Ancient Egyptian Symbols
Travel pictures from Egypt
by Günther Eichhorn
The Ankh was the key of eternal life. The Gods are often seen holding an ankh to the Pharaoh's lips. This is considered to be an offering of "The Breath of Life", the breath you will need in the afterlife.
The Was Scepter was the symbol of power and dominion. It has the head of a Jackal on top. The Was Scepter is carried by deities as a sign of their power. It is also seen being carried by kings and later by people of lesser stature in mortuary scenes.
The Eye of Horus or Eye of Ra was called the Udjat. It represents the right eye of the Sun God Horus and was also associated with the Sun God Ra. According to legend, the left eye was torn from Horus by his brother Seth. It was magically restored by Thoth, the God of Magick. After the restoration, some stories state, Horus made a gift of the eye to Osiris, which allowed this solar deity to rule the underworld. The Eye of Horus was believed to have healing and protective power, and it was used as a protective amulet, and as a medical measuring device, using the mathematical proportions of the eye to determine the proportions of ingredients in medical preparations) to prepare medications. The Egyptians did write prescriptions. Those prescriptions were first magical verses, and then the real prescription. The Eye of Horus was an important part of the magical part of the prescription. With time the magical part became smaller, and the real prescription more important. Eventually, all that was left of the magical verse was the Eye of Horus. It remained in prescriptions to this day as the R at the beginning of each prescription:
The Uraeus or Cobra and the Vulture were symbols of protection, the Cobra for Lower Egypt, and the Vulture for Upper Egypt.
The Lotus was the plant symbolizing Upper Egypt, the Papyrus the plant symbolizing Lower Egypt.
The Reed or Su plant and the Bee are another set of symbols representing Upper and Lower Egypt respectively.
The Cartouche was used to highlight the Pharaohs name. Every time the name of a Pharaoh appears, it is enclosed in a Cartouche. These Cartouches were instrumental in the deciphering of the Egyptian Hieroglyphic writing from the Rosetta Stone. Scientists could identify the names of the Pharaohs in the different scripts and translate them from there.
|The Deshret or Red Crown of Lower Egypt. (695k)||The Hedjet or White Crown of Upper Egypt. (629k)||The Pshent, or Double Crown was used by the Pharaohs after Upper and Lower Egypt were united. (523k)||The Blue Crown or War Crown. (586k)||The Atef, the Crown of Osiris. (476k)|
|The Was Scepter (left), a Symbol of Power, with the head of a jackal. The Ankh (right) is the symbol of Eternal Life. (429k)|
|Relief of the Eye of Horus (with the Was Scepter to the right) in the Philae Temple of Isis. (561k)|
|The Bee (left) was a symbol of Lower Egypt, the Su Plant or Reed (center) was a symbol of Upper Egypt. The Ankh (right), was the symbol of Eternal Life. (556k)||A nice example of the Su Plant, the Reed (center right). (833k)||The Cobra was a symbol of Protection, mostly associated with Lower Egypt, shown here as a pair with both the Deshret and the Hedjet. (501k)||The Vulture was the symbol of protection for Upper Egypt. (467k)||The Lotus (plants on the left) is the symbol of Upper Egypt, the Papyrus (plants on the right) the symbol of Lower Egypt. (522k)|
Pharaohs had several names. The first one is the Birth Name or nomen. The second one is the Coronation Name or praenomen. These two names are always shown in a Cartouche. The Coronation Name is usually introduced by the sedge and the bee (read "nisu-bity"). The Birth Name is usually introduced by the duck and sun symbols (read as "sa-re" or "si-re", and meaning "son of Re"). Later, other symbols were used to introduce the two names. Examples of two more sets of symbols are shown below.
The Cartouche is the oval around the Pharaoh's name with the horizontal bar at the bottom. These Cartouches were instrumental in helping deciphering the Hieroglyphics. They provided the means of identifying individual hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, and correlating them with the Greek inscriptions of the names of the Pharaohs in the Cartouches.
The Horus Name is the oldest form of the name of a Pharaoh. It is usually written in a serekh, a representation of a palace facade. Usually, the representation of the Horus falcon is sitting on top or next to it. Many of the oldest Pharaohs are only known by their Horus Name.
The Nebty ("two ladies") Name was associated with the two Goddesses representing Upper and Lower Egypt. They were Nekhbet, the patron Goddess of Upper Egypt, represented by a vulture, and Wadjet, the patron Goddess of Lower Egypt, represented by a cobra. This particular name was not typically framed by a Cartouche or serekh, but always begins with the hieroglyphs of a vulture and cobra resting on two baskets, the dual noun "nebty".
Another name was the Golden Horus Name. This name was shown with the Horus falcon, sitting on the hieroglyph for gold. Like the Nebty Name, it was not framed with a Cartouche or serekh.
|The Cartouche with the Birth Name of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut. (772k)||The sedge and the bee, the introduction to the Coronation Name of a Pharaoh. (406k)||The duck and the sun, the introduction to the Birth Name of a Pharaoh. (438k)||Another beautiful example of the sedge and the bee (left introducing the Coronatrion Name and the duck and the sun disk (right) introducing the Birth Name of Amunhotep III. (390k)||Symbold to introduce the Coronation Name of Ptolemaios IV above the Cartouche. (57k)|
|Symbold to introduce the Birth Name of Ptolemaios IV above the Cartouche. (56k)||Symbold to introduce the Coronation Name of Ptolemaios II above the Cartouche. (618k)||Symbold to introduce the Birth Name of Ptolemaios II above the Cartouche. (643k)||Example of a Horus Name, inside a palace facade, with the Horus falcon on top. This is the Horus Name of Thutmosis I. (71k)||Example of a Golden Horus Name, with the Horus falcon over the hieroglyph for gold. This is the Golden Horus Name of Thutmosis I. (59k)|
|Example of a Nebty ("two ladies") Name, with the symbols for Wadjet (the cobra) and Nekhbet (the vulture) on top. This is the Nebty Name of Thutmosis I. (68k)|
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