Egyptology: Quick fact 2 – Pyramid Texts & Anthropoid Coffins

Egyptology: Quick fact 2 –

Pyramid Texts & Anthropoid Coffins

By: Donald Frazer (Egyptologyman)

Another list of quick facts which interest me and so I hope interest you.

1.)  The term “Pyramid Texts”, derive their name from the fact that they appear on the internal walls and walls of adjoining rooms of the burial chambers of pyramids. Texts mainly written on the inner surfaces of wooden coffins, the outside of coffins and sometimes also on tomb walls or papyri are known as “Coffin Texts”. All these texts reflect the importance that was attached to securing the happy existence of the dead in the afterlife.

The predominant content of these texts were compositions such as ritual spells, the rest were hymns, prayers, litanies and magical spells for warding off dangerous animals.

At the beginning of the New Kingdom an innovation in funerary customs took place, which was the use of anthropoid coffins to replace rectangular sarcophagi for new burials. These coffins were so called, because they took on the recognisable shape of a body. In an anthropoid coffin the position of the head and shoulders of the mummy inside can be easily visualised. Funerary texts also developed over time and started to include a lot of art work making them very lengthy.

These new style anthropoid coffins lacked sufficient space on their surfaces to inscribe the new collection of funerary spells. This development no doubt influenced the emergence and wide acceptance of papyrus rolls as the usual medium for texts. Papyri of any length, with a variable number of spells, could be rolled up and placed inside the coffin, to be at hand by the deceased if needed.

Anthropoid Coffin of the Servant of the Great Place, Teti, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, ca. 1339 B.C.-1307 B.C., Wood, painted, 33-1/4 x 18-13/16 x 81 1/2

The Rebus Principle

Rebus Principle

By: Donald Frazer (Egyptology Man)

The idea that symbols could be used to represent the sounds of a language rather than represent real objects, is known as the rebus principle and is one of the most significant ancient discoveries leading to the development of writing.  Not only did this principle apply to the development of the Ancient Egyptian written language, but it was also the precursor to the development of the alphabets used in modern languages as well.

A rebus is a message spelt out in pictures that represents sounds rather than the things they are pictures of. For example the picture of an eye, a bee, and a leaf can be put together to form the English rebus meaning “I be-lieve”, which has nothing to do with eyes, bees or leaves. Consider the following two examples of rebuses:-

The pictograms   and represent  “I-deer” and form the rebus “idea”.

The pictograms  , , and represent “eye-sea-ewe” and form the rebus “I see you”.

This principle is adopted in many parts of the Ancient Egyptian system of spelling with hieroglyphs.

The term “rebus” can refer to the use of one or more pictograms representing one or more phonograms. In the beginning, Ancient Egyptian writing relied heavily on pictographic signs representing concrete objects. Words which cannot be represented easily by means of a picture, such as proper names, ideas and function words, were difficult to write. The rebus principle provided the means to overcome this limitation. Fully developed hieroglyphs read in rebus fashion were in use at Abydos in Ancient Egypt as early as 3400 BC.

A famous Ancient Egyptian rebus statue of Ramses II consists of three hieroglyphic elements. A large falcon representing Horus the sun god – RA, who is standing behind a sitting child – MES, and the child is holding a sedge plant stalk in his left hand – SU. Remember we are not looking at these hieroglyphs from the perspective phonograms. These three items compose the rebus RA-MES-SU or as we prefer Ramesses.

Two main types of sound writing evolved from the development and extension of the rebus principle; syllabic and alphabetic writing. The English language is purely alphabetic, although from the example of the rebuses above, it can be seen how easy it is to construct a syllabic rebus from English words. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs can demonstrate both types of writing.

It is even possible to compose a rebus that is both of an alphabetic and a syllabic nature, for example:-

H + = Hear

When you contemplate how language gradually develops, you may be right in thinking that there is no coincidence in the fact that the word “ear” is part of the word “hear”.

I hope that was interesting and feel free to ask questions.

Naming of Numbers – Short Scale and Traditional UK Long Scale

Naming of Numbers – Short Scale and Traditional Long Scale

By: Donald Frazer (Egyptology Man) 

I appreciate that many of you reading this will ask what have modern numeracy systems got to do with ancient egypt. Well on the surface very little and in this blog I am not even trying to establish a historic link which is achievable by the way. The reason it is that it is very important to understand the current numeric principles and convensions we use to understand the exact subject matter I will be posting over the coming weeks. The Egyptians were very skilled mathematicians and had an very advanced system they employed to understand the world around them. To really get to grips with this we need to understand exactly what WE mean as well.

The table below is a breakdown of convension we use which are often unknown or at least not well understood and I hope it stands alone as a useful guide and a good reference. 

Name Short scale
USA and Modern UK
Long scale
 Traditional UK, not used much now
one 100 100
ten 101 101
hundred 102 102
thousand 103 103
million 106 106
milliard   109
billion 109 1012
    1015 thousand billion, billiard
trillion 1012 1018
    1021 thousand trillion, trilliard
quadrillion 1015 1024
    1027 thousand quadrillion
quintillion 1018 1030
    1033 thousand quintillion
sextillion 1021 1036
septillion 1024 1042
octillion 1027 1048
nonillion 1030 1054
decillion 1033 1060
undecillion 1036 1066
duodecillion 1039 1072
tredecillion 1042 1078
quattuordecillion 1045 1084
quindecillion (quinquadecillion) 1048 1090
sexdecillion (sedecillion) 1051 1096
septendecillion 1054 10102
octodecillion 1057 10108
novemdecillion (novendecillion) 1060 10114
vigintillion 1063 10120
googol 10100 10100
centillion 10303 10600
googolplex 10googol





For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the United Kingdom uniformly used the long scale, while the United States of America used the short scale, so that usage of the two systems was often referred to as “British” and “American” respectively. In 1974 the government of the UK abandoned the long scale, so that the UK now applies the short scale interpretation exclusively in mass media  and official usage.

Although some residual long-scale usage still continues, the terms “British” and “American” no longer represent accurate terminology. Trigintillion, often cited as a word in discussions of names of large numbers.

I hope this is of use to some people 🙂

Published in: on February 8, 2011 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dynastic Periods and Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt

Dynastic Periods and Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt

By: Donald Frazer (Egyptology Man)

As this is my first post on the blog I thought it best to set the scene to which my interests and writing will flow around. Egypt. And not just any part the ancient history of the region. Egyptologists divide Ancient Egyptian civilization into four main Dynastic Periods, the Old, Middle, New, and the Late Kingdoms. These main Dynastic Periods are separated from each another by the First, Second, and Third Intermediate Periods. During these Intermediate periods, political divisions and weak rulers fragmented the central government and disrupted the administrative authority of the country.

Time Period Dynasties Powerful Rulers
Early Dynastic Period

3100-2600 B.C

1-3 Menes, Djoser
Old Kingdom

2600-2160 B.C

4-8 Cheops, Chephren, Mycerinus,

Pepy I, II

First Intermediate Period

2160-2040 B.C.

Middle Kingdom

2040-1700 B.C.

11-13 Amenemmes I, II, III
Second Intermediate Period

1700-1570 B.C.

New Kingdom

1570-1070 B.C.

18-20 Amosis I,

Amenophis I, II, III,

Tuthmosis I, II, III, IV,

Hatshepsut, Akhenaten,

Tutankhamun, Ramesses II & III

Third Intermediate Period

1070- 600 B.C

21-25 Economic troubles and civil wars

weaken Egypt. There are up to 4

Pharaohs ruling different parts of

Egypt at the same time

Late Kingdom

600 – 332 B.C

26-30 Constant threats from Assyrians,

Babylonians and Persians. During

the reign of Nectanebo II, Egypt

was conquered by Persians, this

marked the end of native

Egyptian rule.

Greco-Roman Period

332 B.C. – 395 A.D

30 BC Egypt

was a Roman


Alexander the Great, Ptolemy,

Cleopatra, Octavius

 If you are interested in the culture of ancient egypt please continue to visit. I will be posting articles on a regular basis and look forward to and feedback.

Djoser - Early Dynastic Period - 3100-2600 B.C