Page images
[ocr errors]

is of

EGYPTIAN WRITING. The system of writing employed by the people called Great Egyptians was probably entirely pictorial either at the time of ther's when they first arrived in Egypt, or during the time that they glyphic

writing. still lived in their original home. We, however, know of no inscription in which pictorial characters alone are used, for the earliest specimens of their writing known to us contain alphabetical characters. The Egyptians had three kinds of writing-Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, and Demotic; soon after the preaching of Saint Mark at Alexandria, the Christian population made use of the Greek alphabet, with the addition of certain characters which they borrowed from the demotic; this method of writing was called Coptic. Hieroglyphics, from the Greek jepoyubirós, were com- Oldest

hieromonly employed for inscriptions upon temples, tombs, coffins, glyphic instatues, and stelæ, and many copies of the Book of the Dead scription. were written in them. The earliest hieroglyphic inscription at present known is found on the monument of Shera, parts of which are preserved in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford and in the Gîzeh Museum; it dates from the IInd dynasty. Hieroglyphics were used in Egypt for writing the names of Roman Emperors and for religious purposes until the third century after Christ, at least.

Hieratic, from the Greek iepatikos, was a style of cursive writing much used by the priests in copying literary compositions on papyrus ; during the XIth or XIIth dynasty wooden coffins were inscribed in hieratic with religious texts. The oldest document in hieratic is the famous Prisse papyrus, Oldest which records the counsels of Ptah-ḥetep to his son ; the com- inscrip position itself is about a thousand years older than this tion. papyrus, which was probably inscribed about the XIth dynasty. Drafts of inscriptions were written upon flakes of calcareous stone in hieratic, and at a comparatively early date hieratic was used in writing copies of the Book of the Dead. Hieratic was used until about the fourth century after Christ.

Demotic, from the Greek Snuotixós, is a purely conventional modification of hieratic characters, which preserve little of their original form, and was used for social and business B. M.

2 A

The various kinds of writing used in Egypt.

purposes; in the early days of Egyptian decipherment it was
called enchorial, from the Greek éyxópios. The demotic
writing appears to have come into use about B.C. 900, and
it survived until about the fourth century after Christ. In
the time of the Ptolemies three kinds of writing were inscribed
side by side upon documents of public importance, hiero-
glyphic, Greek, and Demotic; examples are the stele of
Canopus, set up in the ninth year of the reign of Ptolemy III.
Euergetes I., B.C. 247-222, at Canopus, to record the benefits
which this king had conferred upon his country, and the
famous Rosetta Stone, set up at Rosetta in the eighth year of
the reign of Ptolemy V. Epiphanes (B.C. 205–182), likewise
to commemorate the benefits conferred upon Egypt by
himself and his family, etc., etc. On the Rosetta Stone
hieroglyphic writing is called Tamm en neter met,
“ writing of divine words.” Demotic, May 143
en śāi, “writing of letters,” and Greek
y yo sexai en Haui-nebu, “ writing of the Greeks.”

A century or two after the Christian era Greek had
obtained such a hold upon the inhabitants of Egypt, that
the native Christian population, the disciples and followers
of Saint Mark, were obliged to use the Greek alphabet to
write down the Egyptian, that is to say Coptic, translation
of the books of the Old and New Testaments, but they
borrowed six signs from the demotic forms of ancient
Egyptian characters to express the sounds which they found
unrepresented in Greek. These signs are-
ay = Wish;

4 = to F; b= [ CHI ;

8 = l Ņ; x = tch, like Turk. >; r = a k.

Coptic writing.

The knowledge of the ancient hieroglyphics was fast dying out, and the phonetic values of many of those in use at this period were altered. The name Copt is derived from bu, the Arabic form of the Coptic form of the Greek name for

Egyptian, Aiyúttins. The Coptic language is, at base, a dialect of ancient Egyptian ; many of the nouns and verbs found in the hieroglyphic texts remain unchanged in Coptic, and a large number of others can, by making proper allowance for phonetic decay and dialectic differences, be identified without difficulty. The Coptic dialect of Upper Egypt, called “Sahidic” Dialects of

Coptic. (from Arab. bes), or Theban, was the older and richer dialect; that of Lower Egypt was called Boheiric, from the province of Boheirâ in the Delta. The latter dialect has been wrongly called Bashmuric, and as it appears to have been exclusively the language of Memphis, it has obtained generally the name “Memphitic”; the dialect of Bushmur on the Lake of Menzaleh appears to have become extinct about A.D. 900, and to have left no traces of itself behind. The Coptic translation of the Bible was considered by Renaudet, Wilkins, Woide, and George, to be as old as the second century of our era ; more modern scholars, however, are inclined to assert that it is not older than the eighth century. For an account of the revival of Coptic studies in Europe, see Quatremère, Recherches Critiques et Historiques sur la Langue et la Littérature de l'Egypte, Paris, 1808, and for a list of the printed literature of the Copts, see Stern, Koptische Grammatik, pp. 441-447. The recognition of the fact that a knowledge of Coptic is most valuable as a preliminary to the study of hieroglyphics, probably accounts for the large and increasing share of the attention of scholars which this language receives.



The most common of the animals, reptiles, birds, and fishes which the Egyptians regarded as emblems of or sacred to the gods, and therefore mummified with great reverence and care, were :—Bull, Antelope, Jackal, Hippopotamus, Cat, Monkey or Ape, Crocodile, Ichneumon, Hedgehog, Shrewmouse, Ibis, Hawk, Frog, Toad, Scorpion, Beetle, Snake, and the Latus, Oxyrhynchus and Silurus fishes.

Apis Bull, in Egyptian Hāp, mummies are tolerably common; they were mummified with great honour, and buried in sarcophagi at Şakkârah. The oldest are probably those of the XVIIIth dynasty. Antelope, in Egyptian An k ahes or 3 1

maḥet, mummies are rare ; a good specimen is B.M. No. 6783a. Cat, in Egyptia

ct màu, mummies are very common, and exhibit many methods of bandaging with linen of two colours; they were placed in bronze or wooden cases, made in the form of a cat, the eyes of which were inlaid with obsidian, rock-crystal, or coloured paste. Wooden cat-cases often stand on pedestals, and are painted white, green, etc. Mummified kittens were placed in rectangular bronze or

wooden cases, which, at times, are surmounted with figures Greek of cats. Diodorus says (I., 83) that when a cat died all the legends

ng inmates of the house shaved their eyebrows as a sign of

mourning, and although the statement by the same writer that the Egyptians slew a Romian who had accidentally killed a cat may be somewhat exaggerated, there is no doubt that the animal sacred to Bast was treated with great respect in Egypt, and that dead bodies of the animals were sent to be buried, after embalmment, to Bubastis. The cat was fed with specially prepared bread soaked in milk,

and chopped fish. Mummies Crocodile, in Egyptian 8 emsuḥ, mummies of animals,

of a large size are not common ; small crocodiles, lizards, and other members of that family were embalmed and placed in rectangular bronze or wooden cases, the tops of which were frequently surmounted by a figure of this reptile in relief.

Ichneumon mummies were placed in bronze cases, made in the shape of this animal.

Shrew-mice mummies are not common; they were placed in rectangular bronze cases, surmounted by a figure of this animal.

the cat.


Ibis, in Egyptian B h abu, mummies, embalmed, and buried in earthenware jars, stopped with plaster, are very common.

The Hawk, in Egyptian 11 a m bàk, when mummified, was placed either in a rectangular bronze case or in a bronze case in the form of a hawk.

Frogs, in Egyptian heqet, and Toads, when embalmed, were placed in cases made of bronze or steatite.

Scorpion, in Egyptian 3 Serg, mummies are very rare ; they were placed in rectangular cases, inscribed with the name of Isis-Serg, which were surmounted by figures of the scorpion, with the head of a woman wearing disk and horns (B.M. No. 11,629).

Beetle, in Egyptian : or o 3 xeper, rarely ābeb, mummies were deposited in cases of wood (B.M. No. 8654a) or stone (B.M. No. 2880).

Snake mummies are very common, and were either Mummies placed in rectangular bronze or wooden cases, or wrapped et in many bandages and laid in pits. Bronze snake-cases usually have a figure of the snake coiled up in relief upon them, but sometimes the head, which is human and erect, wears the double crown and uræus (B.M, No 68810); one example having the head of a hawk is also known (B.M. No. 6879). The uræus serpent, in Egyptian o u Arārt, was the most commonly mummified.

Fish were mummified largely, and were either placed singly in cases of bronze or wood, or several were bandaged up in a bundle and laid in a pit prepared for the purpose. Many fish were known to the Egyptians, and the commoner sorts were annu = þáypos, 13 R ába, Bojauheb, oq 19 meni, nārt,

999 Q barei, I RA D baka, and Je bctu ; the usual name for fish in general was

« PreviousContinue »