Susanllewellyn's Blog

August 11, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (11)

nb ddw hieroglyphsnb ddw transliteration

Neb Djedu, the first of Osiris’ titles.  It makes him sound like a character from Star Wars, doesn’t it?  (Not that I’ve seen any of the later ones – I gave up in disgust after JarJar Binks.  We won’t let him into the netherworld.  Whether you let him  into your office inscriptions is up to you.  By the time this blog is over (waaaay in the future), you’ll have the hieroglyphs to make up a credible hieroglyphic cast list for Neville in IT if the fancy takes you.)

But I digress.  Where were we?  Oh yes, neb Djedu, Lord of Busiris, a cult centre in the Nile Delta, where Osiris was worshipped.  Busiris may not sound much like Djedu, and there’s a reason for that.  Again, it was what our old friends and fellow Mediterranean tourists the ancient Greeks called the town.  However, it is based on an alternative ancient Egyptian name for the place, meaning “Place of Osiris”.  So we’ll let them off.

This is the sign for nb or lord:nbIt doesn’t look like much, does it?  And it’s dead easy to draw; a semi-circle with a straight line across the top.  And, indeed, it represents a humble object; a simple woven basket.  Just what we need after all that bread in the earlier posts.  But the Egyptians, superb artists that they were, were capable of elevating any everyday object into a thing of great beauty.  Have a look at this:



This is just one letter from an inscription covering a whole building.  Look at the craftsmanship that’s gone into it.  Isn’t it wonderful? 

And what about this one?


This is a nb sign taken from a longer inscription which has been inlaid in semi-precious stones into a panel of ebony in a piece of  furniture.  It is literally a tiny jewel of the stone-cutter’s art.

The Egyptians didn’t always put that much work into their nb signs, and you don’t have to draw your office hieroglyphs in that much detail either – although, if you want to call someone a  basket without their ever knowing, you may relish the opportunity of lavishing some attention on this sign. Just try not to stick out your tongue while you’re concentrating.  You may look as if you’re enjoying it a little bit too much.

We’ll tackle Busiris next time, because it’s longer and more complicated.  For now, we’ll contemplate the both the intricacy and the simplicity of the nb sign.  Which now makes it sound Japanese.

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