Learning Hieroglyphs

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When you learn to read hieroglyphs, you become a member of a very select club of people who can make sense of this stuff.

Learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs by Dr Glenn Godenho.

Learning ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs is full of surprises. When you learn to read hieroglyphs, you become a member of a very select club of people who can make sense of this stuff. You soon realise that you are not just translating words, but you are breathing life back into this dead language and interacting directly with one of the most fascinating cultures to have existed. From the beginning, you quickly realise that we’re not dealing with some kind of simple picture writing system, but an aesthetically pleasing and fully formed language that is capable of communicating in the same detail as we expect of our own modern languages. 

And if you stick with it, the range of texts to read are endless: love poetry and fantastic tales, afterlife beliefs and religious myths, private letters and administrative documents, and much more. What they all have in common is allowing us to get closer to the ancient Egyptians than you can possibly imagine. Learning hieroglyphs also sets you on the road to learning languages more generally. Because Egyptologists have never found an ancient Egyptian grammar, we simply overlay our own language rules, so we talk about nouns, verbs and prepositions and so on. So you don’t just get to learn hieroglyphs, you get to learn about how language works. 

For our introductory course, experts from the University of Liverpool’s Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology Department will teach you to read an important and common type of text: the ‘offering formula’. This text can be found on ancient coffins and tombstones in almost every museum Egyptian collection. Certainly you can read nice examples of this ‘offering formula’ in Liverpool’s own World Museum, and in the University’s Garstang Museum of Archaeology. It is great fun, allowing us to introduce the rules of hieroglyphs, and quickly move on to reading real words, like gods’ names (‘Osiris’ and ‘Anubis’ are a couple of characters that are sure to pop up frequently). 

So, if you are interested in ancient Egypt, museum collections, or languages, hieroglyphs will open the door to a wider world of possibilities for further study with us. 

You can learn to read Egyptian Hieroglyphs on our new course How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs from Wednesday 6 November, 2019