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Hieroglyphs. Egyptian hieroglyphs can represent phonetic sounds, syllables, entire words or even grammatical rules with a single picture. Many inscriptions are a combination of images that are read both as sounds and as words

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Presentation Transcript
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs can represent phonetic sounds, syllables, entire words or even grammatical rules with a single picture.
  • Many inscriptions are a combination of images that are read both as sounds and as words
  • Hieroglyphs can be read right to left or left to right, depending on which direction they are facing. If they face left, start reading at the left. If they face right, start at the right.
ancient egypt

King Tut’s mirror case in the shape of an Ankh, the hieroglyph for life, as well as the word for mirror.

Ancient Egypt

Motifs and Symbols

Ca. 1330, wood, gold leaf, paint

hieroglyphs words
Hieroglyphs: Words

Life, mirror

The God Kheper,

manifestation, form

Ra, Sun God

All, Posessor

  • Ankh
  • Kheper
  • Ra
  • Neb
hieroglyphs words4
Hieroglyphs: Words

Eternity, wrapped around names of pharoahs, forms a cartouche shape

Unity, looks like a vase

Looks like a column, or spine, means stability

Upper Egypt, Lotus

  • Ankh
  • Sma
  • Djed
  • Lotus
hieroglyphs words5
Hieroglyphs: Words

Ruler, King


Heliopolis, city in lower Egypt

Lower Egypt, Papyrus

  • Heka
  • Was
  • Iunu
hieroglyphs phonics
Hieroglyphs: phonics



Pluralizes the word above or beside.


Pronounced like a U





#1. Try to decipher the inscription seen here. Remember, anything hieroglyphs wrapped in a rope (creating the cartouche) refers to a pharaoh. Read from bottom to top. (the pluralizing form always appears underneath the object being pluralized.) This is the throne name of the pharaoh, Tutankhamun.

cartouche box ca 1330 bce wood gold leaf paint

#2. Now try this inscription on the lid of the box. This is the also a The three symbols on the bottom are an epithet, or a title added on to a name, and the remaining symbols are the name. Start with the middle line, then continue to the top line. Finally, read the epithet at bottom. Remember to read into the pictures, right to left.

Cartouche Box, ca. 1330 BCE, wood, gold leaf, paint
  • Many Egyptian symbols represent virtues, vices, and are taken from imagery relating to the gods.
  • These symbols appear on jewelry, wall paintings, funerary art, and furniture.
  • Furniture and household items often are meant to be read as well as used for functional purposes.
udjat and wedjat
Udjat and Wedjat
  • Udjat, right eye, eye of Horus, symbol of the sun and symbol of upper Egypt
  • Wedjat, Right eye, eye of Thoth, symbol of the moon and symbol of lower Egypt

#3. This symbol derives from the myth of Horus, Osiris and Seth. Look online to find the details of the story. After reading it, try to suggest some ideas as to why it would be seen often in art, especially on funerary art.

scarab disk and wings

This piece of jewelry shows the scarab, or dung beetle pushing the sun disk, symbolic of the sun god Ra, across the sky. This is based on the Egyptians observation of dung beetles rolling dung into balls across the ground. This is a symbol of regeneration. The beautiful blue comes from Lapis, a stone from Afghanistan, and the blue is turquoise. The red is glass. The wings are symbols of protection.

Scarab, Disk and Wings

4. Can you tell who this belonged to?

  • Horus is the sky god and son of Osiris
  • He is shown as a falcon and often wears the crown of upper or lower Egypt. He is associated with the Pharaohs.

The Uraeus, or Cobra, and the Vulture were symbols of protection, the Cobra for Lower Egypt, and the Vulture for Upper Egypt. These two animals can be seen on the headdress of Tutankhamun.

  • Materials such as ceramic, stone, gold, silver, alabaster (a white stone like calcite), faience (a metallic glaze for ceramic), cartonnage (like paper mache), and glass were used to make objects for everyday life.
  • Common objects were mirrors, perfume vessels, combs, and pallets for make-up
  • Textiles, few of which remain, were linen, leather, and cotton. These were woven for furniture seats, clothing, and floor covering.
glass vessels
Glass vessels

Most Egyptian glass was cast. The molted glass as globbed onto the end of a stick which held a clay mold of the interior of the vessel. Once hardened, different colored bands of glass rods could be applied to the outside and combed through the vessel to create the wave patterns.


Pectoral (necklace) in the form of Isis. The pattern below her feet is called the palace façade motif. It is a red, blue, and green geometric pattern that simulates the painted doors on palaces. #5 Label the hieroglyphs or images you can identify on this object.

alabaster perfume jar
Alabaster perfume jar

This jar reads like one giant hieroglyph.

#6. See if you can identify what it says based on the images you see.


This blue glaze for ceramics is often used for wall surfaces of brick, pottery, and jewelry, to simulate turquoise. The glaze has minerals in it such as feldspar, which turn beautiful colors when fired.

ostrich feather fan from king tut s tomb ca 1330 bce
Ostrich feather fan from King Tut’s tomb, ca. 1330 BCE
  • Thirty ostrich feathers, alternating white and brown were placed in the top core.
  • Made of gilded wood
  • 4” without feathers set in
  • An inscription engraved on the handle includes, as well as epithets of the king, information that the king secured the plumes during a hunting trip in the desert

Cartonnage is a type of paper mache made of gum, linen and papyrus. It can be used for household items such as bowls and baskets. It is often used for inner mummy cases because it can be easily painted or gilded.

Cartonnage Case and Mummy of Paankhenamun, c. 945-715 B.C.

  • Common types of furniture were beds, chairs, and chests
  • Often wood was imported from the near east. Mohogany and ebony were favorites.
  • Much of the native wood was of poor quality such as cypress, acacia, and some fruit tree woods.
  • Wood of poor quality was usually used for objects that were meant to be covered in gold or silver, or meant to be painted.

View of King tut’s burial tomb, as seen by Howard Carter when first excavated in 1922.

bed from tut s tomb
Bed from Tut’s tomb
  • Wood with gild overlay
  • In the form of bulls wearing sun disks between horns
  • Animal legs
  • Panel included at the foot of the bed rather than the front.
  • Glass inlay for spots of animal
bed from tut s tomb25
Bed from Tut’s tomb.
  • Leather straps woven among frame
chair from the tomb of queen hetepheres old kingdom
Chair from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres, Old Kingdom
  • Lion paw feet sit on spools
  • Gilded wood
  • Papyrus motif in arms
  • Low to ground
meditation chair side view 17 th century china
Meditation Chair, (side view), 17th century, China

#8. List the characteristics that you find to be similar between this chair and the Old Kingdom chair.

chair from tut s tomb
Chair from Tut’s tomb
  • Animal form for legs: note ducks heads as cross legs
  • Ebony, ivory inlay, gilding, paint
  • Backrest is angled and supported by vertical struts
  • Seat is contoured for comfort
  • #8 how does this chair differ from the Old Kingdom chair?
throne of tutankhamun ca 1330 bce
Throne of Tutankhamun, ca. 1330 BCE
  • Gilded wood
  • Painted on relief carving of gesso beneath the gold overlay.
  • Animal legs
  • Glass, faience, stone Inlay
  • Image shows King enthroned with Queen.
  • Between seat and stretcher is hieroglyph for unity. Symbols of upper and lower Egypt were removed by robbers.
chest from tut s tomb
Chest from Tut’s tomb
  • Sits on tall legs
  • Varnished wood and gilding
  • Wood carving is applied with glue
  • Wood carving detail reads as hieroglyphs
  • Top attaches with tongue and groove joinery rather than hinges
  • Chest closes chest with leather cord or twine wrapped around knobs on top and front.
painted chest from tut s tomb ca 1330 gilded and painted wood
Painted Chest from Tut’s tomb, ca. 1330, gilded and painted wood

Chests were often used for linens, perfume bottles, jewelry, and statues.

painted chest from tut s tomb ca 1330 gilded and painted wood32
Painted Chest from Tut’s tomb, ca. 1330, gilded and painted wood
  • Exposed wood, ebony, gilding, ivory inlay
  • Legs curve toward stretchers
  • Poles slide out to be easily transported on shoulders of two servants.
  • Angled lid resembles gable roof
wall decor
Wall Decor
  • Most evidence of wall décor comes from tombs and some temples
  • Walls were most often carved in relief and painted
  • Scenes include the deceased’s passage to the afterlife, landscape scenes, images of nobility’s daily activities, and artisans’ workshops.
ti hunting hippos from the tomb of ti ca 2500 bce
Ti hunting Hippos, from the tomb of Ti, ca. 2500 BCE
  • Image of deceased is largest
  • Wavy lines at bottom symbolize Nile
  • Vertical grooves symbolize the reeds along the Note
  • Note the twisted perspective of the human figures
landscape scene fragment from the tomb of nebamun ca 1400 bce
Landscape scene, Fragment from the tomb of Nebamun, ca. 1400 BCE

Scenes like this would provide a paradisiacal setting for the dead. Again note the lack of consistent perspective. It is important in Egyptian design to portray as much of the object as possible. In Ancient Egypt, if it’s written or depicted, it’s truth.

artisan s workshops fragment from the tomb of nebamun ca 1400 bce
Artisan’s Workshops, fragment from the tomb of Nebamun, ca. 1400 BCE

Images of potters, glazers, painters, and tanners

wall of tut s burial chamber
Wall of Tut’s burial chamber

The “Nine Friends” pull the shrine of King Tut, carrying his mummy to his grave. Many scenes include the presentation of the dead to Osiris.