Egyptian Pottery Soul House

Egyptian Pottery Soul House

Ancient Egyptian Slaves

We might be shocked to think of slavery today, but in the time of ancient Egyptian slaves is was a common practice in many cultures and countries. Some of the slaves in Egypt were the poor of Egypt who had to sell their children into slavery.

Other slaves were brought in from other countries when they won battles and wars or were the result of being sold into slavery by the people from other countries.

Egyptian Slaves When we look at all of the incredible buildings and temples in Egypt, we have to realize that many of them were built using slave labor. Slaves were very important in ancient Egypt as a big part of the labor force, but they were also used for many other purposes.

Many slaves were house servants, gardeners, farm labor, musicians and dancers of excellent talent, scribes (those that kept written documents), and accountants.

Records show that early Egypt was influenced by other civilizations in the area. The most advanced civilization was Mesopotamia, and their culture included the use and acceptance of slavery as a part of their lives.

It is thought that almost eighty percent of the Egyptian slaves were peasants. Every year, Egypt has a ‘rainy season’ that causes the Nile River to flood. The flooding brings in rich soil from the Nile and helps to fertilize the crops.

During that three month time, it is impossible to work the fields, so many of the slaves were moved to new jobs and worked in the construction buildings. Egyptologists (the people that study Egypt) haven’t found any evidence that slaves were used to build the pyramids.

The information they have found doesn’t show that there were large numbers of slaves during the ‘Old Kingdom’ when the pyramids were built.

There is not a lot of information that can be found on the topic of slaves. The Egyptians used a style of writing in pictures called hieroglyphs and each picture or ‘cartouche’ could mean one word or many words. There isn’t a cartouche that represents slaves, so Egyptologists have to do a lot of guessing based on pictures of slaves.

The children of slaves also became the property of the ‘owner’, and the owner was responsible for taking care of his slaves. It is thought that slaves actually lived a life that was more comfortable than the common peasants, because they were cared for, fed and didn’t have to pay taxes.

Slaves of the royal families were held in high regard. Many of the slaves were more educated and used for their knowledge of accounting and writing. Slaves that were servants cared for every aspect of the royal families, from taking care of the children, cooking, dressing them and cleaning for them. It is believed that these slaves were treated almost as well as the higher ranking Egyptians.

When Egypt won a war against another country, there is evidence that they brought all of the people from that country back to Egypt to become slaves. Egyptian society was mostly based on passing information from generation to generation and when slaves were added to the social structure, they adopted the same culture.

The information that has been translated seems to show the largest growth in slavery during the New Kingdom era. This is when Egypt had a large number of military campaigns and wars and brought slaves back with them.

It appears to be common practice of the pharaohs to give slaves away to higher ranking officials and nobles in Egypt. These might have been as payment or a reward for excellent service.

From the few records that are available, it also seems that slave owners preferred foreign slaves instead of native Egyptian slaves. Foreigners were often better educated and had more talents. Native Ancient Egyptian slaves included criminals and commoners.

Lathe Turned Stone Housewares

Working with soft stone such as alabaster is relatively simple, compared to granite. Alabaster can be worked with primitive tools and abrasives. The elegant workings in granite are a different matter and indicate not only a consummate level of skill, but a different and perhaps more advanced technology.

Here is a quote from Petrie:

". the lathe appears to have been as familiar an instrument in the fourth dynasty, as it is in the modern workshops."

Other pieces turned out of granite, porphory or basalt are fully hollowed with narrow undercut flared openings, and some even have long necks. Since we have yet to reproduce such pieces it is safe to say that the techniques or machinery they employed to produce these bowls has yet to be replicated.

Here is a large (24" or more in diameter) piece turned out of schist (shown here glued back together in the Cairo Museum.) It is like a large plate with a central hub (about 2-3 " diameter) with an outside rim that in three areas spaced evenly around the perimeter is flared toward the central hub. It is a truly amazing feat of stone work.

There were not just a few of these. Apparently there were thousands found in and around the Step pyramid.

The Step Pyramid is believed to be the oldest stone pyramid in Egypt - the first one built. It seems to be the only place where these kind of stone housewares were found in quantity, although Petrie found some fragments of similar bowls at Giza. Many of them have inscribed (scratched) onto them the symbols of the earliest kings of Egypt - the pre-dynastic era monarchs - from before the pharaohs. Judging by the primitive skill of the inscriptions, it seems unlikely that those signatures were made by the same craftsmen who fashioned the bowls in the first place. Perhaps they were added later by those who had somehow acquired them.

So who made these objects? and how? and where? and when? and what became of them, that their housewares were buried in the oldest of Egyptian pyramids?

Egyptian Pottery Soul House - History

Related: Hittite Artifacts!

New Kingdom Egypt. 18th-19th Dynasty, c. 1550-1185 BC. Fantastic jasper hair-ring. Extraordinarily well-preserved with gorgeous deep red color. 15mm (5/8 inch) diameter. Ex-Dr. Geoffrey Smith collection, San Diego CA. #GS5032: $399 SOLD
New Kingdom Egypt. 18th-19th Dynasty, c. 1550-1185 BC. Fantastic jasper hair-ring. Extraordinarily well-preserved with deep red color, light earthen and mineral deposits. 15mm (5/8 inch) diameter. Nicer in hand than photo allows. Ex-Dr. Geoffrey Smith collection, San Diego CA. #GS5033: $350 SOLD
Roman Egypt, c. 1st - 3rd Century AD. Great Egyptian gold and bronze loop from the Roman Period. The core of heavy bronze over which sheet gold has been hammered. 32 x 26mm. Few areas where the bronze core has been exposed. A neat piece which may be a form of jewelry or perhaps a loop for a larger composition. Ex property from a private San Francisco estate estate residuary beneficiary California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. #AE2039: $250
Roman Egypt, c. 2nd Century AD. Great Roman orange-ware oil lamp depicting a Sothic dog. The animal atop a stand within the central discus, the shoulder adorned with a vine motif. L: 4 in (10.1cm). Light deposits over well-preserved orange slip, carbon deposits from ancient use on the nozzle. Ex collection of John Hibner, acquired in Turkey during military service in the 1960's. #AR2895: $350

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  • Ushabtis / Burial Figures
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  • Egyptian Jewelry
  • Ancient Egyptian Coins
  • Mummy Masks
  • Mummy Wrappings
  • Egyptian Pottery
  • Wood Artifacts
  • Amarna Artifacts
  • Egyptian Bronze Artifacts
  • Egyptian Oil Lamps

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Ancient Coins & Artifacts:

Ancient Egypt, Late Period, c. 664 – 30 BC. Gorgeous framed group of Egyptian cartonnage pieces. Vibrantly painted over gessoed wood, depicting a seated figure before the god Anubis with another standing figure behind. Part of a larger scene, the lower portion of which is visible in the uppermost right hand side with hieroglyphic text in between. Very well preserved and nicely presented in a frame which allows 360 degree visibility to all of the pieces! Group of cartonnage measures: 4 in x 3 1/2 in (10.2 x 8.9 cm). Ex B.C. Antiques, Los Angeles, closed during the 1970’s. #AE2378G: SOLD
Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom. A choice Egyptian mold for a bezel with cartouche of Ramses II, c. 1279 - 1075 BC, with nearly perfectly preserved characters. Would have produced beads or ring bezels with pharaoh’s name which were common all the way to the end of the New Kingdom. 20 x 17 mm. Ex-John Rilling collection, Orange County, CA. Mr. Rilling died in 2008, stopped collecting in the 1990’s. Mr. Rilling selected the items for his collection carefully, acquiring them bit by bit from major auction houses in the US and the UK. #AE2783: SOLD
Ancient Egypt. Late Period, c. 664-323 BC. Great carved stone amulet of Horus, in falcon form. With nice custom base. Amulet itself merasures 26 mm (1 1/16") high, entire piece with base stands 45 mm (1 3/4") tall. ex-Bob Brand and Liz Werthan coll., Philadelphia, PA. #AE2481: $450 SOLD
Ancient Egypt. Roman period, c. 1st - 2nd Century AD. A rare pair of Roman bangles of palm fiber, wrapped with linen thread and intertwined with glass beads. Each about 2 3/8 in (6 cm) in width. Most interesting and rarely encountered. Cf. Petrie, Objects of Daily Use, (London, 1927), p. 8-9, nos.104-5 (listed as Arab but subsequent excavation reports show they are earlier). Ex Time Machine, New York. (Jun 1991), lot 253. #AE2662: $299 SOLD
Ancient Egypt. Late Period, c. 664 - 30 BC. Nice Egyptian terracotta figure. Frontally molded and depicted wearing a kilt and tripartite headdress, right hand at breast and left arm pendant at side. Nicely detailed with remnants of original blue pigment. Finger-prints of the maker still visible on back! H: 2 3/4" (7cm). On antique wood base (entire piece stands 3 5/8 in tall). Ex collection of William Major Tedder. #AE2742: $375 SOLD

New Kingdom Egypt. 18th-19th Dynasty, c. 1550-1185 BC. Fantastic large jasper hair-ring. Extraordinarily well-preserved and very large for these at 22mm (7/8 inch) diameter. Gorgeous red color. Ex-Dr. Geoffrey Smith collection, San Diego CA. #GS5031: $550 SOLD

Ancient Egypt. Late Period, c. 664 - 525 BC. A group of assorted Egyptian faience beads in antique box, and includes tubular and disk beads, most in shades of blue to white. Ex estate of Maria (Lila) Decatur Mayo Deyo Garnett, niece of Ruth Deyo Ex collection of Ruth Deyo, acquired early-mid 1900's. Mrs. Deyo was a world-renowned musician and personality, well-known for her appreciation of Egyptian culture. She was also one of the first few people brought by friend Howard Carter into the tomb of Tutankhamen after his discovery! #AE2705: $399 SOLD

Phenomenal Egyptian faience figure of the goddess Ma'at. Ancient Egypt, Late Period, c. 600-300 BC. She is depicted squatting with her knees drawn up her feather now missing. Lovely turquoise-blue to green color, with black details. Excellent facial features. H: 52 mm (2 1/8"). A VERY RARE figure in faience! ex-estate of Thomas Bentley Cederlind, Portland, OR. Gorgeous color.
A mini-masterpiece! #AE2548: $2000 SOLD
Late Period Egypt, c. 664-525 BC. Wonderful light blue faience shallow offering jar. Of the type depicted in the "opening of the mouth" ceremony in tomb paintings and reliefs. Intact and attractive! 2 1/8" (5.6 cm) tall. Ex Los Angeles private collection. #0411003: $450 SOLD
Egypt, Late Period, c. 664 - 30 BC. Choice Egyptian limestone head of a goddess. Perhaps depicting Hathor, beautifully detailed, wearing a vulture-winged headdress with recessed central area bordered by uraei for an insert in another material, and a uraeus. Her well-modeled features indicate that this head would have belonged to a beautiful statue. H: 2 1/2 in (6.4 cm). Light deposits and mounted on a custom stone base which allows it to be rotated 360 degrees. Ex Los Angeles private collection, acquired at Auction I.M. Chait, Beverly Hills, CA. *A similar example at the Met has been attributed to Arsinoe II, half-sister/wife and co-pharaoh of Ptolemy II, daughter of Ptolemy I, c. 3rd century BC (approx). #NAV136: $750 SOLD
Ancient Egypt, c. 2nd Millennium BC. Rare Egyptian copper adze. Used for carving wood in antiquity, the cutting edge would originally have been perpendicular to the handle. L: 3 3/4" (9.7 cm), losses to end. Nice green patina with heavy earthen deposits. Ex Los Angeles, CA private collection. #WP2271: $250 SOLD

Ancient Egypt, Late Period, c. 664 - 30 BC. Nice blue-green faience flask. The body round with flattened profile, the trumpet-like spout flanked by two pinched handles with cut-out holes for suspension. H: 2 3/8" (6 cm). A nice little flask, most likely contained oil used for an offering. Ex Henk Huffener collection, UK, acquired in the late 19th Century. Ask me about having a custom stand made! #AE2461: $350 SOLD


The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek adjective ἱερογλυφικός (hieroglyphikos), [11] a compound of ἱερός (hierós 'sacred') [12] and γλύφω (glýphō '(Ι) carve, engrave' see glyph). [13]

The glyphs themselves, since the Ptolemaic period, were called τὰ ἱερογλυφικὰ [γράμματα] (tà hieroglyphikà [grámmata]) "the sacred engraved letters", the Greek counterpart to the Egyptian expression of mdw.w-nṯr "god's words". [14] Greek ἱερόγλυφος meant "a carver of hieroglyphs". [15]

In English, hieroglyph as a noun is recorded from 1590, originally short for nominalised hieroglyphic (1580s, with a plural hieroglyphics), from adjectival use (hieroglyphic character). [16] [17]


Hieroglyphs may have emerged from the preliterate artistic traditions of Egypt. For example, symbols on Gerzean pottery from c. 4000 BC have been argued to resemble hieroglyphic writing. [18]

Proto-hieroglyphic symbol systems developed in the second half of the 4th millennium BC, such as the clay labels of a Predynastic ruler called "Scorpion I" (Naqada IIIA period, c. 33rd century BC) recovered at Abydos (modern Umm el-Qa'ab) in 1998 or the Narmer Palette (c. 31st century BC). [2]

The first full sentence written in mature hieroglyphs so far discovered was found on a seal impression in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa'ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty (28th or 27th century BC). Around 800 hieroglyphs are known to date back to the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Eras. By the Greco-Roman period, there were more than 5,000. [7]

Geoffrey Sampson stated that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and, probably, [were] invented under the influence of the latter", [22] and that it is "probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia". [23] [24] There are many instances of early Egypt-Mesopotamia relations, but given the lack of direct evidence for the transfer of writing, "no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt". [25] Others have held that "the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy” and that “a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt. " [26] Since the 1990s, the above-mentioned discoveries of glyphs at Abydos, dated to between 3400 and 3200 BCE, have shed doubt on the classical notion that the Mesopotamian symbol system predates the Egyptian one. However, Egyptian writing appeared suddenly at that time, while Mesopotamia had a long evolutionary history of sign usage in tokens dating back to circa 8000 BCE. [20]

Hieroglyphs became the inspiration for the original alphabet that was ancestral to nearly all others, including the Latin alphabet. [ citation needed ]

Labels with early inscriptions from the tomb of Menes (3200–3000 BC)

Ivory plaque of Menes (3200-3000 BC)

Ivory plaque of Menes (drawing)

The oldest known full sentence written in mature hieroglyphs. Seal impression of Seth-Peribsen (Second Dynasty, c. 28-27th century BC)

Mature writing system

Hieroglyphs consist of three kinds of glyphs: phonetic glyphs, including single-consonant characters that function like an alphabet logographs, representing morphemes and determinatives, which narrow down the meaning of logographic or phonetic words.

Late Period

As writing developed and became more widespread among the Egyptian people, simplified glyph forms developed, resulting in the hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) scripts. These variants were also more suited than hieroglyphs for use on papyrus. Hieroglyphic writing was not, however, eclipsed, but existed alongside the other forms, especially in monumental and other formal writing. The Rosetta Stone contains three parallel scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek.

Late survival

Hieroglyphs continued to be used under Persian rule (intermittent in the 6th and 5th centuries BC), and after Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt, during the ensuing Ptolemaic and Roman periods. It appears that the misleading quality of comments from Greek and Roman writers about hieroglyphs came about, at least in part, as a response to the changed political situation. Some believed that hieroglyphs may have functioned as a way to distinguish 'true Egyptians' from some of the foreign conquerors. Another reason may be the refusal to tackle a foreign culture on its own terms, which characterized Greco-Roman approaches to Egyptian culture generally. [ citation needed ] Having learned that hieroglyphs were sacred writing, Greco-Roman authors imagined the complex but rational system as an allegorical, even magical, system transmitting secret, mystical knowledge. [4]

By the 4th century AD, few Egyptians were capable of reading hieroglyphs, and the "myth of allegorical hieroglyphs" was ascendant. [4] Monumental use of hieroglyphs ceased after the closing of all non-Christian temples in 391 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I the last known inscription is from Philae, known as the Graffito of Esmet-Akhom, from 394. [4] [27]

The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo (c. 5th century) appears to retain some genuine knowledge about the writing system. It offers an explanation of close to 200 signs. Some are identified correctly, such as the "goose" hieroglyph (zꜣ) representing the word for "son". [4]

A half-dozen Demotic glyphs are still in use, added to the Greek alphabet when writing Coptic.

Knowledge of the hieroglyphs had been lost completely in the medieval period. Early attempts at decipherment are due to Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya (9th and 10th century, respectively). [28]

All medieval and early modern attempts were hampered by the fundamental assumption that hieroglyphs recorded ideas and not the sounds of the language. As no bilingual texts were available, any such symbolic 'translation' could be proposed without the possibility of verification. [29] It was not until Athanasius Kircher in the mid 17th century that scholars began to think the hieroglyphs might also represent sounds. Kircher was familiar with Coptic, and thought that it might be the key to deciphering the hieroglyphs, but was held back by a belief in the mystical nature of the symbols. [4]

The breakthrough in decipherment came only with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon's troops in 1799 (during Napoleon's Egyptian invasion). As the stone presented a hieroglyphic and a demotic version of the same text in parallel with a Greek translation, plenty of material for falsifiable studies in translation was suddenly available. In the early 19th century, scholars such as Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Åkerblad, and Thomas Young studied the inscriptions on the stone, and were able to make some headway. Finally, Jean-François Champollion made the complete decipherment by the 1820s. In his Lettre à M. Dacier (1822), he wrote:

It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, in the same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word. [30]

Visually, hieroglyphs are all more or less figurative: they represent real or abstract elements, sometimes stylized and simplified, but all generally perfectly recognizable in form. However, the same sign can, according to context, be interpreted in diverse ways: as a phonogram (phonetic reading), as a logogram, or as an ideogram (semagram "determinative") (semantic reading). The determinative was not read as a phonetic constituent, but facilitated understanding by differentiating the word from its homophones.

Phonetic reading

Most non-determinative hieroglyphic signs are phonograms, whose meaning is determined by pronunciation, independent of visual characteristics. This follows the rebus principle where, for example, the picture of an eye could stand not only for the English word eye, but also for its phonetic equivalent, the first person pronoun I.

Phonograms formed with one consonant are called uniliteral signs with two consonants, biliteral signs with three, triliteral signs.

Twenty-four uniliteral signs make up the so-called hieroglyphic alphabet. Egyptian hieroglyphic writing does not normally indicate vowels, unlike cuneiform, and for that reason has been labelled by some an abjad alphabet, i.e., an alphabet without vowels.

Thus, hieroglyphic writing representing a pintail duck is read in Egyptian as sꜣ, derived from the main consonants of the Egyptian word for this duck: 's', 'ꜣ' and 't'. (Note that ꜣ or , two half-rings opening to the left, sometimes replaced by the digit '3', is the Egyptian alef.)

It is also possible to use the hieroglyph of the pintail duck without a link to its meaning in order to represent the two phonemes s and , independently of any vowels that could accompany these consonants, and in this way write the word: sꜣ, "son" or when complemented by other signs detailed below [ clarification needed ] sꜣ, "keep, watch" and sꜣṯ.w, "hard ground". For example:

– the same character used only in order to signify, according to the context, "pintail duck" or, with the appropriate determinative, "son", two words having the same or similar consonants the meaning of the little vertical stroke will be explained further on:

– the character sꜣ as used in the word sꜣw, "keep, watch" [ clarification needed ]

As in the Arabic script, not all vowels were written in Egyptian hieroglyphs it is debatable whether vowels were written at all. Possibly, as with Arabic, the semivowels /w/ and /j/ (as in English W and Y) could double as the vowels /u/ and /i/ . In modern transcriptions, an e is added between consonants to aid in their pronunciation. For example, nfr "good" is typically written nefer. This does not reflect Egyptian vowels, which are obscure, but is merely a modern convention. Likewise, the and ʾ are commonly transliterated as a, as in Ra.

Hieroglyphs are inscribed in rows of pictures arranged in horizontal lines or vertical columns. [31] Both hieroglyph lines as well as signs contained in the lines are read with upper content having precedence over content below. [31] The lines or columns, and the individual inscriptions within them, read from left to right in rare instances only and for particular reasons at that ordinarily however, they read from right to left–the Egyptians' preferred direction of writing (although, for convenience, modern texts are often normalized into left-to-right order). [31] The direction toward which asymmetrical hieroglyphs face indicate their proper reading order. For example, when human and animal hieroglyphs face or look toward the left, they almost always must be read from left to right, and vice versa.

As in many ancient writing systems, words are not separated by blanks or punctuation marks. However, certain hieroglyphs appear particularly common only at the end of words, making it possible to readily distinguish words.

Uniliteral signs

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script contained 24 uniliterals (symbols that stood for single consonants, much like letters in English). It would have been possible to write all Egyptian words in the manner of these signs, but the Egyptians never did so and never simplified their complex writing into a true alphabet. [32]

Each uniliteral glyph once had a unique reading, but several of these fell together as Old Egyptian developed into Middle Egyptian. For example, the folded-cloth glyph seems to have been originally an /s/ and the door-bolt glyph a /θ/ sound, but these both came to be pronounced /s/ , as the /θ/ sound was lost. [ clarification needed ] A few uniliterals first appear in Middle Egyptian texts.

Besides the uniliteral glyphs, there are also the biliteral and triliteral signs, to represent a specific sequence of two or three consonants, consonants and vowels, and a few as vowel combinations only, in the language.

Phonetic complements

Egyptian writing is often redundant: in fact, it happens very frequently that a word is followed by several characters writing the same sounds, in order to guide the reader. For example, the word nfr, "beautiful, good, perfect", was written with a unique triliteral that was read as nfr:

However, it is considerably more common to add to that triliteral, the uniliterals for f and r. The word can thus be written as nfr+f+r, but one still reads it merely as nfr. The two alphabetic characters are adding clarity to the spelling of the preceding triliteral hieroglyph.

Redundant characters accompanying biliteral or triliteral signs are called phonetic complements (or complementaries). They can be placed in front of the sign (rarely), after the sign (as a general rule), or even framing it (appearing both before and after). Ancient Egyptian scribes consistently avoided leaving large areas of blank space in their writing, and might add additional phonetic complements or sometimes even invert the order of signs if this would result in a more aesthetically pleasing appearance (good scribes attended to the artistic, and even religious, aspects of the hieroglyphs, and would not simply view them as a communication tool). Various examples of the use of phonetic complements can be seen below:

Notably, phonetic complements were also used to allow the reader to differentiate between signs that are homophones, or which do not always have a unique reading. For example, the symbol of "the seat" (or chair):

Finally, it sometimes happens that the pronunciation of words might be changed because of their connection to Ancient Egyptian: in this case, it is not rare for writing to adopt a compromise in notation, the two readings being indicated jointly. For example, the adjective bnj, "sweet", became bnr. In Middle Egyptian, one can write:

which is fully read as bnr, the j not being pronounced but retained in order to keep a written connection with the ancient word (in the same fashion as the English language words through, knife, or victuals, which are no longer pronounced the way they are written.)

Semantic reading

Besides a phonetic interpretation, characters can also be read for their meaning: in this instance, logograms are being spoken (or ideograms) and semagrams (the latter are also called determinatives). [ clarification needed ] [33]


A hieroglyph used as a logogram defines the object of which it is an image. Logograms are therefore the most frequently used common nouns they are always accompanied by a mute vertical stroke indicating their status as a logogram (the usage of a vertical stroke is further explained below) in theory, all hieroglyphs would have the ability to be used as logograms. Logograms can be accompanied by phonetic complements. Here are some examples:

In some cases, the semantic connection is indirect (metonymic or metaphoric):


Determinatives or semagrams (semantic symbols specifying meaning) are placed at the end of a word. These mute characters serve to clarify what the word is about, as homophonic glyphs are common. If a similar procedure existed in English, words with the same spelling would be followed by an indicator that would not be read, but which would fine-tune the meaning: "retort [chemistry]" and "retort [rhetoric]" would thus be distinguished.

Here, are several examples of the use of determinatives borrowed from the book, Je lis les hiéroglyphes ("I am reading hieroglyphs") by Jean Capart, which illustrate their importance:

All these words have a meliorative connotation: "good, beautiful, perfect". The Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian by Raymond A. Faulkner, gives some twenty words that are read nfr or which are formed from this word.

Additional signs


Rarely, the names of gods are placed within a cartouche the two last names of the sitting king are always placed within a cartouche:

Filling stroke

A filling stroke is a character indicating the end of a quadrat that would otherwise be incomplete.

Signs joined together

Some signs are the contraction of several others. These signs have, however, a function and existence of their own: for example, a forearm where the hand holds a scepter is used as a determinative for words meaning "to direct, to drive" and their derivatives.


The doubling of a sign indicates its dual the tripling of a sign indicates its plural.

Grammatical signs

Standard orthography—"correct" spelling—in Egyptian is much looser than in modern languages. In fact, one or several variants exist for almost every word. One finds:

  • Redundancies
  • Omission of graphemes, which are ignored whether or not they are intentional
  • Substitutions of one grapheme for another, such that it is impossible to distinguish a "mistake" from an "alternate spelling"
  • Errors of omission in the drawing of signs, which are much more problematic when the writing is cursive (hieratic) writing, but especially demotic, where the schematization of the signs is extreme.

However, many of these apparent spelling errors constitute an issue of chronology. Spelling and standards varied over time, so the writing of a word during the Old Kingdom might be considerably different during the New Kingdom. Furthermore, the Egyptians were perfectly content to include older orthography ("historical spelling") alongside newer practices, as though it were acceptable in English to use archaic spellings in modern texts. Most often, ancient "spelling errors" are simply misinterpretations of context. Today, hieroglyphicists use numerous cataloguing systems (notably the Manuel de Codage and Gardiner's Sign List) to clarify the presence of determinatives, ideograms, and other ambiguous signs in transliteration.

The glyphs in this cartouche are transliterated as:

though ii is considered a single letter and transliterated y.

Another way in which hieroglyphs work is illustrated by the two Egyptian words pronounced pr (usually vocalised as per). One word is 'house', and its hieroglyphic representation is straightforward:

Here, the 'house' hieroglyph works as a logogram: it represents the word with a single sign. The vertical stroke below the hieroglyph is a common way of indicating that a glyph is working as a logogram.

Another word pr is the verb 'to go out, leave'. When this word is written, the 'house' hieroglyph is used as a phonetic symbol:

Here, the 'house' glyph stands for the consonants pr. The 'mouth' glyph below it is a phonetic complement: it is read as r, reinforcing the phonetic reading of pr. The third hieroglyph is a determinative: it is an ideogram for verbs of motion that gives the reader an idea of the meaning of the word.

Egyptian hieroglyphs were added to the Unicode Standard in October 2009 with the release of version 5.2 which introduced the Egyptian Hieroglyphs block (U+13000–U+1342F) with 1,071 defined characters.

As of July 2013 [update] , four fonts, Aegyptus, NewGardiner, Noto Sans Egyptian Hieroglyphs and JSeshFont support this range. Another font, Segoe UI Historic, comes bundled with Windows 10 and also contains glyphs for the Egyptian Hieroglyphs block. Segoe UI Historic excludes three glyphs depicting phallus (Gardiner's D52, D52A D53, Unicode code points U+130B8–U+130BA). [35]

Most of the artifacts made by the craftsmen were out of reach for the vast majority of the population.

Their clients were mostly from the nobility or the wealthy middle class who can actually afford their services and their high-quality products.

The economy and trade of ancient Egypt also played a role in the flourishing of the craftsmen.

The social class made all the difference when it came to the quality of the certain products as the furniture of the rich was beautifully carved while the ones of the middle class were less well-off made do with often crudely painted chairs and chests while the poor had to excess to these materials.

3b. Egyptian Social Structure

Egyptian society was structured like a pyramid. At the top were the gods, such as Ra, Osiris, and Isis. Egyptians believed that the gods controlled the universe. Therefore, it was important to keep them happy. They could make the Nile overflow, cause famine, or even bring death.

In the social pyramid of ancient Egypt the pharaoh and those associated with divinity were at the top, and servants and slaves made up the bottom.

The Egyptians also elevated some human beings to gods. Their leaders, called pharaohs, were believed to be gods in human form. They had absolute power over their subjects. After pharaohs died, huge stone pyramids were built as their tombs. Pharaohs were buried in chambers within the pyramids.

Because the people of Egypt believed that their pharaohs were gods, they entrusted their rulers with many responsibilities. Protection was at the top of the list. The pharaoh directed the army in case of a foreign threat or an internal conflict. All laws were enacted at the discretion of the pharaoh. Each farmer paid taxes in the form of grain, which were stored in the pharaoh's warehouses. This grain was used to feed the people in the event of a famine.

The Chain of Command

Ancient Egyptian royalty, nobility, and clergy enjoyed lives of wealth and comfort while farmers and slaves struggled to subsist.

No single person could manage all these duties without assistance. The pharaoh appointed a chief minister called a vizier as a supervisor. The vizier ensured that taxes were collected.

Working with the vizier were scribes who kept government records. These high-level employees had mastered a rare skill in ancient Egypt &mdash they could read and write.

Noble Aims

Right below the pharaoh in status were powerful nobles and priests. Only nobles could hold government posts in these positions they profited from tributes paid to the pharaoh. Priests were responsible for pleasing the gods.

Religion was a central theme in ancient Egyptian culture and each town had its own deity. Initially, these deities were animals later, they took on human appearances and behaviors. Seated here is Thoth, the god of learning and wisdom, carrying a scepter symbolizing magical power.

Nobles enjoyed great status and also grew wealthy from donations to the gods. All Egyptians &mdash from pharaohs to farmers &mdash gave gifts to the gods.

Soldier On

Soldiers fought in wars or quelled domestic uprisings. During long periods of peace, soldiers also supervised the peasants, farmers, and slaves who were involved in building such structures as pyramids and palaces.

Skilled workers such as physicians and craftspersons made up the middle class. Craftspersons made and sold jewelry, pottery, papyrus products, tools, and other useful things.

Naturally, there were people needed to buy goods from artisans and traders. These were the merchants and storekeepers who sold these goods to the public.

The Bottom of the Heap

At the bottom of the social structure were slaves and farmers. Slavery became the fate of those captured as prisoners of war. In addition to being forced to work on building projects, slaves toiled at the discretion of the pharaoh or nobles.

Farmers tended the fields, raised animals, kept canals and reservoirs in good order, worked in the stone quarries, and built the royal monuments. Farmers paid taxes that could be as much as 60 percent of their yearly harvest &mdash that's a lot of hay!

Social mobility was not impossible. A small number of peasants and farmers moved up the economic ladder. Families saved money to send their sons to village schools to learn trades. These schools were run by priests or by artisans. Boys who learned to read and write could become scribes, then go on to gain employment in the government. It was possible for a boy born on a farm to work his way up into the higher ranks of the government. Bureaucracy proved lucrative.

Magical Rituals

In magical rituals, the intention is to pacify, to grow, to shield or to destroy: protection, defence, lawful combat, execration, healing, the restoration of a state of affairs, the reversal of misfortune (caused by negative energies), healing, natural evolution etc. are specific examples. Magic aims at the Earth, religion at the sky. Magic is never without religion, but religion may reject magic. In many ways, magic is what makes religion possible.

They also had death Rituals and Ceremonies. The Death Rituals practised by the Ancient Egyptians included embalming and mummification. The mummies of dead Egyptians were placed in anthropoid (man-shaped) coffins which were decorated with a likeness of the deceased.

These are well-known Death Rituals but there were other extremely important death rituals which were practised including the ‘Opening of the Mouth ‘ ritual. The ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth is a renewal, a rebirth, and a restoration in one event. It is an act of creation and the supreme act of reaffirming life.

Egyptian Amulets and Their Meanings and Definition

It is still unclear why Egyptians used such an ornament over their bodies, though it seems people designed them to protect the owner from savage animals and dangerous serpents. With the passage of time, people invented and designed different types of amulets for different purposes some of the amulets were purely for protecting the owners, while the others to preserve and protect the dead.

Under the far-reaching influence of amulets and talisman, a dead body wore a number of amulets designed specifically to perform several duties. These amulets also protected the deceased body from fungus, mildew, serpents, bacteria, decay and putrefaction. In all, the exact purpose and the use are still under doubt, as amulets existed since 4000 BC an amulet’s origin is still a deep mystery.

There are two basic types of amulets:

  • Those that carry a series of magical formulae and verses,
  • Those do not carry any magical formulae or verses.

Egyptian Pottery Soul House - History

S tone and clay pots comprise one of the most important categories of Egyptian artifacts. They help us understand the evolution of the culture from the Predynastic Period to the end of the pharaonic era. The banks of the Nile provided the mud and clay used to make ceramic ware. Food was cooked in clay pots, which also served as containers for grains, water, wine, beer, flour and oils. Baskets were the other type of container found in the home. They were made from reeds and the leaves of date palms that grew along the Nile.

S killed artisans were considered socially superior to common labourers. They learned their art from a master who ensured stylistic continuity in the beautiful objects they created for the living and the dead. Women engaged in weaving, perfume making, baking and needlework. Very few artistic creations were signed, and exceptional ability was rewarded through increased social status.

C arpenters

S killed carpenters manufactured a wide range of products, from roofing beams to furniture and statues. Their tools included saws, axes, chisels, adzes, wooden mallets, stone polishers and bow drills. Since wood suitable for building was scarce in ancient Egypt, it was imported from countries such as Lebanon.

From Satire of the Trades, a Middle Kingdom text reproduced in Ancient Egyptian Literature, by Miriam Lichtheim

S tonemasons and Sculptors

S culptors had to adhere to very strict stylistic rules. The stone was first shaped and smoothed by masons using stone hammers. For bas-reliefs, draftsmen outlined images on the stone before a team of sculptors began carving them with copper chisels. A fine abrasive powder was used to polish the stone before the images were painted.

"I'll describe to you also the mason:
His loins give him pain
Though he is out in the wind,
He works without a cloak
His loincloth is a twisted rope
And a string in the rear."

From Satire of the Trades, a Middle Kingdom text reproduced in Ancient Egyptian Literature, by Miriam Lichtheim

B ead Making

V arious types of semi-precious stones were used in jewellery. To make beads, artisans broke stones and rolled them between other stones to shape them. A bow drill was used to drill a hole through the beads, which were then rolled in a recessed receptacle containing an abrasive to refine their shape.

B rickmakers and potters

T he word iqdou (Nile mud) was used to designate the profession of the brickmaker and the potter, who used mud from the Nile to make their products.

T he brickmaker had one of the more menial occupations in ancient Egypt. To make bricks, Nile mud was mixed with sand, straw and water, slapped into wooden moulds and then slapped out onto the ground to dry in the sun. Bricks were used extensively in ancient Egypt for building everything from peasants' homes to the pharaoh's palaces.

P otters produced vast quantities of utilitarian vessels. Cow dung, water and straw were mixed with mud to produce clay ready for the potter's wheel. The exterior surface of pots was often covered with a reddish slip and/or decorated using a stylus or comb before the pots were fired in kilns.

M erchants and Trade

I n a good year, the quantity of grain harvested in Egypt far exceeded the needs of the country. The grain exported to neighbouring countries provided a rich source of revenue for the Egyptian Treasury. Egypt's economy functioned on a barter system. In the marketplace, stone weights were used to determine the value of grain and other rations.

E gyptian merchants developed an extensive trade network for procuring goods from other countries. Gold from the mines of eastern Nubia, for example, was traded for raw materials or manufactured goods.

M istress of the House

Women of all classes could earn wages, own property and employ workers, but their main role was within the family. The title most women had was "mistress of the house". They were considered equal with men before the law, and could sue for damages and divorce.

Musical scenes on murals seem to indicate a predominance of female musicians during the New Kingdom. Music served both secular and religious purposes, with many high-status New Kingdom women holding the position of "chantress" to a local god. Harps, lutes, flutes, oboes, tambourines and sistra (rattles) were the main instruments used.

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