Showing posts tagged hieroglyphs

Inner coffin of Keku. 

Texts are very clearly written. 


Date is unknown. 

source: Leiden Museum of Antiquities 

Wooden coffin of Khnumnakht 

The coffin was made by an extremely talented artist who decorated every hieroglyph seperately, creating an abundance of detail and colour. The body inside the coffin was laid down on its back with its face towards the east, the land of the living and the rising sun. The eyes on the coffin would enable the mummy inside to look through and see the world. The sides of the coffin have been decorated with inscriptions and a palace facade. 


Middle Kingdom, 13th dynasty, 1802-1640 BC

Found at Meir. 

Source: The Metropolitan Museum 

Wooden coffin of Peftjauneith

Peftjauneith was inspector of temples estates in Lower Egypt. His coffin was made from solid hard wood which would have to be imported, making this coffing very valuable. 

The front is decorated with Osiris (recognisable by his green colour) and the sky goddess Neith is spreading her wings across his chest. A spell from the Book of the Dead has been written below the goddess, each of the hieroglyphs are an image in their own right. 

On the inside of the lid is the sku goddess again but now black and covered with stars, she is giving birth to the moon and is swollowing the sun. On the bottom of the coffin is the goddess of the west (the hieroglyph for west is on her head), the quarter of the realm where the dead were thought to be located. 

Late Period, 26th dynasty, 650 BC. 

Source: Leiden Museum of Antiquities 

Alabaster offering table 

This offering table has the hieroglyph for offering on it, as well a calculated grit of words with all the offerings that are supposed to be given. There are shallow holes for incense, oil and other valuable materials. 


Date and location unknown

Source: Leiden Museum of Antiquities 

The dual king Neferirkare , arising as king on the day of the taking of the prowrope of the god’s boat . Now, the Sem-priest Rawer was over the feet of His Majesty, in his dignity Sem-priest of the royal equipment, when a staff which was in the hand of His Majesty blocked the feet of the Sem-priest Rawer.

His Majesty said: “Be healthy!” So spoke His Majesty. Now His Majesty said: “It is the desire of my Majesty that he be very healthy, without a strike for him.”

Now he was more august before His Majesty than any man, and His Majesty commanded (it) to be put into writing on his tomb, which is in the necropolis.

And his Majesty caused a document to be made in writing, by the side of the king himself, at the Esh-building of the Palace, to be written in accordance with what was said, in his tomb which is in the necropolis.

The tomb biography of the sem-priest Rawer. Old Kingdom, 5th Dynasty.

Rawer describes an incident in which he was tripped up the by the king, and the king’s response, which apparently included giving Rawer permission to record the incident in his tomb. Although this may seem an odd thing to put on a tomb wall to a modern reader, for an official of the Old Kingdom, access to the king was a sign of importance, and by emphasising his close physical proximity to the king, Rawer emphasised his influence.

The purpose of the Esh-building of the palace is not known.

Wooden door

c.1285 BC

Early 19th Dynasty(?) - New Kingdom

Sycomore fig wood door; incised panel containing Hieroglyphic text and scene of Khonshotep before Osiris and Hathor.

(Source: The British Museum)

It was not all oral tradition. The Kingdom of Kush (situated in Sudan) for instance, had its own writing system. This Meroitic language is named after the capital of the kingdom, Meroë. Because Kush had close ties to Egypt, Meroitic seems to be derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs. It is an alphabetical language that has been deciphered in 1909, but has not yet been translated. 

Like the Egyptian language, Meroitic has different forms depending on the application. There was a monumental script that corresponds to hieroglyphs, and a script used for writing that was more akin to Demotic Egyptian. It has been in use from around 300 B.C. to 600 A.D., and is likely to be the parent system to Old Nubian, which was used from the 8th to the 15th century.


The sarcophagus chamber in the Pyramid of Unas; some of the Pyramid Texts can be seen written on the gable.

The Pyramid Texts are the oldest religious writings known to exist. They were first recorded in the pyramid of Unas, last king of Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty, and are called “Pyramid Texts” because they were carved in columns on the inner walls of the pyramid. Pyramids before Unas’ appear to have been undecorated on the inside. As the name suggests, these texts were reserved for the royal dead, and do not seem to have been available to the administrative élite for use in their tombs.

The Pyramid Texts are neither a theological discourse nor a mythological narrative, but present a sequence of often disjointed and seemingly nonsensical “utterances” or “spells”, which begin with the formula “Words to be spoken”. There are a total of 759 spells known to date, though not all of them are found in the same pyramid; Unas’ pyramid, for example, contains 228.

These spells vary from brief pieces of ritual, to lengthy description of the king’s behaviour in the afterlife, to long sequences which make little if any sense to the modern reader. Many of the spells appear to be connected with rituals for making the king live in the afterlife, and list items with them, perhaps to be offered or used in a ritual, as in Spell 90:

Osiris Unas, take the eye of Horus, the dim one, which Set has eaten from! (One Djesret-beer.)

In truth, though, no-one really knows what actions if any were performed with the Pyramid Texts, if the Pyramid Texts were performed at all. The above spell comes as part of a long series of spells exhorting the dead to “take the eye of Horus”.  The eye of Horus was a powerful amulet and icon, and could refer to the sun or the moon, or to Horus’ eye in a more direct sense. According to Egyptian myth, Horus’ left eye was gouged out in his battle with Set, his uncle (or in some versions of the myth, his brother), for control of Egypt, and this may be what this spell refers to. As can be seen, however, the meaning is far from clear.

Other spells give something closer to a narrative description of the king’s ascent into heaven to dwell in the afterlife. Among the more well-known of these are Utterances 273 and 274 from the Pyramid of Unas, which are together called the “Cannibal Hymn”. In this text, the king’s arrival in heaven is described, along with how he devours any god who stands in his way:

To say the words:

The sky is covered, the stars are darkened,

The bow-clouds tremble, the bones of the earth-gods shake,

The decans are still;

They have seen Unas, arisen as a soul, as a god, who lives on his fathers and feeds on his mothers.

Unas is the Bull of Heaven, who rages in his heart,

Who lives on the manifestation of every god,

Who eats the innards of those who come from the island of fire, their bellies full of magic.

It is Khonsu who gashes the lords, as he cuts their throats for Unas, and he removes for him what is in their bellies.


It is not clear whether this should be taken as a literal reading, or as a more metaphorical description of the king’s assumption or absorption of the power of gods. The dramatic opening of the text, with the whole cosmos shaken by his arrival in heaven, is typical of a baw, the appearance or manifestation of a god in the world, which is often accompanied by similar, cataclysmic portents.

The Pyramid Texts are focussed exclusively on the royal afterlife, and were indeed almost exclusively used by the kings of the latter part of the Old Kingdom. It is also found in the pyramids of some queen-consorts, but in the Old Kingdom at least, a celestial afterlife appears to have been confined to the king. While the king hoped to join the gods in heaven, as a god in his own right, or to live everlastingly as one of the “imperishable stars”, the non-royal, elite dead could look forward to an eternity in their tombs, sustained by food-offerings from their living relatives. (What happened to the ordinary Egyptian who couldn’t afford a tomb when they died is unknown.)

In the early Middle Kingdom (c. 1900-1600 BC), parts of the Pyramid Texts re-appear, heavily redacted, in non-royal tombs and on the coffins of the elite, but these are sporadic appearances, and the Coffin Texts are more commonly found, a corpus more suited to the needs of the elite and incorporating some material from the Pyramid Texts. The Pyramid Texts reappear in non-royal tombs again in the Late Period (664 – 332 BC), when archaism became a major feature of funerary and religious practice. The Pyramid Texts had originally been written in archaic language, and by the Later Period were around 1500 years old, and appear to have been copied directly from the pyramid walls of the Old Kingdom, so it may be that their new readers could not fully understand the funerary texts they were borrowing.

(Reblogged from ancientpeoples)
“Regnal year 30, month 3 of the Inundation, day 7:
The god departed for his horizon. The Dual King Sehetepibre
rose up to heaven, and was united with the sun-disk,
the divine flesh mingling with the one who fashioned it.”

- The Story of Sinuhe, R 5-7: Sinuhe describes the death of king Amenemhat I.
(Hieroglyphs written using JSesh, after Koch, 1990.)

“Regnal year 30, month 3 of the Inundation, day 7:

The god departed for his horizon. The Dual King Sehetepibre

rose up to heaven, and was united with the sun-disk,

the divine flesh mingling with the one who fashioned it.”

- The Story of Sinuhe, R 5-7: Sinuhe describes the death of king Amenemhat I.

(Hieroglyphs written using JSesh, after Koch, 1990.)

“The mouth of a man saves him,
And his speech grants him indulgence.”

-The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor, 17-19.
(Hieroglyphs written using JSesh, after Blackman, 1932.)

“The mouth of a man saves him,

And his speech grants him indulgence.”

-The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor, 17-19.

(Hieroglyphs written using JSesh, after Blackman, 1932.)

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