Understanding the ancient Egyptians : an examination of living creature hieroglyphs

Ray, Corey Carpenter (1999-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 1999.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In this thesis an exploration is made into whether or not hieroglyphs reflect ideas of the ancient Egyptians themselves. By examining "living creature" hieroglyphs one may contemplate why the ancient Egyptian chose a particular manner of depiction. The manner of depiction can then be examined insofar as what ideas they may reflect. In this way study into other groups of signs such as those of the environment may be used to further illuminate the lives and our understanding of the ancient Egyptian(s). This thesis begins with an examination of both the problem inherent in such a task and an overview of some of the "processes" involved. By understanding that a reconstructed reality, that of the hieroglyph, reflects both real and perceived characteristics represented in glyphic form, one may seek out the mental impressions considered relevant to the people themselves. Next the role literacy played and still plays is discussed. This discussion includes a brief historical overview of both the history of decipherment and the "language" of the ancient Egyptians. The importance of "writing", artistic in nature in Egypt in regards to hieroglyphs, is then discussed as it relates to its use as symbol. Hieroglyphs are then discussed in their role as art, communication, and language emphasizing the multitudinous role(s) which they served. The importance is thus reiterated that hieroglyphs served as a communication of ideas to both the literate and the "illiterate" in at least a menial manner. After providing a "background" context of both the world and time of hieroglyphs and their subsequent "understanding" and interpretation, there is an analysis of the hieroglyphs for living creatures including the following Gardiner groupings: (1) mammals, (2) birds, (3) amphibians and reptiles, (4) fish, (5) invertebrates and lesser animals. The signs are examined in regards to their function and variations followed by some observations and comments related to the "structure" and perspective of the sign itself. Summary observations and comments are then made about each group. The thesis is then brought full circle by examining the implications of what hieroglyphs can tell us about the ancient Egyptians, via the perceptive and communicative role which they played. By understanding hieroglyphs as "fingerprints" of/from the mind of the people and subsequently their culture, this framework may provide a new mechanism into understanding the Egyptian via their own visualization and perceptive nature. A case is then proposed that this new "mechanism", if it is indeed considered feasible, can be applied to not only the physical world consisting of nature such as the environment, but also to groups which depict manmade objects.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In hierdie tesis is die moontlikheid ondersoek dat hierogliewe iets van die ideewereld van die antieke Egiptenare reflekteer. In die bestudering van "lewende wese" hierogliewe kom vrae op soos waarom die antieke Egiptenare juis 'n spesifieke vorm van voorsteIIing verkies het. Die vorm van voorsteIIing kan dan bestudeer word vir die idees wat dit moontlik mag reflekteer. Ander groepe/velde van tekens, soos die van die breër omgewing, kan gebruik word om verdere lig te werp op die lewe van die antieke Egiptenaar(e) en ons verstaan daarvan. Die tesis begin met 'n bestudering van die inherente probleme in die aanpak van so 'n taak en 'n oorsig oor sommige van die "prosesse" daarby betrokke. By die verstaan van die hieroglief as 'n gekonstrueerde realiteit, wat weklike sowel as afgeleide eienskappe reflekteer, ontdek die ondersoeker daarvan iets van die persoonlike/kulturele indrukke wat deur hierdie groep mense as relevant ervaar is. In die volgende afdeling kom die rol van geletterdheid aan die beurt. Hierdie bespreking sluit 'n bondige historiese oorsig oor die geskiedenis van ontsyfering asook die taal van die Egiptenare in. Die belang van die "skryfkuns" en veral die kunsaard daarvan in die Egiptiese hierogliewe word vervolgens bespreek. Dit is veraI waar soos dit in verhouding staan met die gebruik daarvan as simbool. Die veelsydige rol(le) en belang van hierogliewe in die kuns, kommunikasie en taal word dan ondersoek en bespreek. Die klem word daarop gelê dat hierogliewe as die kommunikasie van idees aan beide die geletterde en "ongeletterde" dien. Nadat 'n agtergrondkonteks van die wereld en tyd van die hierogliewe en die daaruitvloeiende "verstaan" en interpretasie daarvan gegee is, word 'n analise van die "lewende wese" hierogliewe gedoen. Dit sluit die volgende groeperinge van Gardiner in: (1) soogdiere, (2) voels, (3) amfibiee en reptiele, (4) visse, (5) invertebrata en kleiner diere. Hierdie hierogliewe word ondersoek in terme van hulle funksie en variasies, gevolg deur waarnemings en opmerkings aangaande die "struktuur" en die perspektief van die teken. Opsommende observasies en enkele opmerkings oor elke groep volg daarna. Die tesis word afgerond met 'n ondersoek na die implikasies van wat ons kan wys word uit die hierogliewe aangaande die antieke Egiptenare, via die perspektiwiese en kommunikatiewe rol wat dit vervuI. Deur hierogliewe te verstaan as die "vingerafdrukke" van die begrip van hierdie mense kan hierdie raamwerk 'n nuwe meganisme in die verstaan van die Egiptenaar via die visualisasie en waarneembare aard daarvan, vorm. 'n Voorstel word gemaak dat hierdie nuwe "meganisme", indien dit uitvoerbaar is, toegepas kan word, nie net op die hierogliewe van die fisiese wereld bestaande uit die natuur en die omgewing nie, maar ook op hierogliewe wat mensgemaakte voorwerpe voorstel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/51538
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