wealth through

(Compare with the forms §46 above.)

of the participles in
its attached estate
pr). The term
| ^
^4 Ink 'servant' was often used as
a means of stressing the dependent relationship of one person on another
In particular, like participles, relative forms display certain adjectival
and could be used of people who otherwise had high status,
qualities. Thus they agree with the noun they accompany, for example
'individual' was often used, particularly in the First Intermediate Period, for
taking a -t when going with feminine words. A good example occurs in the
someone of high status who did not hold an official position.
offering formula:
> — ^ )

1 02 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 10 3

The palace and the king Stewardship and production

The 'palace' was an itinerant community gathered round the king, who, as
m-r pr overseer of the estate (steward)
well as residing at a central residential and administrative complex, also
moved about the country in order to celebrate the festivals of Egypt's many m-r ikdw overseer of builders
gods. Officials would regularly visit the palace in order to renew their
m-r sn r (w overseer of the provisioning areas
attendance on the king, before returning to the various regions to exercise
their delegated authority.
Regional authori ty
Titles proclaiming attendance at court
Titles associated with the government of regional districts:

„ follower of royal intimate,

smsw pr r
i , , rh nsw governor,
the palace king's adviser whm(w) reporter, herald
mayor of a town
Titles associated with the ritual appearances of the king are usually com-
pounded with the word nsw for 'king'.

J-jT m-r ms r wr general-in-chief

Titles proclaiming attendance on the king

keeper of the chamberlain 'nhnnwt soldier of the town regiment

iry nfr-hit imy-hnt
royal diadem (the one in front)

Religious titles
Titles proclaiming rank and authority delegated from the king
Titles associated with priestly functions. In the Middle Kingdom, there were
htmty bity king's seal-bearer
1^^-j smr w r
ty sole companion few full-time priests, but elite men regularly served in the temples:

w r
b w 6-priesl
r ntr god's- lather
Administrative titles are compounded with the word bity for 'king'.
(1Et it

htmty-bity is prefixed only to high-level titles. As well as signifying high

rank, the title indicated that the holder was authorised to use the royal seal.
hm ntr hm - priest (5) hm ki ka - priest
1? is

hry ssti hry hbt lector priest
The treasury .2,HEsl of-secrets kl
For the monuments studied in this book, the officials attached to the treas-
ury have particular importance:
Although we have divided secular and religious titles for convenience here,
in practice these were intertwined in elite Middle Kingdom society, where
Procurement storage dispensing and
, , utilisation the same person could hold both secular and religious lilies at once. BM EA
m-r treasurer (overseer -ve-jC m-r overseer of 585, where Sarcncnutet has the following titles, provides an example of this:
hum of what is sealed) i A/i \\ -hnwty the chamber
G E5 fob Snwty counter of the double granaries
htmw seal-bearer, assistant
hry-' (to the treasurer) <= u cnen cr


dd htp(w)-ntr n ntrw offering-giver to the gods

The title
m-r r hnwty was originallymore general. In origin it prob-
ably referred to the 'overseer of the chamber of the residence/palace'.
Titles of women
However, by the Middle Kingdom the title had become split between a In general women
were not included in the formalisation of elite society
number of different branches of the administration. A particularly common through office holding, which tended to be a male preserve (you may
m-r rhnwty 'overseer of the chamber' w-as the
^2. m-r Hmwty 1
— — .* already have noted that most women depicted on the stelae in this book are
usually referred to by their family relationship with the male owner). How-
n m-r htmt 'overseer of the chamber for the treasurer', who seems to have
been responsible for the procurement of raw materials (for example through ever, some women are shown bearing a certain range of titles which usually

mining) and for monumental building work. accord with the status of their menfolk. Of particular note for the stelae
studied in this book arc those of high status:
3 )

1 04 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 105

7. A note on the writing of ir(i ) 'to do'

A major exception to the rule on sound complements given in Chapter 2 is
provided by the verb ^
ir(i 'to do, make' (this verb also has many idio-

matic meanings). When read ir

, it is generally written alone (an
exception occurs on BM hA 558 in Study Exercise 7.7 where, for space rea-
sons, seems to be written for irr), while is usually to be

Another common title of elite women associates them with the run-
transliterated irr (a third form, S, should always be transliterated irr):

ning of the estate. It appears on stelae from the late 12th dynasty onwards: irr more

rarely ir
Estate ami household

nbt pr lady of the house, mistress of the estate 7.4 Translation

Transliterate and translate the following.
a. The self-presentation section of the stela of Hekaib begins in the following way,
stressing the topic of self-reliance (you may consider adding 'own '
in your translation
to help bring this out), compare with §49 above:
7 . / Signs
a. 2-consonant and 3-consonant signs

wd ht

rm ® hr

b. Ideograms and determinatives


SIGN EXAMPLE i The hieroglyphs are organised as they are on the original, except that
the elements of the passage are separated out for your convenience.
9 E58 - sail me breath
You may find that you need to insert 'and' occasionally in your

A 10/ At - man
1 rank
on chair with/without flail

E10 - emblem erected


m Sps
august, rich ii
The pronoun =/ is used to refer back to the owner of the stela as noted
in §49 (as in: 'I was an official well respected in his district' or the like).
T °r ( iU
The switch to the third person is normal in such constructions.
outside the temple of Min i ? function
iii shsf ... r 'to keep (something) at a distance from', idiom of impartiality.
D18 - village with
® nwt town iv iwn r
t 'great pillar' is used metaphorically (cf. our own expression for
crossroads d i

someone being a tower of strength' or a 'pillar of the community')

A7 - man holding stick
T in
$ and kerchief M3 sr official
v On the omission of the suffix pronoun =i
tence, see §35 above. Read mity nb m nwt in.
writing in the third sen-

7.2 Words b. The stela of Tjetji begins with the king 's name and then Tjetji is introduced with
Transliterate the following words written with these signs: a list of epithets:

... sweet create

1 U

under, carrying
(see also §2

strong, vigorous
How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 1 07
1 06


i is an early form of the papyrus roll Another variant form is .

. ,
Satsobek to pass by,
ii On the dependent pronoun -aw, see §41. (name)

r to keep at a
, 1
7.5 Stela of Ity 586) shsf
distance Jn place(s)

and translate the following, which the lower section of the

$PI —
Transliterate is
dignitary (literally. dignity,

s ^s )
stela given as Exercise 6.6: 'august one') wealth

7.6 Relative forms

The relative forms are used in a common late Middle Kingdom addition to

the offering formula, which occurs on BM EA 143, the stela of Nakhti to be

studied in Exercise 7.8:

The voice-offering can be extended after everything good and pure on which a god

lives' as follows:

BM EA 143, o
c n h
Line 2: n /I

Ij(J ^

X k

i Remember that since these are relative forms, they will require trans-
lating here with 'which'. Also consult the table in §52 for the writings.

ii See stela BM F.A 143, Exercise 7.8, for vocabulary.

BM EA 586 (lower section)

Notes 7.7 Study exercise : BM EA 558

i Notice the writing of the title it-ntr 'god's father' (cf. Exercise 6.6). The stela of Key on page 108 comes compendium
across as something of a

ii Read mry nb-f mr 'one truly beloved of his lord', where mry is a partici- of standard expressions, rather than a smooth-running composition. Some
ple (see §50 above). nb=f is placed first through prestige (see §22). of the sections of this inscription have already been used as examples in the

main text. Transliterate and translate the stela with the help of the notes.
(the god) i For the epithets, see §§47 and 50 above.
iwn pillar imn-r r
0 Aniun-Ra ii For ii m, read ii(.n-i) m, parallel to lu.n-t m. Translate m as 'from'.

f it-ntr
god's father
(priestly title) Wn ity Ity (name) iii


For the omission of the suffix pronoun
For ink + participle, see §49 above.
=/, sec §35 above.

WiSt Thebes (place) pr house, estate mrrt is probably a present relative form, see §52 above.
r- i

vi For the writing of the negative ^ n as sec §38 above (in both n
mlty peer, equal nmtl journeys dws(-i) and n wd(-i)).
1 1

master of
vii The expression n wd(-i) hwt m s=l is not without its difficulties. In
r mouth 'v 1
W . hry-shi
lish idiom, you may wish to translate m as 'for/ to'.
1 secrets (title)

Khentyt viii There is some doubt as to whether whm should be read as a title or as
bps strong arm hntyt
(place-name) part of a name whm-ky.
hnt(y) (one) foremost This inscription also introduces the important verb 'to come':
hrt-ib desire
St of position 1

'come' - written in twoTorms:

Satvvosret a. with monogram of i and walking legs
daughter iy(i)/iwfi)
¥ Sit
1PT¥ sit-wsrt
(name) b. with walking legs ideogram
1 08 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Characterisation 1 09

W.-V' /\WV*A*"V% *»“

’' tA 0 /C' 2

r> 1 :k n a

l L I

mm t (i

- <
N iw
.^:Va> S!V : . >

BM EA 558
(carved and painted limestone; h. 80cm)
1 1 1) How to tend Egyptian hieroglyphs

iv This stela shows a number of features which place its date rather late in Chapter 8
the sequence of stelae studied in this book. The word for Djedu is writ-
two dd- signs, suggesting
ten with
dynasty. This is confirmed by the use of n
a date of at least the late
h n without itmlj(w) (see
The future
§26) and by the use of the ddt /^-formula. It is thought that the 'breath-
of-life' formula only came into use in the 13th dynasty; if so, this would
suggest a date in the early 1 3th dynasty for this stela.

In this final chapter we will introduce you to the 'appeal to the living' formula in

which the deceased calls upon future generations to maintain his funerary’ cult. We
will also look at the future tense used particularly to express wishes and expectations.

§53 The sdmty.fy form

In expressing the future, the place of the participle is taken by the sdmty.fy
form: '(someone) who will/may do something'. This form has the same uses
as the participles, but has its own particular endings. In its fullest writings

the sdmty.fy form displays the following forms:


w w w w w II i i


Often, however, the w -y of the endings is omitted:

The stela of Mentjuhotep in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge

, , has an appeal to

the living which begins:

Fitz.E9. 1 922,
Line 1: /
nhw tpw U sw?t(y).sn hr is pn
O the living upon the earth who may pass by this tomb

(See §54 below for the form of the appeal to the living and its vocabulary.)
As with participles, the sdmty.fy form can be used with a noun (in this

example, swit(y).sn 'who may pass' goes with 'the living') or on its own
('someone who will do something').

§54 The appeal to the living

The appeal to the living formula is found on many stelae. A simple example is:

The appeal to the living of the chamberlain Minnefer (year 29 of Amenemhet II):

BM EA 143
(carved and painted limestone; n. 81.2cm)
Lines 4-5:
man* !?

2 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs The future


h. The offering reguest

The owner requests that offerings or prayers be made or said for him:
hm(w)-ntr hm(w)t-ntr w fbw nw r-pr pn
nhw tpw ti

dd-tn hi hnkt ki ipd n itmh(w) m-r rhn\vty mnw-nfr mr-hrw

t From BM EA 829:
() living ones upon the earth, the /wr-priests and Aw-priestesses,

and tlie iv'/z-priests ot this temple, o 0 O =«jr= t

may you say, 'A thousand (of) bread, beer, ox and fowl for the
i iA 61? © & £ A

revered one, the overseer of the chamber Minnefer, the justified' dd-tn hnkt ki ipd n irmh(w) m-r 'hnwty mnw-nfr nn f-hrw
hi t
Line 5:
May you say, 'A thousand bread, beer, ox and fowl for the revered
(See the Reference table on p. 148 for the suffix pronoun =tn 'you',) one, the overseer of the chamber Minnefer, the justified'

The appeal to the living is composed of two basic elements plus a fur- The request for saying the offering formula uses the future sdm(-f) form dis-

ther, optional element: cussed below in §55.

a. Hailing the visitor c. The appeal to goodwill or piety

The owner of the memorial addresses the passers-by; the visitors are The appeal to the living is often augmented by a third element - an invoca-
hailed, typically in the form: tion of the goodwill or piety of the visitors, or a declaration of the benefits
visitors will gain if they make the offering. Sometimes this is included in
As we saw above the , stela of Mentjuhotep begins with an appeal to the living:
hailing the visitors in the form of participles:

Fitz.E9. 1922,
= The appeal to the living of the priest Mentuhotep:
Line 1 : i
r nhw tpw n ...

O the living upon the earth ...

This is composed of the following words:

(j ^j)
or / C) or
^ tpw (who are) upon Fitz.E9. 1 922, i
nhw tpw hr is pn ti
Line mrrw nh msddw hpt
“ 1

rn b w die living ti the earth dd=tn hnty-imntw mntw-htp

sih isir
() ones upon the earth who may pass by this tomb

(On the form of tpw 'upon', see §60 below.) and who love life and who hate death,
may you say, 'May Osiris Khentyirneniu transfigure Mentjuhotep'
There may follow an enumeration of the people likely to pass by - such
as temple staff and scribes - who are often hailed in passing the monument:
( %> mrrw and ffj
M^ msddw are both participles; sec §46 above.)
The stela of Mentjuhotep continues: Often, however, the appeal to the goodwill or piety of the visitor takes
the form of a separate clause (here beginning m + mrr-tn)

leading on to the request to say the offering:

Line 1: i
nhw tpw swit(y).sn hr is pn

O the living upon the earth who may pass by this tomb The appeal to the living of the overseer of builders Khuenbik:

As in this example, in hailing the visitor, the verb swi 'to pass' (hr 'by') is typ-
ically used in the sdmty.fy form: '(they) who shall pass', swi can be
written in the following ways:


nhw swit(y).sn hr m r
h ct hd m
tn m hsft
m mrr-tn sms wp-wnvl r nmil-fnh

JS or ^ X swi pass (by) dd-tn hnkt t

(Note the abbreviated writings with x D7 crossed sticks.)

4 ) :

1 1 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs The future 115

O living ones who may pass by this cenotaph in going north or in May hands/help be given to him in the Neshmet-bark on the ways
going south, of the west;
as you wish to follow Wepwawet at his journeys, May he receive offerings on the great altar on the festivals of the
may you say, ‘Bread and beer necropolis;
May ‘Welcome in peace’ be said for him by the great of Abydos: on
Grammatically, the first clause is sometimes introduced by m 'as' and the the Wag-festival and on the Thoth-festival ... (a list of festivals
request clause sometimes by ^(j mi ('just as so you should say
(,t(w) is the affix of the passive with in used for 'by' ('may something be
§55 Wishes, expectations and requests: the future sdm (=f)
done by1 someone'). r

The form used to express wishes, requests, expectations and the like is the
You will be studying this formula in the Exercises to this chapter.
future sdm(-f). In the appeal to the living, you have already, in fact, encoun-
tered the future sdm(=f) form of dd ('say'):
§57 Purpose and causation

The appeal to the living of the chamberlain Minnefer once more: a. Purpose /result clauses
The future sdm(=f) is also used to express purpose or result ('so that', 'in

order that'). This is the form used in the offering formula:

<=ii i AAn 1 © J
The offering formula from BM EA 558:
BM EA 829, I
r nhw tpw ti hm(\v)-ntr hm(w)t-ntr wbw me r-pr -pn
Lines 4-5: dd=tn hnkt h ipd n hmh(w) m-r 'hnwiy mnw-nfr tne-hrw
hi t

O living ones upon the earth, the hrn- priests and /fw-priestesses, BM HA 558,
and the u ,r /7-priests of this temple, Lines 1 -2:
^,m a5
may you say, 'A thousand (of) bread, beer, ox and fowl for the
revered one, the overseer of the chamber Minnefer, the justified' htp-di-nsw isir nb ddw ntr r
< nb ibdw
di-f prt-hrw t hnkt ki ipd ss mnht ...
The future sdm(=f is a form distinct from the present sdm(=f) noted in §42 An offering which the king gives to Osiris lord of Djedu, great god,
lord of Abydos,
above (although the two can be difficult to distinguish by the writings
so that he might give an invocation offering ot bread, beer, ox
alone). The future sdm(=f), for example, is not used with auxiliaries such as and fowl, alabaster and linen ...
i\v. Its full forms are given in §59 below (you may wish compare the
to writ-
ings of the two forms in the reference tables on pp. 145 and 146).
b. Causation
§56 The Abydos formula We have already noted the use of the verb rdi to express causation when fol-

The Abydos formula is a fairly standardised set of afterlife wishes. The lowed by another verb with the sense of 'to cause/have/let/allow someone
mature version belongs to the first half of the 12th dynasty with earlier (less to do something' (see §40). This other verb goes in the future sdm(-f) form:

standardised) versions occurring in the 11th dynasty. The full formula has
twenty elements (as in BM EA 567), but many texts contain a selection: Ikhernofret's description of the great procession of Osiris:

A brief version of the Abydos formula occurs on BM EA 162:

Berlin 1204,
iw ir.n=i prt r it sms=i ntr r nmtt=f di.n=iskd dpt-nlr
Lines 18-19:
BM EA 162, Iconducted the greal procession, following the god at his travels,
Lines 4-6: and I made the god's boat sail

A |

§58 Negation
-=Jl i

The future sdm(=f) in its main usage is negated by n n + fu tu re sd m ( =f)
di.t(w) n-f r wy m nsmt hr wUw)t imntt
ssp-f hrpt hr htp r m hb(w) n hrt-ntr i
'you will/may not do that':

dd.t(w) n=f iw m lap in wrw n ibdw m wig m dhwtt ...


The future 117

1 1 6 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

A (with extra -/)
mav he come

o int—f
1C may hc
, ,

brl "K
(with extra

i The verb mu 'to see' also displays a iorm^ tmn=f.
ii The weak verb form with -y is most common in the first person.
(j (j

iii The forms from the verbs 'come' and 'bring' show an extra t.

§60 Adjectives in -y
When used with nouns, a special adjective form of the preposition is used:

The stela of Mentjuhotep

Fitz.E9. 1 922,
Line 1: i nhw tpw n

O the living (who are) upon the earth ...

Here an adjective derived from the preposition ©| tp ('upon').

tpw is

As an adjective tpw agrees with the noun r

nhw (both show
the plural -vv). This form is termed the adjective in -y (the -y only occurs in
the masculine singular form). Some prepositions display a distinctive writing
in the adjective in -y:


m in hny (which/vvho is) in


at, towards
iry (which/vvho is) at, towards, relating lo
in relation to

'y’ hr upon hry (which/vvho is) upon

@1 tp upon fj or _£> tpy (which/vvho is) upon

Adjectives in -y agree with their nouns in number and gender:


MSC. e.g. msc. u

-y -w imy imw


-t -t imt imt

In writing, however. -y and -w are often omitted:

: )

The future
I 1 8 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

invoking Anubis: Exercises

The stela of Inhuretnakht begins with an offering formula

8.1 Signs
a. 2-consonant and 3-consonam signs:
BM EA 1 783, htp-di-nsw inpw tp(y) dw-f im(y) wt nb n dsr
Line 1:
An offering which the king gives (to) Anubis who is upon his
mountain, the one in the wr-fetish, lord of the sacred land

© V
Adjectives in -y are common in titles, tor example:
b. Three other signs which are useful at this point:
master of secrets lector priest (literally,
j Jr
<? -2' (literally,
the one
(sj ^ the one carrying the
lector book)

E30/E31 - combination of
1 i E29 and D32 (and Z Cl
(hry is derived from the preposition hr 'under', which is also used with the or /ffi

- sandy hill-slope)

1 or hrt-ntr
sense of 'carrying'.)
Like other adjectives, the adjectives in -y can be used on their own * E 1 7 - dagger. Used in the (who upon.

'the thing which ... ). A particular example is the name ol

adjective in -y tpy See §60 above
('the one who

Khenlyimentu 'the foremost of the westerners': E33 - two planks crossed and
(who is) in.
-L joined. Used in the adjective
See §60 above
in -v imy.
The stela ofKhuenbik begins with an offering formula invoking Osiris:

8.2 Words
BM EA 584, Transliterate the following words:
htp-di-nsw isir nb ddw hnty-imntw ( ntr) ri nb ibdw
Ijine 1
An ottering which the king gives to Osiris lord of Djedu.
ZSl? ,
£ receive, take transfigure
Khentyimentu, great (god), lord of Abydos
o ATi
tomb, cenotapli entourage

( ntr has been omitted in the phrase ntr t 'great god')

hnty is meaning '(the one) at the front', imntw is also

an adjective in -y
tomb akh -spirit
an adjective in -y, derived from the noun hunt 'the west' and means 'the
ones of the west', 'westerners'. So hnty-imntw means ‘the one at the front of (The blessed dead become di - spirits in the afterlife by being transfigured
the westerners' (the 'westerners' are the dead, the people in the realm of
(sdj) after death.)

BM EA 567 (shown on p. 120) begins with a date, an offering formula, and
is tomb mnw-nfr Minnefer
then moves onto a lull set of the twenty elements of the Abydos formula, of
which a selection are given here, including some mentioning the Abydos
mntw-htp Mentjuhotcp msd( hate
(IP' ! i
mysteries. Ignore the sections in grey.

r-pr temple hm(\\’)-ntr hm - priests


hm- hpt death
111 priestesses A
PS*. Sill
20 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs The future 121

ix Translate nsmt wrt r nmtt-s as 'when the great nSmt- bark is at its jour-
x In Line 10 U-wr, the nome containing Abydos, here refers to the inhab-
itant of the nome, hence it can have a 'mouth'.
xi Insert 'at' in your translation before hikr in Line 10.
xii The vigil of Horus -577 or Horns the fighter remains one of the most
elusive aspects of the Osiris mysteries, although it probably refers to
part of the rites concerned with the reanimation of the dead Osiris.

BM EA 567
(carved limestone; w. 63.5cm)

i See notes to Exercise 7.8 for the writing of the determinative of ddw
and ;bdw.
ii Wepwawet has the epithet hnty ibdw 'the one at the front/head of
Abydos' (see §60 above for hnty).
iii The names of Heket and Khnum are written with their frog and ram
determinatives respectively.
iv ht -nbt nfr(t) pr(r)t m-b$h ntr r
; 'everything good which goes before the
great god'. pr(r)t is a participle.

v In Line 5 the Abydos formula begins with ms.t(w) -n-f r

wy hr ... 'May
arms be presented to him carrying The two groups of the venerated

dead noted are smsw n ssir 'the followers of Osiris' and tp- r hprw hr-hit
'the ancestors who existed before'. 8.4 Study exercise : BM EA 584
vi In Line 5 -tw is the dependent pronoun 'you' (the owner Amenemhet Transliterate and translate the stela of Khuenbik (BM EA 584 shown on
is sometimes referred to as 'he' sometimes as 'you'). See §41. p. 122) with its appeal to the living.

vii On snyt im(yt) ibdw, see §60. Note

viii dd is flatter than the normal form. Notice that

In Line 8 d in it does not In Lines 4-5 m mrr=tn sms wp-wiwt r nmtt-f nb 'in that you wish to follow
have the horns of the /-viper. Wepwawet at all his journeys'; sms is in the infinitive form and supplies the

object of the wish.

— .

1 22 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs The future 123


rn name 00 rrwt

(the goddess) A
hkt htp offerings
!£s3 Heket

hw-n- Khuenbik (the god)

''tsL (77 hnmw Khnum
bik (name)

make live, smyt the western

n sr nh
perpetuate imntt desert

sms to follow "3 df(sw) provisions

8.5 Study exercise : BM EA 162

The final stela for you to study is BM EA 162, the stela of the general-in-
chief Ameny. The stela is shown on p. 125. As usual, transliterate and trans-
late with the help of the accompanying vocabulary.
i See Exercise 3.3 for vocabulary for the offering formula section.
ii Read di.t(w) at the beginning of Line 4 with - —o for a a

iii See Chapter 7 for the structure of the various epithets.



(carved limestone; h. 53cm)


m ingoing
m hd
hsft south su w

Sflp-M: m-r overseer of

m r
h rt
ikdw builders 1 n tomb
“ST 04:
Maien hor Ptahhotep hm-ntr priestess of m-r overseer of
s»S rmi-n-
hr (name) Jj
A pth-
htp (name) UK hwt-hr Hathor htmt
w the treasury

n-pth- Niptahkau hm-ks ka-priest general-in-chief
1 1
kiw (name) 1 1
nmtt journeys ms r wr
1 24 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs The future 125


l ^ whit


domestic servant
ns i


Once you have read this stela, it will no doubt strike you that the
owner himself is actually missing from the figures shown. This is because,
like a number of stelae from Abydos, BM EA 162 belongs to a group dedi-
cated in an offering-chapel at the site. Unfortunately, Abydos was cleared of
many of its Middle Kingdom monuments by collectors and early archaeolo-
gists in the nineteenth century without a proper record being made of the
find-sites. It is only through the work of scholars scouring the museum col-
lections of the world and sifting through the sparse archaeological record
that original groups of stelae are gradually being reassembled.
Fortunately, BM EA 162 has been allocated to a group now known
conventionally as Abydos North Offering Chapel com- (ANOC) 2. It has a
panion, now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo (CCG 20546), which shows the
same style and phraseology: the two were clearly made in the same work-
shop as a pair. It too lacks a figure of Ameny himself; instead it depicts
further relatives and dependants looking from left to right (whereas in BM
EA 162 they look from right to left). This pair of stelae no doubt framed a
central stela depicting Ameny himself; one piece which has been proposed
is in the Musee du Louvre, Paris (C35).
BM EA 162
(carved limestone; H. 1 13cm)

Hieroglyphic sign-lists for the exercises

About the Front Cover
The cover shows a detail of an inscribed ritual tool used in the rite
of 'opening the mouth' - an obscure ceremony designed to breathe
life into an embalmed corpse, a statue or an inscribed image. The
The following lists are intended to help you to identify particular hiero-
text records a dedication from Senwosret to his celebrated prede-
glyphs quickly and easily, and then work out how they have been used to
cessor (here termed it '(fore)faiher'), Mentjuhotep II of the 1th I

write words. You can also, you wish, treat them as a convenient resource
-iOi. Dynasty, who is here identified by his praenomen Nebhepetre.
the most commonly used hieroglyphs.
for memorising some of

List I: 1-consonant signs

ntr nfr nb ttwy s-n-wsrt
MM A 24.21: ir.n=fm mnw=f n it=f nb-hpt-r
f mr-hrw Called aleph. Originally a throaty trill, it later became a stop, as in
cockney pronunciation of bottle as bo 7, and a hat as a 'a'
The perfect god, the lord of the twin lands, Senwosret:
Called yodh. Originally a stop, it tended to sound more likey. A
he has made a dedication for his father,
weak sound, often not written
Nebhepetre, the justified.
Like y in yes

Called ay in. A throaty gurgle, like saying a whilst swallowing

mnw 'dedication' refers here to the opening of the mouth implement Called waw. Like w in wet. A weak sound, often not written

itself and the rites associated with it. mnw is often translated as 'monu- Like b in bet

ment' in dictionaries, but actually refers more generally to royal Like p in pet
dedications, here for a celebrated royal predecessor. Like /in fit
The appearance of an extra m before the object mnw is a standard part
Like m in met
of this dedication formula, although the reason for it disputed by
is still
n Like n in net
scholars (as indeed are the intricacies of the grammar of the formula) -
r ==> Like r in rain but distinctly trilled as in Scots pronunciation
so you certainly should not worry too much about it. According to one < ,

suggestion, it indicates that it is the dedication of the object itself which h eg Like h in home

is seen as the focal-point of the formula, focusing on Senwosret's per- h Lmphatic h pronounced in the throat
formance of commemorative functions of kingship through
the h Like Scots ch in loch
supplying the opening of the mouth implement for the animation of stat-
h Slightly softer titan h, like German ch in ich
ues of his celebrated predecessor. 1 2
s 1 Like s in soap
s i— Like sh in ship

k ^ k pronounced at back oi mouth, like Arabic <7 in Qur'an (Koran)

k -^ 37* Like k in kit

g Like g in get

t Q Like t in tub

t g — Like t in tune

d Like d in did

d Like j in joke, or French di in dieu

Ati i :

Hieroglyphic sign-lists for the exercises 29

1 28 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs 1

Some common 2-consonant signs

List 11:
n pr
rnpt year sr official

A iW bi — nb — hi J|

kd 1
estate f? ,D

ib or mr <0= bh or hw
nm hi
u h y»i ms r expedition rd(i) give
MS sht countryside

% ih P*
nn hn £1 km
— n not (§39)
rdwy legs sdm hear

iw n pr nh hn gm
© nwt town hit front spsy dignified

O in or nw & ph ns hr — g*
iT'. 1

Os 1

(1) face =u
nmtt 9 hr ki ox. bull
> mi
V Si
n journey 1
(2) on

mi A
is hi Si ti
ntr god htp offering t bread
\ i l
I' 0 1 i i

=3 or " AMVW mw hw or bh Si
e tp
d? ndm sweet seat, place n land

r— mn D hm sw tm Ik Jn St
w 1

r mouth
TT 1 1
spa district © tP upon
d mr hn sn ti
I l


elder, clear
WI i — mr 9 hr
sk or wih
© rf sun smsw

1 )


w r mr or ib hs Si dw
i ?
wp mh hd $w B dr List V: Full Sign List
\J V I P
What follows is a complete list of signs appearing in this book, with an expla-
wn ms <3
hi Sn •rr
ft) i X
i_ nation of the different ways which each one has been used to write words.

wr mt hr Ss Since this is a practical list designed to help you find an unfamiliar sign
quickly, more recognisable signs have been grouped into three broad cate-
wd m(w)t A hw sd
gories (humans, animals, nature), whilst others have been grouped by shape

(small, The signs are given here in a standardised font, but it

tall, broad).
List III: Some common 3-consonant signs
should be remembered that there will be some variation in their forms as
inn or inn wih or sk , nu r hit hnt ssm they appear on monuments; in particular, the details of a sign will be

affected by whether it is painted (as on a coffin) or inscribed (as on a stela).
wb nbw hrw
S % sps
Readers who continue their study of ancient Egyptian will eventually

hum sms
need become familiar with the systematic sign-list of Gardiner's Egyptian
f nh whin nfr htp
) ©
6 \ Grammar (see p. 176). Since Gardiner used many more categories than we
Jt wsr ntr hpr spd
* dwi have, there is no correspondence between his list and ours in the way a par-
ticular sign is classified. Here, we have used the following abbreviations: lc.,

List IV: Some common ideograms one-consonant two-consonant sign; 3c., three-consonant
sign; 2c., sign;

ideo., ideogram; com., sign combined with other elements.

-i I, my (§36) iwn pillar
h palace
)& a<
*D lit office ib heart r
hi fight §A. Signs depicting people or parts of the human body


At A2 A3 A4 AS A6 A7 A8 A9 A10 All A12
Ci way
hw praise
imnx west
Wit road,
1 t I

nn ii come 1
0 r
arm w r
b pure
| \ .WW»V>
13 6 o77 8 1 1 2 5 65 9

Hieroglyphic sign -lists for the exercises 5

1 30 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs 1 1

A 1 3 A14 A 1 5 A 16 A 1 A 1 A 19 A20 A21 A 22 A23 A24 i}l). Other small signs

D3 D5 D6 D7 D8 D9 DIO D
M H Js K 1 A $ $ D1 D2 1)4 1 1 1)12

A25 A26 A27 A28 A29 A30 A3 A32 A33 A34 A35 A36 1 w i i i ooo n n X /J ra <? * 5

4jf S i it M <i> e "tfii <9

D13 D14 D 1 D 1 D17 D 18 D19 D20 D21 D22 D23 D24

A37 A38 A39 A40 A41 A42 A13 A44 A45 A46 A47 A48
X X © O ® © © o —
D25 D26 D27 D28 D29 D30 D31 D32 D33 D34 D35 D36
<=s= 4 3 %_u A f|
(ft u
A49 A50 A51 A 52 A53 A54 A 55 A56 A57 A58 A59 A60 0 Q 6 O 9 S L& C OOO V A
D37 B45
V r~ J <1 1 A i J 7T
A61 A62 & 9

S' :zT
§E. Other tall signs

El E2 E3 B54 E4 E5 E6 E7 E8 E9 E10 Fl 1

§B. Signs depicting creatures or parts of their bodies


B B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8 B9 BIO B1 B 12 1 i 1 1 T 1 }
T i

1 & \ & S k ¥ ¥ £3
£s> El 2 El 3 E14 E 1 E16 E17 El 8 E 1 E20 E21 ¥22 E23
B 1 B 14 B 1 5 B 16 B 1 B 1 B 19 B20 B21 B22 B23 B24 i 1 ? t i 1 i
l IP } 1

V. ¥ 4s k IS 4 k E24 E25 E26 E27 E28 E29 E30 E31 E32 E33 E34 E35
B25 B26 B27 B28 B29 B30 B31 B32 B33 B34 B35 B36 1 f A

i P 1 1
!Zl) 1 Hi + f k

S V P A9? & y> $7) E36 E37 F.38 E39 E40 E41 E42 E43 E44 E45 E46

B37 B38 B39 B40 B41 B42 B43 B44 B45 B46 B47 B48 I S (1 if® ft il fl 1 i e- I

r ) o=^ V 'O’
A E48 E49 E50 E51 E52 E53 E54 E55 E56 E57 E58 E59

B49 B50 B51

B52 B53 B54 B55 B56 B57 B 58 B59 B60 ff t 0 I I ¥ Ma 11 ? ! ¥ I

m j

•4, J)

1 fjfl

Si ( E60 E61 E62 E63

E64 E65 E66 E67 E68 E69 E70 E71

B61 B62
B63 B64 B65 B66 B67 j k l fl a fl 1 J V A
§F. Other broad signs
§C. Signs involving sky earth. water. or plants ; FI F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8 F9 F10 Fl 1 Fl 2

Cl C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 Cl C8 C9 CIO Cl 1 C 1
<=» ® cos C3ED = . & .
© V J T * * ===» == A El 3 F14 FI 5 Fl 6 F17 F18 Fl 9 F20 F21 ¥22 F23 ¥24
C13 C 14 C1 5 C1 C1 C 18 C 19 C20 C21 C22 C23 C24 HP
ois A — dut V. -J» S > >
M r>

<i 1

I F25 F26 F27 F28 F29 F30 F31 F32 F33 F34 F35 F36
C25 C26 C27 C28 C29 C30 C31 C32 C33
P* g , T eyp

W 0 1 1 A
1 14
3 — a )

32 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Hieroglyphic sign -lists for the exercises I 5 i

F38 F39 F40 F41 F42 F43 F44 F45 F46 F47 F48 woman
F37 A22 a giving birth del. give birth

mill —A 1 1 del. child; (2) hence abb. hrd 'child';

dp ; i t ITT

A23 infant

(3) 2c. nn (or nni)

F49 F50 F51 F52 F53 F54 F55 F56 F57 A21 soldier ideo. or det. ms r 'expedition, army'
& Ui sTH c , erra A25 man sealed with dagger ideo. or det. iry 'keeper'

( variant of A27; (2) del. hnty-imntw (a

Full list
A26 4 royal figure with flail
1 )

name of the god Osiris)

ji ( 1 ) abb. nsw 'king'; (2) det. names of the
human body A27 royal figure
§4. Signs depicting people or parts of the god Osiris

(1) del. man, occupations of men; (2) A28 & figure of Amun ideo. imn '(the god) Aimin'
A man seated
ideo. or det. 'I. me, my' (§36, §41, §49)
priestcom. w'ater (1) alternative for A55; (2) hence ideo.
women A29
A2 $ woman seated det. woman, occupations of pouring from jug w'b 'priest'

A3 s§
god seated det. god, names/titles of gods A 30 M mummy on bier del. lying down, death

ideo. or det. mi r t 'harmony', especially if A31 9 face ( l ) ideo. hr 'face', 'on'; (2) hence 2c. hr
goddess with feather on
A4 personified as a goddess (compare with
i head (1 ) ideo. tp 'head', 'upon'; (2) hence
B27) A32 e bead in profile
2c. tp
man seated with hand to
emotion (§6)
A5 det. eat. speak, A33 hair det. hair
A6 i
kneeling in
det. hmv 'jubilation' A34 & front of face det. face, nose, e.g. sn 'kiss'

hence eyes com. falcon

A7 A
official with
leather grip
staff and 1
1 )
ideo. sr 'official'; (2)
ideo. ptr 'observe, view'

man leaning on forked A36 eye (1) 2c. ir; (2) det. mu 'see'
A8 ft ideo. smsw 'elder, eldest'

me A 37 inS- eye with cosmetic det. actions or conditions of the eye

A9 ft old man leaning on stick det. or abb. 'old'

ideo. spsy 'dignified' and related A38 C mouth ideo. r 'mouth'; (2) hence lc. r
A10 A official holding flail
( 1 )

words; (2) det. deceased official





A1 A official sealed alternative form of A10
A40 arm
(1 )
arm'; (2) hence lc.
ideo. r r
; (3)
man striking two- ^ a
often alternative for A41-44
A12 ft det. effort, action, violence
handed with staff
( 1 )
ideo. di or rdi 'give', alternative for
A 1
man striking ideo. or det. hwi 'strike' E61; (2) read m or mi in the names bi-
A41 arm offering loaf (F61
mkt and d\vi-mwt=f by confusion with
A1 M man building wall ( 1 )
det. build; (2) abb. ikd 'builder'
another sign a l

A15 man falling det. fall, fell, overthrow det. action, violence, effort, alternative
A42 c — arm holding stick
Tor A12
man with blood
A 1 det. enemy
streaming A43 A— fl arm holding flail 2c. hw
A17 i man gesturing det. i the interjection '0!'
arm holding wand
ideo. dsr 'sacred' and related words
man standing with hand
A18 % det. srh 'talk about, accuse' arms holding shield and
to mouth A45 ideo. f
ht 'fight' and related words
(ft axe
man with arms raised in
A19 1 joy
det. rejoice
A46 arms rowing 2 c. hn
man with arms in ideo. the negative words n (§39) and nn
A20 1 (1) abb. dwi 'adore'; (2) hence det. adore
A47 arms gesturing denial
adoration -A-
A21 A man slumped det. tired, weak A48 u arms raised ( 1) ideo. ki ‘ka’; (2) hence 2c. ki

A49 arms com. F.3 abb. hm-ki 'ka-priest'

. 4

1 34 How to rani Egyptian hieroglyphs Hieroglyphic sign -lists for the exercises I 3 5

boat's mast (F56) com. B cormorant 2c. 'k

A50 3c.
h r alternative for E56

del. breast, suckle
B 1 5
i- jabiru 2 c. bi
A51 breast
A 52 penis ( 1 ) det. male; (2) 2c. mt B 16 & com. bowl
ideo. bi 'soul' (New Kingdom)
hence ideo. hr
A53 penis with issue of fluid
det. or abb. bih in
presence of'
m-bih 'in the
B 1 7
& falcon
(1) det. falcon; (2)
god) Horus'

A54 lower B18 B17 com. E52 ideo. hwt-hr '(the goddess) Hathor'
J leg 1c. b

A 54 com. water pouring gods

A55 (1
idco. or det. w b 'pure' and related words
r B1 falcon perched del.
from jug
idco. or det. rd 'leg'; (2) det. tread
B20 ti
falcon -headed god idco. r' '(the god) Re'
A56 i leg ( 1 )

( 1 )
det. motion; (2) ideo. hv(i) 'come'; B21 sparrow det. small, weak, pathetic
A57 legs walking
(3) ideo. nmtt '(formal) journey'
B22 swallow 2c. wr
combined sound-sign and det. for i(i)
A58 4 C20 com. A57 'come' mwl 'mother'; (2) hence 2c. mt
B23 Ik vulture ( 1 )

combined sound-sign and del. for in(i)

A 59 D33 com. A57 B24 black ibis ( 1 ) ideo.^w 'find'; (2) hence 2c. gm
a 'bring'

combined sound-sign and det. for words B25 crested ibis 2c. ih in ih 'akh- spirit' and related wmrds
suggesting motion which include the
A 60 7\ FI 5 com. A57
sound s, e.g. sb(i) 'go', ms 'bring' B26 > sacred ibis ideo. dhwty '(the god) Thoth'

combined sound-sign and det. forsfrw B27 feather (1 2c. sw; (2) abb. mi r 'harmony'

x ? )

A61 r F29 com. A 57 'conduct' and related words,

alternative lor F29 B28 egg ideo. or det. ist '(the goddess) Isis'

combined sound-sign and det. for it(i)

B29 ox ideo. or det. ox, bull, cattle
A62 ye F33 com. A57
B30 head of ox abb. ki 'ox'

§B. Signs depicting creatures or parts of their bodies

B31 $3 calf det. cattle

1 quail chick lc. IV
B 32 new-born calf 2c. iw
B2 & owl 1 c. ni
B33 kid 2c. ib

B3 Egyptian vulture lc. i

B34 ram det. ram, sheep
B4 pair of vuli u res variant of B3 when writing#?
B35 B34 com. bowl abb. bi 'ram'
2c. tw, especially at the end of words,
B5 buzzard
often confused wilh 133 B36 hide of goat 2c. hit

B6 Ik guinea-fowl 2c. nh B37 r hide pierced by arrow- det. pierce

B7 V pintail duck { 1 ) 2c. si; (2) det. bird, alternative for B8

B38 piece of flesh
(1) det. flesh: (2) idco. ist '(the

B8 V white-fronted goose ( 1 )
2c. gb; (2) del. bird
B39 foreleg of ox
ideo. or det. hps 'foreleg' (of animal),

B9 X duck in (light 2c. pi

B40 J leg of ox 3c.
'strong arm' (of


BIO £3 trussed goose or duck det. goose

B41 animal belly with tail lc. h
BI 1 head of duck abb. ipd 'bird'

B 12
duckling 2c. ti
B42 u ox horns 2c. wp

B43 J7 ox ear ideo. or det. sdm 'hear'

B 1 3 pair of plovers ideo. or det. rhty 'washerman'
6 8

Hieroglyphic sign-lists for the exercises I 37

1 36 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

moon, event based on lunar

ox longue ideo. m-r 'overseer' (§24b); (2) 2c. ns C5 crescent moon ( 1 )

1344 ( 1 )
month; (2) ideo. rh 'moon' i

dwi 'adore';
B45 heart ideo. or det. ib 'heart' C6 * star ( 1 )

(2) del. star; (3) det.

spine with issue of det. or abb. irmh 'veneration' and related

B46 C7 C5 com. C6 ideo. ibd 'month' and related words
marrow words *
half-month reading
B47 A spine with issue of
marrow at ends
2c. ru’ C8 half moon com. C6
uncertain (see
p. 76)

B48 head of leopard ideo. or det. phty 'strength' C9 strip of land com. D4 ( 1 )
2c. tv, (2) det. in dt 'eternity'

B49 forepart of lion (1) ideo. hit 'front'; (2) hence 3c. hit CIO strip of land alternative form of C9

B50 hindpart of lion 2c. ph Cl 1 h slope of hill lc. k

B51 m desert dog det. dog,

ideo. or det.
including ihe god VVepvvawet

wp-wm’t '(the god)

C 12 valley between hills 2c. dw

B52 dog com. standard C13 desert hills (

1 )
det. desert; (2) ideo. Inst 'foreign land'
R53 dog com. shrine ideo. or det. inpw '(the god) Anubis' C14 A terraced slope det. terrace

B54 head of dog 3c. wsr C 1 5 ripple of water lc. n

1 A

god with head of
ideo. sty '(the god) Seth'
group of ripples ( 1 ) det. water, cleanse; (2) 2c. mw
i mythical animal
C17 f garden pool lc. 5

B56 hare 2c.

C 1 pool with flowers 2c. Si

B57 pair of crocodiles ideo. ity 'sovereign'

C19 ffl
reeds ideo. or del. sht 'countryside'
B58 mummified crocodile ideo. sbk '(the god) Sobck'

ideo. sbk '(the god) Sobck', alternative for C20 <1

reed 1 c. t

B59 crocodile on shrine

C21 pair of reeds 1 c. y
B60 cobra 1 c. d


horned viper (1) lc .

f; (2) det.(?) it- 'father'
C22 \ herb ( 1 ) det. plant; (2) 2c. hn
( 1 ) 2c. hi; (2) abb. hi 'thousand', or units
C23 1 lotus
B62 4- E16 com. B61 3c. hsf. alternative lor E 1 per thousand in counting

B63 frog det. frog, including the goddess Heket

C24 t clump of papyrus 2c. hi

C25 sedge plant (

1 )
2c. svv; (2) abb. nsw 'king'
B64 fish det. or abb. fish

C26 r C25 com. D16 abb. rh-nsw 'king's adviser’

B65 ^. 7
oxyrhvnchus fish 2c. hi

C27 flowering sedge ideo. or det. sm' 'Upper Egypt'

B66 dung beetle 3c. hpr

B67 bee abb. bity 'king'

C28 « pair of rushes 2 c. nn

C29 0 tree (1 ) det. tree; (2) 3c. inn inn ,

§C. Signs depicting sky, earth, water or plants 'wood' and related words: (2)
(1) det. ht

Cl © sun-disc
( 1 )
det. sun, day, time; (2) ideo. r
'(the god) Re'
f 'sun', C30 — tree branch hence 2c. ht
hikr 'Haker-riles'
(3) del. pkr 'Poker', and

C2 sunrise above hills 2c. hf C31 scented pod

(1) ideo. or det. ndm 'sweet'; (2) hence
1 3c. ndm
1 1 ) det. sky; (2) det. hry 'which is upon'
C3 C=^l canopy of the sky C32 scented rhysome ideo. or det. bnr 'sweet'
(§60) 1

C4 T C3 corn. E3 det. night, darkness C33 A thorn

(1) ideo.
or det. spd 'sharp, keen'; (2)

Hieroglyphic sign-lists for the exercise's 1 59

1 58 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs

§D. Other small signs D27 6 beer jug det. or abb. hnkt 'beer'

word group or ideogram

D1 1
single stroke
( 1 )

1 3); (2) abb. wr 'one', or units of one
D28 O basin (?) det. sn r vi’ 'magazine'

in counting (§19) D29 O well full of water 2c. hm

D2 \\ pair of strokes lc. y. especially as the dual ending (§15 )

D30 bundle of flax 2c. dr

< 1 i det. plurals (§8); (2) det. singular

D3 l i 1
three strokes nouns which represent collections of D31 s jar-stand (1) lc.jj: (2) ideo. nst 'throne'

individuals, c.g. Mjtj mi' 'expedition'

D32 & butcher's block 2c. hr
D4 ooo grains of sand del. mineral
1 )
2c. nw; (2) 2c. in (§49);
abb. mdw 'ten', or units o( ten in
D33 0 pot (3) often as a graphic complement tor
D5 n cattle hobble
counting (§19) nd (El 5) and kd (E24).
D6 n irrigation canals det. irrigated land ( 1 ) 2c. nw, alternative for D33 at the end
D34 ooo three pots of a word; (2) 3c. nnw (?) in the name
E>7 X crossed sticks det. separate, cross, pass by
n n ivy
burning charcoal with km hum
D8 ZD ( 1 ) ideo. km 'black'; (2) hence 2c. D35 ft stone jug 3c.

D9 ra reed shelter 1 c. h D36 A part of steering-gear of

boat (?)
( 1 ) ideo. hpt 'steering oar'; (2) hence 2c. hp

B1 as abbreviated lor
ideo. or det. htm and related words
DIO lc. w, alternative for B1 D37 8 seal on necklace 'seal'
(1) det. rope; (2 ) abb. i(n)t 'hundred', or •k
heart see B45
Dll * coil of rope
hundred counting
units per in

D 12 twisted cord ( 1 ) 2c. 55 ; (2) hence abb. ft 'alabaster'

§E. Other tall signs

D13 X twisted cord 2c. sn

El wooden staff det. tryt 'staff'

D14 8 twisted cord (?) det. hbsw 'clothing' ( 1 )

det. throw; (2) det. foreigner, enemy;
E2 throw-stick
kmi 'create'
(3) det.
D 1 n reed mat or stool lc. p
E3 1
fuller's club 2c. hm
placenta (?),
D1 • ball of string (?)
lc. h * head of dog see B54
D17 © threshing-floor 2c. sp
E4 sceptre 3 c. wis
( 1 ideo. nwt 'town'; (2) hence det. town,
D18 ® roads within enclosure

estate E5 T sceptre with feather ideo. wist 'Thebes'

det. pit ‘beginning of time', from a word E6 sceptre with spiral shaft 3c. d'm
D19 Q round loaf
pn 'loaf' (similar writing)
E7 standard with feather ideo. Imnt 'the west' and related words
( 1) 3c. psd; (2) by confusion, alternative t
D20 © moon partly obscured
for D19
wt in imy-wt, title of Anubis; (2)
E8 T

totem ideo. or det. mnw '(the god) Min'

1 ) det.
E9 i totem ideo. ti-wr 'the norne of Tavver'
D21 Q pustule det. scent, odour, disease; (3) abb. hsb ra
'count' and related words E10 totem ideo. or det.
T lit 'office'

pustule with issue of det. scent, odour, disease, alternative for ideo. hki 'ruler'; (2) hence 3c. hki
D22 El 1
crook ( 1 )
fluid D21
crook with package Sms 'follow' and related words
D23 — log stripped of bark det. scent, scented wood E12 ideo.

(1) ideo. hrp 'control' and related words;

D24 bun (1) lc. t; (2) abb. it in it-ntr 'god's father'
El 3 sceptre (2) ideo. shm 'control' and related
D25 0 small loaf det. or abb. t bread'
E 4 1 stone mace 2c. hd
D26 0 kiln 2c. ti
9 3 1

1 40 How to read Lgypuan hieroglyphs Hieroglyphic sign -lists for the exercises 1 4

E 5 1
f unknown 2c. mi. usually accompanied by D3 F.45 U fire-drill 2c. di

El 6 f spindle V. hsf E46 drill cutting bead 3c. wbi, with a simpler variant j

E17 i
archaic dagger in tpy 'which is upon' (§60) E47 [
palace facade ideo. r
h 'palace'

E 1
butcher's knife 2c. nm E48 f
reed column 2c. dd

E 1
butcher's knife alternative lor E18 E49 wooden column 2c. r
n jj

E20 arrow head 2c. sn

(1) ideo. iwn 'pillar'; (2) hence 3c. hvn;
E50 pillar
(3) abb. iwnw 'the city of Heliopolis'
E21 target pierced by arrows det. si(i) or st(i) 'spear'
E51 JL
s,lrine ideo. or del. sh 'shrine'
E22 cord wound on stick 2c. xvd
E52 :
plan of estate ideo. hwt 'enclosure, foundation'
E23 1
cord wound on stick alternative for E22
E53 E52 com. D24 and F5 ideo. nbt-hwt "(the goddess) Nephthys'
( 1 ) kd 'build' and related
ideo. or det.
E24 1
mortar float (?) words; (2) hence 2c. kd, usually E54 grain heap ideo. or det. snwt 'granary'
accompanied by D33
E25 notched palm rnp
E53 fringed cloth det. or abb. twilit 'linen'
E26 E25 com. D24 abb. rnpt 'year'
E56 \
boat's mast 3c. r
E27 pestle 2 c. ti
E57 I
oar 3c. hrw

E28 folded cloth

E58 V- ship's sail ideo. tiw 'breath'
1 c. .v

( 1 ) ideo. ntr 'god'; (2) hence 3c. ntr in E59 heart and windpipe 3c. nfr
E29 1 pennant i

sntr 'incense'
( 1 ideo. st 'place, seat'; (2) hence 2c. st ;
E30 E29 com. D32 )

1 ideo. hrt-ntr 'cemetery'


(3) hence (?) 2c. is(t) in isir '(the god)
E31 1 E29 com. Cl 1 and D32 ideo. hrt-ntr 'cemetery', alternative for E30 Osiris' and ist '(the goddess) Isis'

( 1 2c. ms; (2) a similar sign in ibt 'family, E61 offering loaf ideo. di or nil 'give', alternative for A41
E32 (ft
three fox-skins

household' is probably a writing of E71
E62 ^ milk-jug within net 2c. mi
E33 + crossed planks in imy 'which is in' (§60)
q E63 lasso 2c. iv?
E34 T sandal strap 3c.
nh 4

E35 twisted wick

E64 f[a
brazier with flame det. heat, cook
I lc. h

E36 hh re swab - E65 K

bundle of reeds 2c. is
I ( 1 ) 2c. sk; (2) 3c. wih
¥ pieces of wood lashed
E37 water pot 2 c. hs E66 2c. rs
S f
E38 d rack of water pots 3c. hnt E67 j]
stylised balance alternative for E66

E39 rack of water pots alternative for E38 E68 1

wall ornament ideo. or det. hkrt 'diadem, ornament'
water pot with issue of ideo. or det. kbfiw 'libation water' and E69 writing equipment
E40 a i^ ideo. sh 'scribe'
contents related words A
E70 royal crown n (from the 13th dynasty onwards)
E41 i water pot in stand alternative for E40
! lc.

det. (?) ;bt 'family, household',

E42 E71 faience necklace
& ointment jar det. or abb. mrht 'ointment' i^ alternative for F8

E43 ointment jar alternative for E42

E44 5 chisel ( 1 ) 2c. tb; (2) 2c. mr
— 8 1 ) —K
1 42 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs How to read hgyptian hieroglyphs 1 4 *

§F. Other broad signs F30 harpoon 2c. W

FI papyrus roll del. write, abstractions (§6) F31 whip 2c. mh
F2 papyrus roll earlier form of F F32 water-skin 2c. id

F3 papyrus roll alternative form lor FI F33 = tethering rope lc. t

F4 basket with handle lc. k F34 T fringed cloth com. E28 det. clothing

F5 <=7 basket 2c. nb F35 weaver's comb (?) alternative form of F34

F6 basin com. canopy <1) det. festival; (2) abb .hb 'festival' F36 netting needle 2c. r

F7 w alabaster basin alternative for F6 F37 girdle knot

(1) ideo. ts(i) 'lie'
hence 2c. ts
and related words; (2)

(1 det. ibw 'the town of Elephantine';

(1) 2c. gs; (2) sound complement for im
F8 COd stylised bowl hence det. ibt 'family, household' F38 pair of ribs (?)
(2) or m
(similar writing)
F39 vertebrae (?) 2c. si
F9 CO loaf (for offering) det. bread, offerings

FIG = loaf (for offering) alternative form of F9

F40 6 vertebrae (?) later alternative for F39

F41 cattle hobble 2c. si

FI 1 ,
6 . loaf on mat ideo. hip 'offer' and related words
TT f
ideo. pr 'house, estate'; (2) hence 2c. F42 road bordered by shrubs ideo. or det. wit 'road'
( 1 )
FI 2 CZ\ plan of house
pr; (3) det. building, location
F43 canal
( 1 )
2c. mr, but read m in nvlyt 'cenotaph';
FI 2 com. D25, D27 and (2) det. water
FI 3 abb. prt-hrw 'voice offering'
oTs E57
F44 T~1 lift
irrigation canals ideo. or det. spit ’district'
t tit T

F14 laden offering table det. dbht-htp 'ritual offerings’

F45 <5=2 papyrus boat det. papyrus boat
FI 5 —T— door bolt lc. s
F46 papyrus (?) boat det. di(t) 'ferry'
F16 «-=» wooden column alternative form of E49

F17 2tlt fence 3 c. ssp

F47 — ferry boat det. mhnt 'ferry-boat'

F48 boat with (downstream)

FI 8 = lid or door det. open
F49 boat under
sail furled

det. boat, sail

det. sail (upstream)

det. krs 'bury', perhaps as alternative for
F19 stone block (?)
FI processional boat of
F50 det. nsmt 'the Neshmet-boat of Osiris'
F20 S coffin det. coffin, burial
processional boat of
alternative form of F50
F21 carrying chair ideo. isir '(the god) Osiris' (see p. 41 Osiris

F22 , ,
statue plinth 3c. mV
F52 w boat of Sokar det. festivals tor the god Soker

F53 sledge 2c. tm

F23 F22 com. F24 3c. mV
F54 hw
F24 > sickle 2c. mi

elephant tusk

gaming board

1 ) 2c. bh; (2) 2c.

F25 hoe 2c. mr
ideo. htmty 'seal-bearer', alternative for
F26 plough 3c. sn r hb
F56 ea seal with necklace
{ 1 ) ; (2) 2c.

w < 1 ) ideo. nbw gold'; (2) hence det.

F27 adze on block 3c. stp F57 f 'I gold collar
precious metal
F28 knife or saw ideo. or det. sftw or sftw 'butcher'

F29 knife-sharpener 3c. sSm

Reference tables 1 45

The infinitive of strong verbs shows no specific writing, whereas weak verbs
Reference tables show a final -t.

Main tenses appearing in this book

The past tense (§§33 and 38)

Verb forms
The focus of this book is oil reading actual monuments, rather than strug- STRONG sdm.n-f he heard
gling through a morass of grammar. Nevertheless, a sizeable area of Egyptian
grammar has also been covered. The reference tables provided here cover DOUBLING 1 V ViVAV,
he saw
- no doubling
the grammar as presented in this book and are for quick reference and
WEAK mr.n—f he loved
c=> in*

Verb classes (§30) (r)d\.n=f

EXTRA WEAK he gave
Middle Egyptian verb-forms show differences in their writing according to (r optional)

the type of the verb. The following are the four basic verb classes:

stem does not usually The present tense: general present sdm (=f) and specific present hr sdm
STRONG VERBS e.g. sdm hear
show any alteration (§§42-43)
stem ends in a double
stem ends with a 'weak'
Si mr(l) love
consonant, usually -i STRONG
^.Is -
85 sdm-f he hears

chiefly verbs with two or

three weak consonants mn=f he sees
- doubling

i With weak verbs, the final -/ is usually omitted in writing and therefore WEAK mr-f he loves

in transliteration, though for practical reasons we normally transliterate

'give' as rdi. EXTRA WEAK he gives
(no r)
ii Extra weak verbs behave like ordinary weak verbs, but sometimes
show additional features.
hr sdm
The infinitive (§31)

INFINITIVE STRONG hr sdm is listening

STRONG hearing,
- no change to hear DOUBLING hr mn is looking
DOUBLING seeing,
- doubling akW mn
to see WEAK
T14 hr mrt is loving

WEAK loving,
mrl EXTRA WEAK hr rdit is giving
- end in -t to love

- end in -t
3 or fa
(r optional)
to give
The specific present is made up of <
?l hr followed by the infinitive.

146 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Reference at ides 1 47

The future tense ( wishes requests expectations): the future sdm(=f) (§§55-57,
, ,
n sdm=f
FUTURE sdm(-f) S'lRONG VERBS n sdm-f he did not hear

STRONG sdtn=f may he hear DOUBLING VERBS

n mi=f he dirl not see
- no doubling

DOUBLING may he see

- no doubling
-Si-- n mr-f he did not love

WEAK mr=f or mry=f may he love c ‘

_> n rdi=f
EXTRA WEAK VFRRS he did not give
(with r)

EXTRA WEAK may he give So, the present and past tense negatives are better thought of as construc-
(no r)
tions in their own right with their own grammar, rather than just as sdm(=f)

iwt=f and sdm.n(=f) with n stuck in front of them.

SPECIAL CASES A may he come
A (with extra -r)

H /*^AAAAA int=f Specialised forms: the participles, relative forms and sdmty.fy
may he bring
Jus. (with extra -/)
The participles (§§46-51)

The verb nm 'to see' also displays a

The weak verb form with

tnm-f. ^
-y is most common in the first person.

(one) p.
who hears who heard
iii Notice that the forms from the verbs 'to come' and 'to bring' show an
(one) (one)
extra t in the future sdm(-f) form. DOUR! ING mu mi
who saw
who sees

Negation (§§ 39 and 58) (one) (one)

The three principal tenses above are negated as follows:
WEAK mrr
who loves Si nu-
who loved

NEGATIONS EXTRA dd (one) rd i (one)

WEAK (no r) who gives 4 a (with r) who gave
he does not hear,
he cannot hear Participles also sometimes show a jp ending.

PAST TENSE n sdm—f he did not hear

The relative forms (§§57 and 52)
may he not hear,

The future is negated by adding the negation ^

form. However, the present and past tense negatives display a most unusual
nn to the future sdm(=f) STRONG sdmt=f
what he
sv o sdinl.n-f
what he

apparent reversal - known as Gunn's rule - where n sdm.n(=f) negates the DOUBLING mut=f
what he a imt.n-f
vvhal he
sees 2ci- _ saw
present sdm(-f) r not the past sdm.n(-f), and n sdm(-f) negates the past
sdm.n(-f), not the sdm(=f). In the sdm(=f) in this construction shows a what he what he
special form:
fact, WEAK
ii- mrrt=f

EXTRA • a what he <r wwa what he

ddt=f i 3 rdit.n=f
WEAK gives gave

Compare with the corresponding forms of the participles.

: 1 > ^

148 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Reference tables 149

The relative forms here display the -/ of feminine adjectival agreement. They Dependent pronouns (§41)

can also occur in certain usages without the -t (i.e. with masculine adjectival if!
U7 or -w(i)
agreement), though they still carry the same meaning of 'which someone

> - vv e
1 1 1

does/did'. See §52. you

= or
-tw or -tw you (pi.)
o >

or -tn

you (fern.) or -tn or -tn

The sdmty.fy form (§§53-54, §59)

sdmty.fy he/it
^ OF
^ -sw they
r W.vs-A

h i

shc/it or -sy or -s(y) thev

STRONG VERBS sdmty.fv (one) who may/will hear 1 it,'
j -st
^ w w

-st is used for indefinite 'it' and generally as the dependent pronoun form for
DOUBLING VFRBS Ik mntv.fv (one) who may /will see
Ji!!^ .jiA W \\ 'they/them'.
WEAK VERBS sdiv.fv (one) who mav/will read
a. Object of the verb (except the infinitive, which usually takes a suffix
c -=i w w
pronoun object).
>q*u_ rdity.fy (one) who may /will give
j\\ w
b. After initial particles and the negation *7 /VW«\*A

Independent pronouns (§49)

Pronouns, nouns and adjectives
I ink We fi
S jltll
Suffix pronouns (§§33, 35, 36) 1 1

you ntk you

.'MWA minor
Cv (pi) or
$ or f]
=/ we
i i i
-n i i i Q 1 1 1 nttn

you —k you (pi.)

ww\ 0
=tn or =tn
you (fern.) q
nil or ntt
1 1 1

you (fern.) °— , or cs -t or -t
he/it ntf they
1 1 1
WWA fl

he/it g —/ they


she/it 1
or ^ nts
iii iii

she/it |
or —S Uses: As the subject of characterisations.

Uses Nouns (§§8, 9, 15)

a. as the subject after a suffix-conjugation verb-form, such as sdm.n(=f) Nouns have a number (singular or plural) and a gender (masculine or fem-
h. as the object after a preposition. inine); the -w of the plural is often omitted in writing;
c. after auxiliaries.
SG. MSC. no special ending il

5/7 brother
d. as the possessor or genitive of nouns. \js£

pronoun, so or SG. EEM.

The suffix pronouns translate as the appropriate English -t
v <o\ m snt sister

-i translates as T or 'me' or 'my' depending on English usage (and so on

for the other pronouns). The use of I\ 'you' etc. in the tables above and MSC.
below is merely to point out the person or thing the pronoun refers to.
* -U’
O brothers

PL. FFM. snwi

IcF 4 sisters

The dual ending msc. -ivy and fern, -ty is common only with things which
come in pairs:

'ivy arms mvr the two lands (Upper and Lower Egypt)
n xr
V )

1 50 How to rood Egyptian hieroglyphs

Adjectives (§§ 1 0, 44-45)

and agree with number and
Egyptian-English vocabulary
Adjectives follow the noun they describe it in

sc,. MSC. no special ending

sc,. FEM. -r

Here, as in other Egyptian dictionaries, words are listed alphabetically in

* -u-
transliteration following the order set out in List 1 (the only exception being
PL. FEM. -t
that the feminine ending -t is ignored, e.g. 5 'man' and st 'woman' are listed

and the -w often

together). In other words, the particular hieroglyphs used to write a word
The plural can also be written with the plural strokes, is
do not determine where it is listed. So to find a word, you need to know its
omitted in writing.
reading in transliteration: if necessary, consult the various sign-lists. For
example, imagine you corne across the word njL Sb hut do not recognise
Adjectives can he used on their own as a noun, e.g.:
its constituent signs. There are two stages in tracking down its meaning: (1

nfrt the good (n.) from nfr good (adj.) If you turn to List V beginning on p. 129, you will find (B62) has the
reading hsf whilst (F49) is not a sound-sign but a determinative for 'sail

The genitive (§27) upstream'; so the reading of the whole word is hsf. (2) Returning to this

Direct genitive: common only between closely connected words or in fixed vocabulary, you will find in the section headed h that there are two words
expressions. read hsf : 'repel' and 'travel upstream' (see p. 158). Of course, the determi-
native indicates that the second of these is the correct meaning, although,

Indirect genitive: the two nouns are linked by forms of the 'genitival adjec- more often than not, the context in which the word occurs will also help

tive' n:
you decide which of the two is correct. Although the hieroglyphic writings
given in this list are representative of what you may Find, it is not possible
to list all of the ways in which aword could be written (see §14 again, if you
0 or **** nw or n are not yet sure about this). The following abbreviations have been used
VMM here: (a.) adjective; (n.) noun; (v.) strong verb; (w.v.) w’eak verb; (1.) femi-
nine; (pi.) plural.

Adjectives in -y (§60)
& ;
ist (the goddess) Isis (see p. 70)

SC,. MSC. \\ -y imy who /which is in

11+ nv (a.) long; joyful 1 $ islr (the god) Osiris; possibly

SC,. FEM. & -t

HK imt who/which is in
^n famiI Y' household
read wsir

MSC. -w imw who/ which are in ^ q wd (n.) month; monthly

^ Festival =i I, me, my (suffix pronoun, p.
PL. FEM. <=> -t fj+ imt who/which are in 148)
1C ]
*bd\v Abydos (place name)
i O! (interjection) (§54a)
)pd (n -) bird
in (n.) office, function
iryt (n.) staff ^
ii(w) (n.) praise, adoration
ih (v.) become an akh-spirit; be

useful iiW *
a,) ° ld; (n ) <)I(J

(n.) akh-spirit iy 0) (w.v.) come

1 52 How to read Egyptian hieroglyphs Egypt ian-Hnglis It vocabulary I 5 i

^ Hw welcome imn-r r (the god) or yi
^ i((i) (w.v.) seize (the
^ or ^^ -wi I, me (dependent
see also iw(l) Amun-Re latter writing indicates the reading pronoun, p. 149)
has become it) fi

ph (n.) moon irnny Ameny (name) vv r (a.) one. alone

I VAWA 1 | ,

tjUt w
mint west