Articles with keyword: birds

The Writing of the Birds. Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs Before and After the Founding of Alexandria
Stephen Quirke University College London Institute of Archaeology


Volume 5, Issue 1

 | pp.



As Okasha El Daly has highlighted, qalam al-Tuyur“script of the birds” is one of the Arabic names used by the writers of the Ayyubid periodand earlier to describe ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The name may reflect the regular choice of Nile birds as signs for several consonants in the Ancient Egyptian language, such as the owl for “m”. However, the term also finds an ancestor in a rarer practice of hieroglyph users centuries earlier. From the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods and before, cursive manuscripts have preserved a list of sounds in the ancient Egyptian language, in the sequence used for the alphabet in South Arabian scripts known in Arabia before Arabic. The first “letter” in the hieroglyphic version is the ibis, the bird of Thoth, that is, of knowledge, wisdom and writing. In this paper I consider the research of recent decades into the Arabian connections to this “bird alphabet”.
Subjects:Archaeology, Cultural Interchanges (Mediterranean), History