You Could Soon Be Able to Text with 2,000 Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Grow­ing up, I had a box set of Egypt­ian hiero­glyph­ic stamps from the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. For a few weeks I used it to write cod­ed let­ters to a friend, pos­sessed of the same box set, who lived else­where in the neigh­bor­hood. Today’s smart­phone-tot­ing kids, of course, pre­fer text mes­sag­ing, a medi­um which to date has offered lit­tle in the way of hiero­glyph­ics, espe­cial­ly com­pared to the vast and ever-grow­ing qua­si-logo­graph­ic library of emo­ji, all of them approved by the offi­cial emo­ji sub­com­mit­tee of the Uni­code Con­sor­tium. But Uni­code itself, the indus­try-stan­dard sys­tem for dig­i­tal­ly encod­ing, rep­re­sent­ing, and han­dling text in the var­i­ous writ­ing sys­tems of the world, may soon expand to include more than 2,000 hiero­glyph­ics.

“Between 750 and 1,000 Hiero­glyphs were used by Egypt­ian authors dur­ing the peri­ods of the Old, Mid­dle, and then New King­dom (2687 BCE–1081 BCE),” writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Sarah E. Bond. “That num­ber lat­er great­ly increased dur­ing the Gre­co-Roman peri­od, like­ly to around 7,000.”

Dur­ing that time under Alexan­der the Great, the Ptolemies, and the Roman Empire, “the lan­guage grew, changed, and diver­si­fied over the course of thou­sands of years, a fact which can now be reflect­ed through its dig­i­tal encod­ing. Although Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs have been defined with­in Uni­code since ver­sion 5.2, released in 2009, the glyphs were high­ly lim­it­ed in num­ber and did not stretch into the Gre­co-Roman peri­od.”

That sit­u­a­tion could great­ly improve if the Uni­code Con­sor­tium approves its revised draft of stan­dards for encod­ing Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs cur­rent­ly on the table, a scroll through which reveals how much more of the visu­al (not to men­tion seman­tic) rich­ness of this ancient writ­ing sys­tem that could soon come avail­able to any­one with a dig­i­tal device. Its rich vari­ety of tools, ani­mals, icons (in both the old and mod­ern sens­es), humans, and ele­ments of human anato­my could do much for the Egyp­tol­o­gists of the world need­ing to effi­cient­ly send the con­tent of the texts they study to one anoth­er. And though I recall get­ting plen­ty com­mu­ni­cat­ed with those 24 rub­ber stamps, who dares pre­dict to what use those tex­ting kids will put these thou­sands of dig­i­tal hiero­glyph­ics when they get them at their fin­ger­tips?

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids Were Built: A New The­o­ry in 3D Ani­ma­tion

Try the Old­est Known Recipe For Tooth­paste: From Ancient Egypt, Cir­ca the 4th Cen­tu­ry BC

The Turin Erot­ic Papyrus: The Old­est Known Depic­tion of Human Sex­u­al­i­ty (Cir­ca 1150 B.C.E.)

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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