Susanllewellyn's Blog

December 22, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (30)

You’ve heard them singing carols in the office.  You’ve heard them karaoke down the pub. This is the best time of year to decide which of your colleagues merits the last phrase of the offering formula:

maa-kheru; true of voice.

We’ve had kheru, voice, before.  It was in the complex little group of signs which make up the standard phrase for “an invocation offering of bread and beer”:

where “invocation” is literally “that which comes forth by the voice”.  And there’s kheru, right in the middle of the group, like a wooden spoon ready for stirring the pudding (which would make the other signs a chopping board, a bag of flour and a bottle of brandy in seasonal montage straight out of the Lakeland kitchenware catalogue.  Except they’re not.)  But you know it’s an oar, and the other signs are a house, a loaf of bread (naturally) a jug of beer and the invisible owl.

So now we have the oar again, twice in one formula.  They did like sticking their oar in, the ancient Egyptians.  But what’s the first sign,

maa?  A doorstop?  An eraser? Nothing so mundane.  The wedge-shaped sign maa (very easy to draw) represents a platform or pedestal, as here supporting a figure of the god Ptah (from Tutankhamun’s tomb furniture):

(Ok, you could use him as a door wedge, I’ll give you that.  But he would be far from mundane.  There could be a whole interior design industry in this for someone – and that someone will need an office, and that office will need hieroglyphs…. I must stop getting carried away.) 

Back to maa – the pedestal has that distinctive shape because it in turn is a representation of nothing less than the primeval mound; the first bit of land to appear from out of the waters of chaos at the very creation of the world.  The Egyptians were used to seeing mounds of land rise from the water every year, as the floodwaters of the Nile receded after the annual inundation, leaving behind fertile silt which they could cultivate.  (So, we have to assume that Ptah is standing on a little island, with the waters of the primeval ocean lapping almost at his feet, at the bottom of the little slipway on his pedestal.)  The Egyptians assumed that this was how the gods had first created the land on which they lived.  To them, this pristine terra firma meant the world the way the gods had created it, the way the world was meant to be.  Maa meant “true” or “right” or “just” in the sense of  “the proper order of things”.

Here is an example of the maa kheru group in a  carved relief:

 True of voice:  the “of” is unwritten but understood from the construction.  The maa hieroglyph is easy to draw:  a thin rectangle with one slanting short side.

But if our tomb owner Senusret was “true of voice”, what did that mean?  They didn’t have karaoke in the netherworld, did they?  No.  It was much worse than that.  To get into the Egyptian afterlife, you had to win the divine version of the X Factor.

Anyone who thinks the X Factor is hell on earth will get the idea of the Egyptian afterlife.  If life on earth was Round 1, to go forward to the afterlife or Round 2, you had to impress a panel of judges.  Here’s a scene from the show:

On the left,we have the tomb owner being led onstage by his divine sponsor, the god Anubis.  In the middle, the scene shows an early version of the machine used to record the audience’s verdict.  Back then, in the days before electronic voting buttons, they used a weighing scale.  In the right-hand pan of the scale is a feather, representing truth, order, justice and all those primeval virtues.  In the left is the tomb owner’s heart.

On the right of the scene, in their own special booth, sit the judges:  Osiris, the Simon Cowell of the underworld, sits on his throne, backed by two divas of the day, the goddesses Isis and Nephthys then, and fronted by four lesser judges, his own four sons, who stand on a lotus blossom.

The format of the show is this:  to qualify for the next round of existence, the tomb owner has to declare that he has led a good life on earth.  But just saying so is not enough; he has to prove it.  To test whether or not he is speaking the truth, the gods weigh his heart against the feather.  If his heart is not weighed down by sin and falsehood, it will balance the feather and he will be let through to the next round.  If it is heavier than the feather, it will be thrown to the crocodile-headed she-monster waiting by the weighing scale, (her name is Devourer-of-Hearts, but let’s call her Anne) and the tomb owner will be thrown off the programme – you are the weakest link, goodbye.  That won’t happen, though, because in the finest traditions of audience voting reality TV, Anubis is rigging the result by fixing the scale.  The Ibis-headed god Thoth is standing by like the Lottery adjudicator to verify the outcome.  And sure enough, Anubis is conducting the tomb owner, who has been proven to be speaking the truth, to Simon, sorry, Osiris, who declares him fit to go forward to the final. 

And ever after, our tomb owner is known as “true of voice”, as a sign that he has passed the test and successfully entered the next world.

So there we are:  at the end of the offering formula.  You know it all now:

Hetep di nesu Usir neb Djedu, netjer aa, neb Abju, di ef peret-kheru (em) te henqet, kau apedu, shes menkhet, khet nebet nefret ankhet netjer im, en ka en imakhy Senusret, maa-kheru.

“An offering which the King gives (to) Osiris Lord of Busiris, the great god, Lord of Abydos, that he may give invocation-offerings (consisting of) bread, and beer, meat and fowl, alabaster and clothing, and all good and pure things by which a god lives, to the ka of the Revered One, Senusret, True of Voice.”

How’s that for a Christmas list?

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December 16, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (29)

In the last post, I mentioned that there are two letters s in ancient Egyptian.  You won’t have been impressed.  Who is going to be impressed by two s-es when they already know about the four h-es (even though they haven’t met them all yet)?

Actually, the s situation is a bit more complicated than I let on.  There are two s-es rendered in transliteration, but one of them has two hieroglyphs to go with it.  We had one in the last post:

That was the vertical one.  Now meet the horizontal one:

Originally, it was pronounced more like a z, but it evolved into an alternative way of writing s, depending on whether or not the scribe had to fill a vertical or horizontal space in a group of signs.  You can see the point immediately in the full version of our tomb owner Senusret’s name:

We’ve already met the goddess Usret, “the powerful (female) one”, whose name appears first in writing, even though it comes second in pronunciation.  Now we’re on the second part of the name in writing, although it was the first part of his name when spoken: 

     se-en; “man of”.  The horizontal s hieroglyph depicts a bolt, of the type you can see on the doors of the golden shrines of Tutankhamun:

 

Here’s the carved relief version from the cartouche of King Sesostris in the last post: 

It’s simple to draw:  a straight line with a couple of short cross-hatches in the middle will do.  And there we have it:  se = man.

The n holds no mystery for you.  We’ve seen it all before.  It’s a ripple of water.  It means “of”.  You know that.  So, on to the final sign in this group:

Isn’t he lovely?  He’s a seated man, and he has no sound – he’s the strong, silent type.  He has no sound because he is a determinative – a hieroglyph stuck on the end of a word to show what kind of word it is.  We’ve had a determinative before, remember?  The town or city determinatives in the first line of the offering formula are the same kind of sign.  I explained then that, because the Egyptians wrote very few vowels, they had to use some device to distinguish between words which sounded different when spoken, but had the same sequence of consonants when written down.  This is what the determinative does – it shows it’s the word for man, as opposed to a similar word meaning something else.  But you remember all that. 

In this case, though, he’s not part of se, man, but of the name as a whole:  he’s the male  determinative for the masculine name, Senusret.

He’s complicated to draw, but he’s worth it for the animation he will add to your enigmatic line of Christmas card hieroglyphs.  Inanimate symbols are attractive enough, but you can’t beat a cute little animal or a tiny little person for instant appeal.  I usually start with a circle for the head, then a triangle, pointed side down, for the torso. A second triangle, pointing left (in this case) forms the lower leg, and a smaller one sticking up behind it forms the raised knee.  You can put in two short strokes for the feet, and two bent lines for his arms, as though he’s doing an impression of Toulouse-Lautrec power walking.  And you’ve created a little man.

Here’s one they made earlier, when they were painting texts on a coffin:

See?  He doesn’t have to be that complicated.  They’re simple creatures, after all.

December 15, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (28)

You know how you sometimes get a Christmas card, but can’t for the life of you make out the signature, and spend the whole New Year wrestling with the guilty suspicion that you’ve missed someone off your list, while they kept you on theirs?  Well, this is not going to happen this time; not on Office Hieroglyphs, it isn’t.  We are about to decipher the cryptic symbols by means of which our revered tomb owner conveyed his name – or at least had someone else to convey it for him.

And here it is:

Senusret, sometimes transcribed as Senwosret or, in its later, Greek form, Sesostris; a name of commoners, nobles and of course a number of famous Twelfth Dynasty Kings.

If you cast your mind back to the very beginning of this blog, you may remember that we encountered the device known as honorific transposition, which is a pretty rotten trick to pull on the eager beginner.  However, we’ve seen it before and we’re not intimidated.  We know it just means that the Egyptians believed that some words were more important and magical than others, especially when they were written down, and that they had better write down the most powerful symbols in a word or phrase first, even if they were not actually spoken first, or the magic letters might get annoyed and start acting up. 

Well, Senusret is one of those cases.  It is a theophorous name, which means it contains the name of a god or, in this case, goddess:  the goddess Usret or Wosret.  Senusret means “Man of (the goddess) Usret”.  And you’ve guessed it; even though the tomb owner’s name was Senusret, the diva gets her name at the top of the bill.  This is why, in very old textbooks written before they’d figured it out, early Egyptologists sometimes wrote the name as Usertsen.

So, we’ll spend this post giving all our attention to the goddess:

Usret:  literally, “the powerful one”, perhaps an early version of “She-Who-must-be-obeyed”.  She was a relatively obscure goddess who is rarely depicted, probably because her cult flourished (at Thebes, modern Luxor) during the Middle Kingdom in Egypt (roughly 2000-1700 BC), and very little remains of the temples of that period – they’ve mostly been broken up, re-used and covered over by later monuments.  Similarly, later, even more powerful goddesses supplanted her as objects of worship.  However, the Kings of the time, who came from her home town, saw her as their patron goddess, which was why several of them were named after her.

We’ve got some new symbols here, too, which makes a change from the recycling we’ve seen lately.  Have a look at the first one:

It looks like a head on a stick.  In fact, it’s the head of some dog-like animal on a greatly elongated neck.  They did like their animal body parts, didn’t they?  When you draw it, you can just draw a head on a stick:  two pointy ears and a protruding snout, then a vertical line for the neck. The symbol is a triliteral – it conveys the sound wsr or user.  The next two letters are simply the s and the r written out in full for emphasis:

 

 is the letter s, one of two in the transliteration of ancient Egyptian.  A droopy looking sign, isn’t it.  After all the butchery we’ve had in this blog lately, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s a length of trailing intestine, but in fact it’s a folded cloth, something like the throw hanging over the back of the throne in our picture of Osiris from ages ago:

Maybe they need something to mop up the blood at this point in the formula.

is the letter r.  We’re back to good old body parts with this one; the r represents the human mouth. Here’s a slightly wonky inlaid technicolour version:

 

 Two curves touching at the tips will describe it nicely.

Finally, dedicated scribes will have spotted our old friend the loaf of bread

 representing the letter t, and forming the feminine ending, so we know Usret is a goddess, not a god:  “the powerful (female) one”.

Here they all are in the name of one of the Kings called Sesostris, enclosed by a rope border known as a cartouche:

Look at them all, like presents in Santa’s sack.  We’ll pull out the last couple next time.

December 9, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (27)

I can’t decide whether the ancient Egyptians were lucky not to have to try to fit things around the Christmas shopping, or whether equipping their tombs was simply an endless version of it:  going out with a list of stuff to buy, lugging it home, hiding it away where the kids can’t see it…  I suppose that makes the afterlife an endless Boxing Day; one long procession of visitors and leftover food.  Well, at least they brought their own cold cuts.  And they were the leftovers of the gods.

Anyway, I have surfaced briefly from the pre-Christmas preparations to bring you the word:

    imakhy; the revered one.  No, not Santa Claus; “the revered one” is the way the Egyptians customarily referred to the deceased person.

Imakhy is quite a long word by offering formula standards.  However, it contains some characters we’ve had before, like the ghosts of Christmas past.  You’ll recognise the first character as the flowering reed they used to convey the i sound.  You’ll also notice there are two of them at the end of the word.  Where they occur in pairs, they are conventionally written as a y

The circular sign you’ll also recognise as the placenta symbol conveying the kh sound, so there is only one new symbol here:

 

 Yes, all those sounds crammed into a single hieroglyph, like goodies in a Christmas stocking.  Then you pull them out and realise you’ve got half of them already.  The i and the kh symbols are only there as emphasis for those sounds; they don’t actually add anything extra.  What is it? you wonder, just as many of you are wondering as you reach into the office Santa’s sack and your fingers close round that Secret Santa package… is it a comb?  Is it a toothbrush? 

No, it’s a much choicer morsel than that:   it’s a section of backbone (animal) with the spinal cord protruding from the end.  See the ribs? 

You can count them better in this painted version from an (cracked) coffin:

 There are six in this version, but you don’t have to be that accurate.  I usually draw a horizontal line ending in a loop, then add four or five long, narrow, upright loops for the ribs.  Bring two or three of them down below the horizontal line, to show the bumps of the vertebrae.

 The imakh symbol is an ideogram – a picture of the thing itself.  Imakh originally meant this cut of the carcass, and that word sounded similar to the word “revered”, so that was the sign they used to write it.  The -y ending conveys the “one”.  But I promised we wouldn’t get into grammar, and I won’t force it on you now.  After all, it is Christmas.

November 22, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (26)

Well here we are, three lines in to the offering formula and about to start on the fourth and last.  And here it is:

en ka en imakhy Senwosret, maa-kheru: for the ka of the revered one Senwosret, true of voice.

Sound like anyone you know?  Do you revere the colleague whose card or whiteboard you are embellishing?  Are they known for their honesty, the accuracy of their pronouncements or their karaoke prowess?  Never mind, it’s only a formula.  Let’s look at the first bit of it.

en ka en:  for the ka of.  Let’s do the easy bit first.   The Sherlock Holmeses among you will instantly have deduced that the squiggly lines top and bottom correspond to the en. 

Elementary.   And speaking of elements, the squiggly line in hieroglyphs represents the watery one.  It’s a ripple of water:

See the resemblance?  We’ve already seen wavy lines representing water, in the post on wabet.  But we haven’t had them as the actual letter n.  Here’s an original:

It’s a zigzag line.  What else is there to say?  The ka, on the other hand…

The Egyptians didn’t have souls.  Or rather, they didn’t just have single souls.  The deceased Egyptian exploded into a whole menagerie of afterlife entities:  the body, the shadow, the akh (a heron-like bird with a lamp who circled the skies with the stars), the ba (a human-headed bird that hung around the necropolis and twittered mournfully – they’ve made a comeback on the Internet lately) and the ka, or life force.

The ka had its advantages and disadvantages.  A disadvantage was that it was confined to the tomb, unlike the ba and the akh.  Maybe it kicked the ba and the akh out, so it could get some elbow room, with the body and the shadow.  Maybe that was why the ba twittered mournfully.  The advantage was that the ka got to ascend the burial shaft, come out through the false door into the offering chapel and feast upon the food and drink brought by the family or magically invoked by the passer-by.  The ka was the life force, and it fed upon the life force of the food.  But we’ve been through all this before.

The hieroglyph for ka is a pair of upraised arms, as found on the head of this royal ka statue:

What a beautiful, slender yet well moulded pair of arms and  shoulders, and delicate, detailed hands.  They didn’t always put so much work into the hieroglyphs,

although they have taken care to paint this ka the dark red colour they used for male skin (men being more likely to be outdoors than women, and therefore more tanned).  I draw my kas very simply:  three straight lines plus a little crescent at each end for the hands.

NB:  this ka is not to be confused with the ka meaning bull of a few posts ago.  Katie Hughes tweeted a good idea about that some time ago:  kh1369  @SusanLlewellyn Egyptians would be sustaining the ka (“spirit”) with ka (meat)? What a multi-purpose word! Also, is “kau” like “cow”? Easy!  She’s great at making these connections.

Office hieroglyphs (25)

Thereby.  And thereby hangs a tale… or, in this case, tail.  We can see it this time.  Last time it turned up, it was invisible.

 Im; thereby, by it.  Let’s have a closer look at the individual signs.  First, i:

 A simple sound, and a simple sign to draw.  I usually start at the top, making a little curve which turns into the downstroke, a bit like a walking stick.  Then I start at the walking stick handle and draw a slightly outward-sloping line which curves back in again to meet the bottom of the first downstroke, and closes off the bottom of the stalk.  And a stalk is what it is, as this symbol represents the flowering head of a reed, like these ethereal beauties:

It’s difficult to capture such fragile beauty in stone or ink, but the originals do retain their purity of line:

 

Now, we’ve had m before, but it was in brackets because the scribe hadn’t actually put it in to the inscription, as often happens with common symbols in formulae, when you’ve got umpteen to bang out in the workshop and most people can’t read anyway.  M was the invisible owl.  We can see him now:

 There, I told you he was gorgeous.  He’s tricky to draw, but he has four basic characteristics; if you emphasise them in your hieroglyphic hand, he will be recognisable.  They are:  a flat head; a front-facing face (unusual for the Egyptians, who were always presenting their best profile to the observer); a wing that folds right across his breast, as though he’s glaring at you over the top of his arm in his cape, like Zorro, and a square bottom to his tail.  Put them all together, and you’ve got yourself an ancient Egyptian owl.

Back to the drawing board.  I usually start left to right with the flat line of the head, then a sharp turn downwards and a little curve in for the side of the head and neck, and a long curve at about 45 degrees for his back.  Then I come back up to his shoulder and make the deep right to left curve of his wing, swoop it round and just make his wing tip meet the line of his back.  The I go back to my starting-point at the top left of his head and come straight down the side of his head and neck, slope down and in for his body (doing it this way means you get the line the right side of his wing.  If you do the outline first and the wing second, you sometimes don’t leave enough room.)  Do a sharp dogleg in under his belly and a couple of little vees for his feathery legs, then down again for his tail, squaring it off at the bottom.  Then you can draw him a couple of little stick feet emerging from his feathers, and a nice deep v with curly ends for his eyes and beak.  He’s a complicated sign to draw, but he’s worth it.  And look what they could do with him when they had time:

I am so glad we can see him this time.  He’s beautiful!

So there we are, Line 3 of the offering formula well and truly dissected:

khet nebet nefret wabet ankhet netjer im:  “every good and pure thing by which a god lives”.

November 21, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (24)

Filed under: Office hieroglyphs,Uncategorized — Valerie Billingham @ 9:07 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So, the lucky tomb owner now has every good and pure thing.  But not just any old every good and pure thing, oh no:  only every good and pure thing by which a god lives.  Good and pure things for divine consumption only, thank you very much:

Needless to say, the components don’t appear in Egyptian in the same order as that in which they appear in English.  A literal translation would be “which lives a god thereby”.  That’s a bit of a mouthful.  Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces.

The first chunk is perhaps the most famous hieroglyph of them all:  the ankh:

  

It’s easy to draw; a loop with a downstroke and a crossbar. Here’s a sculpted version: 

 

It’s not a cross and, despite what they tell tourists in Egypt, it’s not the key to the Nile or they key of life or any kind of key, not even a key to the offiering cupboard.  The Egyptians didn’t have locks and keys.  They had bolts and bars and cords and seals, but not locks and keys. 

So, what is it, this most famous hieroglyph of them all?  Well, what it is, is:  a sandal strap.  A strap, especially that of a sandal, is what it is.  Here is a selection of ancient Egyptian Jimmy Choos:

 

  You get the idea.

Ankh is another triliteral sign which expresses the three sounds a, n and the third of the four Egyptian letters h.  Ankh is the verb “to live”, and the symbol of life itself, which the gods offer to the nose of the King; the breath of life:

It doesn’t seem quite so refreshing when you think that what he’s really getting is a whiff of hot, sweaty sandal.  I mean, you know the ancient world must have been pretty smelly, but realising that their idea of a breath of fresh air was to stick a bit of sandal up your nose takes the concept to another level.

In this bit of the formula, the word is actually:

 

Ankhet – “which lives”.  Yes, the loaf of bread denoting the t  has popped up again, as though from a toaster.  The technical term for it is a resumptive pronoun, but as we’re not doing grammar, you can forget I said that.

Talking about stale emanations, you already know netjer, god, don’t you?  Remember –

   netjer aa, “great god”, in the titular of Osiris, and all the stuff about the flagpole?  We don’t have to go into all that again, do we – not while we’re still reeling from the scent of insole?  The Italians think cheese smells like feet:  let’s think of this as a ripe piece of Roquefort.  Mmmmm…

November 15, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (23)

And after goodness, purity:

wabet

wabet transliteration

Wabet,  “pure” or “clean” – in the feminine form when spoken, but without the loaf of bread representing the t , because it’s so obvious to those in the know that the scribe, dashing off yet another offering formula, hasn’t bothered to write it down.  But we know it’s there, don’t we?

Advanced office scribes like us will also have deduced that the masculine form is wab, and that the rather curious sumbol above is a triliteral sign conveying the sound of three letters, w a and b. 

We’ve had b before, haven’t we?  If you cast your mind back to the first line of the offering formula, when we were looking at Abydos or Abdju, one of the major cult centres of Osiris, you’ll recall that the letter b in ancient Egyptian is represented by the human foot.  And what do we have as the bottom half of this symbol?  A human foot!  That’ll be the b, then.

But what’s that spout on top, and what’s it spouting?  No, it’s not what you’re thinking.  They could draw what you’re thinking much better than that.  The upper part of the symbol is a little water pot, and it’s pouring forth a libation of purifying water.

You can see the kind of pot in full pouring action in this scene from the sarcophagus of a royal lady:

lady pouring102

In this scene, one of the lady’s servants is pouring her a drink.  In temples and in funeral rites, water was used for ritual purification, as in this scene where a priest is pouring water over the coffin of the deceased:

priest pouring103

It’s a shame the painting has flaked away just where I want to show you the water spouting out of the pots, but never mind.  And the blue wiggly lines for the water have come out nicely.  So, the symbol for “pure” was the standard ritual purification device of ancient Egyptian religion, the pot pouring out clean water, rendering the person or object it was poured over cleansed and pure.  Wab was also the word for “priest” in ancient Egyptian; literally, “the pure one”.

Here’s an example from a temple relief:

wab seti relief104

We already know how to draw the foot.  Then just draw a little oval on top for the pot, like an egg lying on its side, but square off the pointy end a bit for the rim.  Then draw a zigzag line for the water, arcing out of the pot in a graceful curve.

Finally -please remember all this when the office plant contractors come round and water the aspidistras.  And stop stubbing out illicit cigarettes in the rubber plants, and using the weeping fig as a receptacle for your coffee dregs, or the office party plonk.  They’ve been ritually purified.  Have some respect.

Office hieroglyphs (22)

We’re on a famous syllable now:  nefer, the Egyptian word for beautiful or, as in this case, good.  It has sounded down the ages in the names of some of Egypt’s most famous queens: 

73889001SG007_Egypt_And_Ger

Nefertiti, “the beautiful one is come”;

Nefertari

Nefertari, “the most beautiful of them all”. 

So what symbol did the Egyptians choose to represent the sound of good and beautiful?  Have a look and see if you can tell what it is:

nefret 

Nope?  Give up?  OK, I’ll tell you.  It’s the heart and windpipe, possibly of an ox.  Aaaah, of course!  You’re smacking yourself on the forehead now, aren’t you?  What else would you use to convey the sound for good or beautiful?  Well, I suppose these abstract concepts are hard to draw.  You have to reach for the practical, and the practical can be pretty earthy.  I suppose that, as writing was invented to keep inventories of valuable commodities, the butchered components of an expensive animal like an ox would be something you would want to itemise on a list.  The sound is just a coincidence. When writing is developing beyond the practical to capture abstract qualities, if a symbol already exists for that sound, that’s what you use.  So, they used the heart and windpipe for nefer, meaning good or beautiful.

Or rather, in this case:

nfrt transliteration

 

 

 

The nefer hieroglyph is a triliteral, conveying in one symbol the sound of three consonants:  n, f and r.  The second and third of these letters are written out more fully in other examples: nfr full099

However, in the case of our offering formula, like nebet in the previous post, the adjective is feminine, to agree with khet, “thing”.  You could put a loaf of bread after it, to stand for the “t” if you wanted, but as it’s a formula and things tend ot get compressed in formulae, the scribe hasn’t bothered in this example.    To draw the nefer sign, I usually start with the downward stroke, loop it around to make a squat little jar shape for it to stand on, cross the upright like a Roman t (I usually cross it twice, as the Egyptians often did, too) and then put in the details on the jar shape:  a little crescent above, and a little loop below.

Here are a couple of examples of the real hieroglyph, one a sculpted relief, the other an inlay in semi-precious stone:

nfr relief101

nfr inlay100

You can see the internal markings of the heart carved into the limestone, but not into the tiny bit of gemstone – too fiddly, perhaps, when you have a lot of them to do.

Again, I did consider putting a picture of a real, gory specimen on the blog – but if you really want to see one, you know where to look.  I’m not squeamish, but I don’t want to put people off.

So, if you fancy one of your colleagues but don’t know how to tell them, you can write the hieroglyph for beautiful on their whiteboard, and take it from there.  Or, if you really loathe them but are forced to write the offering formula on their birthday card because you’ve done it for yourself, you can console yourself that what you’re drawing for them is something really gory.  Fill in those details with relish!

November 14, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (21)

Filed under: Office hieroglyphs,Uncategorized — Valerie Billingham @ 9:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

khet nebet

everything

Khet nebet.  Every thing.  Or, rather, thing every.  Let’s look at thing, first.

khet khet transliteration

Khet, thing. As you’ve been sitting there, starving, for two and a half months, your attention will have been fixed instantly on the loaf of bread which, as usual, represents the letter t.  I wonder whether you’d fancy eating the object depicted above it, the symbol which to the Egyptians represented the second of their collection of four letters h?  Some people have been known to eat it.

The identification is not aboslutely certain, but it’s quite possible that it’s the symbol for a human placenta.  Some of you may be making the very sound of the second letter h as you contemplate the idea of eating it, especially if what you are eating at the moment is attempting to reguritate itself and / or fly across the room.  Some of you may be made of tougher stuff.

I did briefly toy with the idea of putting a photograph of a human placenta on this blog – and there are plenty of them in cyberspace , including one in which bread was also a feature – but I decided that, if you really want to do a comparison with the hieroglyph, you can easily find them.  They are a bit off-putting for the unwary Egyptophile.  We’ll make do with a couple of pictures of the original hieroglyph instead:

placenta 1097

 placenta 2098

They don’t help much with the identification, do they?  And they don’t look very appetizing.  I don’t know whether the Egyptians ate their placentas or not, but I did find a shampoo which listed placenta as an ingredient in Canada, of all places.  Who’d have thought it?  Anyway, in this context, it’s not for eating, it’s for saying the second letter h.  Kh.  And it’s easy to draw:  just a circle and some cross-hatching.

nebet

 nebet transliteration

Nebet means every or all.  The signs need no introduction to you.  We had the basket sign, neb, before, as the word for “Lord” in the titulary of Osiris.  Neb aslo means “every” or “all”, and it appears here as nebet because it is in its feminine form, agreeing with khet.  The “t” endings of words are often feminine.

There.  For two and a half months you’ve been feeling abandoned. Now you’re the tomb owner who has everything.

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