Archive for the ‘Hieroglyphics’ Category

Unravelling the Secrets of a Society

Posted on July 24th, 2013by Melanie
In Demotic, Hieroglyphics, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Rosetta StoneSpoken by those who constructed the magnificent pyramids, the craftsmen who carved and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the creators of the monumental temples we can still see in Egypt today, Ancient Egyptian is one of the oldest spoken languages which survives today in Coptic, the language spoken by Christian Egyptians.

This ancient language was beautifully written using hieroglyphs which are pictures of animals, people and objects. There are over 700 hieroglyphs (meaning ‘sacred carving’) and they all represent consonants, there are no vowels! They can be written across the page or from top to bottom and the secret to reading them is to follow the direction that the animals, people or objects are facing.

But how did we come to understand the meaning of hieroglyphic writing? It was thanks to the discovery of a special rock in the town of Rosetta, Egypt, by a soldier in 1799. This black basalt slab, now known as the Rosetta Stone, had the same piece of writing carved in it three times in different languages: hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek. A determined French Egyptologist, Jean Francois Champollion, finally translated it in 1822 by discovering that the hieroglyphs spelling ‘Ptolemy’ (Ptolemy V was a ruler of Egypt) were enclosed in a cartouche which he then compared with the Greek writing on the Rosetta Stone, and was eventually able to translate the rest of the writing. This amazing translation has given us the ability to read an ancient language and subsequently understand how an ancient civilisation lived.

Do you have an interest in ancient languages? Or perhaps you´re curious about the history of our more modern day languages? As with the French Egyptologist who had knowledge of the Greek language, you too could open up new opportunities and possibilities by speaking another language. If the modern era of communication is higher on your agenda, then why not improve your linguistic capabilities by learning a new language today!

Unlocking languages through maths

Posted on April 27th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Hieroglyphics, Historic | Leave a Comment »

Pict symbolsResearchers at the University of Essex in England have unlocked the secrets of ancient symbols – using mathematics.

Through statistical analysis, they found that the symbols on Pictish inscriptions in stone were likely to represent a written language, according to this article.

The team devised a new method of analysing the symbols by comparing them to known texts from the history, and whilst they still do not know what the writing means, they suspect the stones are memorials for the dead. The Picts were a Scottish Iron Age society dating from the fourth to the ninth centuries AD.

The research could help unlock other scripts, and perhaps even animal communication.

The writing on the (cave) wall

Posted on February 28th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, Hieroglyphics, Historic, Research | Leave a Comment »

Chauvet cave artIncredible article in New Scientist this week, about prehistoric symbols discovered in caves in southern France.

Whilst artwork on the cave walls has been studied intensively, new research has shown that previously-ignored ‘doodles’ could be evidence of a primitive precursor to writing. A postgraduate student at the University of Victoria, Canada, built a database of signs from caves all over France and the results were striking – signs drawn in the same style, appeared at numerous different sites, which could indicate the beginnings of a simple language system. The earliest recorded pictograph writing systems are thought to date to 5,000 years ago, but this discovery may change current thought.

..One of the most intriguing facts to emerge from von Petzinger’s work is that more than three-quarters of the symbols were present in the very earliest sites, from over 30,000 years ago.

“I was really surprised to discover this,” says von Petzinger. If the creative explosion occurred 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, she would have expected to see evidence of symbols being invented and discarded at this early stage, with a long period of time passing before a recognisable system emerged. Instead, it appears that by 30,000 years ago a set of symbols was already well established.

That suggests we might need to rethink our ideas about prehistoric people, von Petzinger says. “This incredible diversity and continuity of use suggests that the symbolic revolution may have occurred before the arrival of the first modern humans in Europe.” If she is right, it would push back the date of the creative explosion by tens of thousands of years.

Read the rest of the article here.

The SarcMarc

Posted on January 25th, 2010by Michelle
In Hieroglyphics, punctuation, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Bass clefAh, just what I’ve always wanted – a punctuation mark for sarcasm!

Yep, those of you who have mastered the art can now make it totally clear when you’re being sarcastic in writing. The invention of American company Sarcasm, Inc. (interesting, since arguably the British are masters of the sarcastic comment), the SarcMarc can be downloaded for US$1.99 and is available for Windows, Mac and Blackberry products.

Want to know how to spot when you’ve been sarc’ed? Look out for something like an upside-down bass clef (see the picture above).

The Rosetta Stone

Posted on August 18th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Demotic, Greek, Hieroglyphics, Idioms | 2 Comments »

The Rosetta StoneIn London recently, I dropped by to see The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. This slab of granodiorite is so famous that I could barely get near it for all the people craning over each other to take a close look.

So why were all those people so eager to look at a big stone? And why is it so important?

Weighing in at around three-quarters of a ton, the stone is approximately 118cm high, 77cm wide and 30cm deep. Discovered by Napoleon’s army in 1799, the Rosetta Stone is named after the place it was found – near el-Rashid (Rosetta) in present day Egypt. When Napoleon’s army was defeated, the stone became the property of the English, and has been on display in the British Museum since 1802 (although its presence is debated).

The Rosetta Stone is inscribed with three columns of different languages – Greek, Demotic and hieroglyphics, which all have the same message. The inscription on the stone is a decree passed by a council of priests – but it’s not so much what is written that’s important (although it does tell us a lot), it’s what knowledge can be gained from the inscription.

The decree is inscribed on the stone three times, in hieroglyphic (suitable for a priestly decree), demotic (the native script used for daily purposes), and Greek (the language of the administration). The importance of this to Egyptology is immense. Soon after the end of the fourth century AD, when hieroglyphs had gone out of use, the knowledge of how to read and write them disappeared. In the early years of the nineteenth century, some 1400 years later, scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on this stone as the key to decipher them. Thomas Young, an English physicist, was the first to show that some of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone wrote the sounds of a royal name, that of Ptolemy. The French scholar Jean-François Champollion then realized that hieroglyphs recorded the sound of the Egyptian language and laid the foundations of our knowledge of ancient Egyptian language and culture.

(Source: British Museum).

As you can see, it is hugely important to language, and the term “Rosetta Stone” has become idiomatic

as something that is a critical key to the process of decryption or translation of a difficult encoding of information. (source)

Its importance is highlighted with the Rosetta Project, which I will be looking at in my next post….