Susanllewellyn's Blog

February 24, 2010

What Kind of God Do you Think You Are? Shu (2)

Now we’ve perused Shu’s biography and CV, let’s take a closer look at his name and title.  Here he is in close-up, with his nameplate in front of him:

The hieroglyphs are quite cursive or simplified, but they are still (mostly)recognisable.  This group spells the god’s name:


We haven’t had Shu’s tall, curling ostrich feather hieroglyph before.  Here’s a real one:

The feather hieroglyph is a biliteral, and was pronounced shu.  Old Office Hieroglyphs hands will spot that the quail chick hieroglyph, which we have seen before, is only reinforcing the -w sound.

I must confess that I am not entirely certain what the round sign between the feather and the chick on the papyrus may be.  Some of the ink has been lost at this spot, as you can see from the fading of the baseline on which the chick stands, compared with other chicks in the same papyrus.  There’s no real need for a hieroglyph here at all.  It may be that the scribe was attracted by Shu’s association with sunlight to put in this determinative of the rays of the sun:

  It does look as though there’s the beginning of some kind of addition to the circle (if it is a circle) on the right hand side. 

If it is just a circle, then the scribe may have put it in because he was thinking of a similar word, seshu,  meaning ring, and put the ring hieroglyph in as well. 

Or then again, maybe not.  If anyone has any suggestions – or knows what it is – please let me know.

We’ll look at his title next time.


  1. Hi Susan!

    I’ve consulted the Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, of Wallis Budge, that is quite old, but in the sign’s list there’s one quite similar to that round circle with something suspended on it; you may consult page cxvv (sign number 14); the appointed meaning is “shine, rise (of a luminary), beings of light”. The sign on the image that you’ve posted is simpler than the one that I appointed, but it can be a simplification. Besides, saying that Shu is a “being of light” is not inapropriated, because he is also son of Re.

    That’s just a clue, or a try.


    Comment by jpgalhano — February 27, 2010 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  2. Thank you! I must have a look at the Budge dictionary next time I am in the Egypt Exploration Society library, as well as the Worterbuch der Agyptische Sprache. I have Faulkner and Gardiner at home. I think you are right that the sign is some kind of connection with Shu’s status as the son of Re, and his role in creating the space for the sun to shine through. As you know,son of Re is his title in this particular inscription.

    Comment by susanllewellyn — February 27, 2010 @ 8:20 am | Reply

  3. Well Susan,
    please check your messages at twitter account.
    Nice reading (and writing!).

    Comment by jpgalhano — February 27, 2010 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

    • Thank you so much! You are very kind. I’ve looked up the symbol you suggested. I can see why you thought of it, but I’m not sure there’s enough room above the quail chick’s feet for the three rays protruding from the disk. It looks like a full column height sign to me, and the mysterious symbol is only half height. At the bottom of the page above, though, the sun disk with pendent uraeus is a possibility. Or, the dot in the middle of an ordinary sun disk has been misplaced, and ended up on one side. I wish we could ask the scribe!

      Comment by susanllewellyn — February 27, 2010 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

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