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date: 13 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Egyptian hieroglyphic script is figurative; its signs are images depicting the realia of the pharaonic universe in the same manner as do the figurative arts. To become script signs these images undergo three constraints: calibration, dense and harmonious arrangement, and orientation (i.e. direction of reading). Its figurativity, its flexible manner of engaging with the writing surfaces, and its complex system of encoding the linguistic data provide the hieroglyphic script with important specific potentialities that were carefully exploited in its symbiotic adaptation to objects and monuments and in its enriching the linguistic messages it conveyed with ideological connotations. Egyptian hieroglyphs—but not the very hieroglyphic writing system!—were borrowed in the Meroitic hieroglyphic script and chiefly in the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet. Via this alphabet and its Semitic successors, some hieroglyphs are ultimately the ancestors of European characters.

Keywords: script, image, direction of reading, hieroglyph, figurativity, figurative art, Meroitic, Proto-Sinaitic

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