When it comes to Egyptology, there are two kinds of knowledge: knowledge of Hieroglyphs as filtered through western eyes, and knowledge based in truths.

The former is the kind we call knowledge by acquaintance. For nearly all of our acquaintance of Egypt and its civilization, involve names and/or terms like Horus, Isis, Osiris, pyramids, sphinx, Hieroglyphs. These literary artifacts, are depicted as if they were born from an Aegean world, rather than their actual origin in Egypt.

It is not an exaggeration to say that most of our understanding of ancient Egyptian civilization has been conditioned by what we have been taught as the gospel truth from ancient Greece.  Hence, the entire field of Egyptology is filled with improperly named things and interpretations which had nothing to do with Egypt. These assumptions often lead to frequent misinterpretations.  As a result, we end up living in a world of illusion and learning fantasies as a substitute for truth. 

Take for example the following convoluted distortions:

Such as in the case of Arabic and other Semitic languages, vowels in ancient Egyptian were not written.  Therefore, we have no idea as to the exact pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian words. However, despite this obvious handicap, in order to accommodate western readers, Egyptologists today use a simplified pronunciation in which a short arbitrary vowel is inserted where needed to make a word pronounceable. Even though, this was obviously not the way ancient Egyptians pronounced words.

By contrast, original ancient Egyptian names and terms mirrored the world they meant to describe. Without any doubt, they accurately reflected the mental mind of our ancestors. When we misname them, we fail to consider their true meaning. As a result, we end up dealing with them as if they were something other than what they really were. 

This was only the first step on the road of further lexical distortions which was compounded by the practice of inappropriate transliteration. 

A far more serious controversy is the Western approach of  adopting the left to right method  which runs opposite to the direction of the Ancient Egyptian writing from right to left.

Traditionally hieroglyphs were written from right to left (with the birds, mammals, and people facing to the right - see quadrant 2b below). The signs that represent persons, animals, and birds, as well as other signs that have fronts and backs, almost always face the beginning of the inscription in which they occur, so that the direction in which this is to be read is but rarely in doubt.



Nowadays, hieroglyphic texts in Western works are all written from left to right so that they can be more readily translated into English (or some other Western language), and so they can fit appropriately into any western context. See Sir Alan Hendersen Gardiner's* quote below: 

"Hieroglyphic inscriptions consist of rows of miniature pictures arranged in vertical columns or horizontal lines. These columns or lines, as well as the individual signs within them, read usually from right to left, but more seldom, and then only for special reasons, from left to right. In spite of the preference shown by the Egyptians for the direction from right to left, that from left to right has been adopted in modern printed books on grounds of practical convenience." 

To emphasize this dilemma in a more palatable way for modern Egyptians who speak Arabic and are accustomed to writing from right to left, the following is meant to illustrate how westerners applying the "left to right" script direction would distort the Arabic script, to make it more readable to a western speaking audience. An example of this distortion would look like quadrant 1A (left) below, instead of the correct way as seen in 1B quadrant (right).

The equivalent of this distortion would be if Arabic speakers were to write English words from right to left. See 

2A Shows the name of Ptolemy as it appears on the Rosetta stone.

2B quadrant shows how, by adopting this approach in depicting the ancient Egyptian script, an Arab speaking would write the word Ptolemy. Written from right to left, it would appear in reverse 

3A quadrant depicts the way western dictionaries of ancient Egyptian look today.  The script is from left to right running the opposite direction of the ancient Egyptian script, while

3B quadrant- Points to the correct direction of an ancient Egyptian script, as it would appear on a monument or in a document.

The consequences of Westerners adopting the left to right direction "on grounds of practical convenience," versus the  Ancient Egyptian way has had controversial results which have never been contemplated nor properly investigated by the scientific community. 

It is well agreed that deciphering Ancient Egyptian language is arrived at by inference. It should also be remembered that the Coptic language is the primary source in this process, seconded only by the Classical Arabic and other Semitic languages considered to be as sister languages as well. However, despite these considerations, the following examples are "make believe" terms born from the confusing and convoluted Western method of reversing the direction of A.E. writing .

The term "shem" is thought by Westerners to be, the A.E. word for "march, walk, and go". This has been arrived at by inference through the Coptic word "sher" with the same range of meanings. Unfortunately, shem is not a Coptic word which refers to walking and could therefore be the basis for a sound  inference.  Also, the Coptic word "sher" is none other than the cognate term for the Arabic "sayr".  In reality, the actual Coptic word for walking is meshor mooshe, which is a cognate to the Arabic msha. By inference, the Ancient Egyptian word for walking is msha, exactly like the Arabic. Clearly this is a situation in which the placement of the letters of the word were reversed to conform to the Western style of left to right (see the diagram below).

An identical situation is found in the controversial term for "weep" which has being wrongly identified as "aakb". Actually the correct term is literaly the reversed form "bkaa", cf. Arabic "bka" to weep. In the light of this discovery the inference to the Coptic "okm" is no more valid. 

With these samples of gross distortions one can only begin to guess the magnitude of similar false interpertations which abound in Egyptology. 


What the Ancient Egyptians called "their" writing, mistakenly identified by the West under the misnomer "Hieroglyphs."

 *An early enthusiast of ancient Egyptian history and language, he came under the influence of Wallis Budge (Keeper of the Dept. of Egyptian and Assyrian antiquities, British Museum) at the age of 15. He went on to study under Gaston Maspero in the Sorbonne, and then went to Oxford. He had published several articles before the age of 20, and later was one of the founding scholars of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (JEA). His steady stream of publications brought recognition from Germany, and he was invited to be a sub-editor of the Worterbuch, where he met Erman and K. Sethe.

He was appointed as Reader in Egyptology at Manchester University (1914-18) but did not like teaching, and never again took up a teaching post. He was able to continue his academic pursuits (at his home in Holland Park) because he was fortunate to come from a wealthy family. From his home, he gave weekly classes in egyptian to those whom he thought would benefit (R.O. Faulkner was one such student).

Later, as editor of the JEA, he took Battiscombe Gunn as his assistant. Gunn was a brilliant young scholar and their discussions spurred them on to produce some of the most important works in modern egyptology: Gardiner his "Egyptian Grammar" and Gunn his "Studies in Egyptian Syntax". Unfortunately Gunn devoted his later years to teaching and published relatively little.

Gardiner maintained a busy schedule and went on to publish numerous papers, acted in most capacities of the EES (Chairman, Vice-President, President), and helped many aspiring egyptologists. His most important monument is his 'Egyptian Grammar' and remains famous amongst egyptologists throughout the english-speaking world. 

He died from a stroke in his 85th year, but had been sick for some time before this. The picture above was taken when he was 70, and still in good health. At that time (1949) he had the following distinctions, offices and affiliations.

To view Part two, click below


 © Ishinan 2005




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