Friday, March 6, 2009

Pharaonic Hieroglyphs : Blog Purpose : Analysis of the Hieroglyphic Symbols of Ancient Egypt in terms of Correctness of Reading and Interpretation

It was Champollion himself who wrote on January 1, 1829 that:
"I am proud to be able to announce ... that we need change nothing in our Letter on the hierogyphical alphabet. Our alphabet is good: it can be successfully applied to the Egyptian monuments dating from Roman and Ptolemaic times, and ... to the inscriptions on all the temples, places and tombs of the pharaonic era."
- Champollion, writing from Wadi Halfa to Dacier, Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres
We are not convinced that "we need change nothing" in the reading of the Pharaonic hieroglyphic alphabet. Everything can be improved, and the reading of the hieroglyphs is definitely one such thing, dealing as it does with a corpus of materials that cover three millennia. Established scholarship concentrates on so-called Middle Egyptian, which reflects Pharaonic language 1500 to 2000 years after the Predynastic period, when Pharaonic writing had already undergone significant changes due to the passage of so much time and because of the influence of other cultures and languages. By the late period, marked by the invasion of the Arabs and other Near Eastern peoples into Egypt and the demise of the Pharaohs, Pharaonic Egyptian became a virtually unrecognizable kauderwelsh of influences, bearing little resemblance to the Pharaonic language of the founding Predynastic and Old Kingdom periods, upon which we will be concentrating.

We need look only at the major dialect changes that have occurred in the United States in just a few centuries to appreciate the linguistic changes that can quickly take place in a language.

Pharaonic Hieroglyphs is a blog which thus has two scholarly vectors of direction:

1) analysis of the sound values assigned to each of the hieroglyphs and their combinations; and,
2) review of the correctness of the reading of ancient Pharaonic hieroglyphic texts.

We will be making suggestions for improvement - from our point of view.

Of course, no one need accept these improvements, but we will in the course of time be providing an accumulation of evidentiary materials, that will make it difficult not to pay attention to the necessity for some changes to be made by established scholarship in their hieroglyphic readings.

Some of the sources that we will be using are:

1. Jean-François Champollion, Précis du système hiéroglyphique", Paris, France, 1824.

2. Rainer Hannig, Ägyptisches Wörterbuch I: Alter Reich und Erste Zwischenzeit, Hannig Lexica 4, Kulturgeschichte der Antiken Welt, Band 98, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz am Rhein, Germany (an absolutely essential source since this is OLD Pharaonic).

3. Christiane Ziegler, "Das Geheimnis ist Gelüftet", pp. 81-109, Pharaonen-Dämmerung, DNA, Strasbourg, originally published in French as "Mémoires d'Egypte", Strasbourg, France.

4. Mark Collier and Bill Manley, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs, British Museum Press, London, England, 1998.

5. Maria Carmela Betrò, Heilige Zeichen, Gustav Lübbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany, 1996 (originally published in Italian in 1995 as Geroglifici. 580 Segni per Capire l'Antico Egitto, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A., Mailiand, and now also available in English as "Hieroglyphics: The Writing of Ancient Egypt", Abbeville Press, New York, 1996.

6. Gabriele Wenzel, Hieroglyphen: Schreiben und lesen wie die Pharaonen, nymphenburger - F.A. Herbig, Munich, 2001.

7. Andis Kaulins, Writing Origins: Pharaohs, Moderns, Dyslexics, available online at

We will of course be referring to many, many other sources in the course of our postings.

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