September 21st, 2020
The first day of the School was entirely dedicated to Egyptology. The School’s Scientific Director, Adjunct Professor Joanna Popielska-Grzybowska (Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures at the Polish Academy of Science) held a course and seminar on The Pyramid Texts – Secrets of a Language, Grammar, Formulas and Style, while Professor Renata Tatomir (“Hyperion” University of Bucharest), the co-organizer of this edition of the School, held a lecture on Egyptian Hieroglyphic Writing: a Writing System for the Living, the Dead and the Gods followed by a seminar on Dedicational Formulae to the Dead and the Gods; the Formula for Offerings; the Shabti Formula.
The sine qua non dimension of Egyptology is a working knowledge of hieroglyphic writing and its evolutionary stages, an essential and obligatory skill for the extraction, translation and correct interpretation of information contained in Egyptian written sources which varied considerably in terms of technique and aspect depending on the medium of writing – rough stone, papyri, ceramics, wood, textiles, metal, leather or a combination of materials. Hieroglyphs – incised or painted, cursive or neat – are omnipresent in Egyptian civilisation, and their extraordinary continuity and stability through the ages is indeed remarkable and surprising.
Therefore, these introductory courses aim to initiate the students in attendance into hieroglyphic Egyptian language and writing, one of the oldest writing systems in the world. The term “hieroglyph” is a combination of two Greek words meaning “sacred sculptures” - words which, in turn, are themselves a translation of the Egyptians’ own term for their writing system: mdw nTr, “the speech of the Gods”. The oldest Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions date to the 1st Dynasty, somewhere around 3000 BC, while the newest come from the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae, dated to 394 AD. As such, the use of this oldest form of writing – though restricted to a small circle of learned priests over the latter part of its existence – spans almost four millennia of continuous use. The art of writing was always reserved to a conservative and traditionalist caste of scribes, on whose interests and whims the degree to which the language spoken by the everyday population would have been allowed to contaminate always depended.
The School’s pupils – students from the University of Bucharest and the “Hyperion” University of Bucharest – had the opportunity to learn to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, to see and read aloud not only numerous funerary texts inscribed on the walls, pyramids and sarcophagi of Saqqara (dated to around 2400 BC), but also votive dedications inscribed on funeral statues named ushabti, found in the tombs of pharaohs and of Egyptian nobility.