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Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Egyptian tombs typify the Egyptian attitude about death and the belief in the afterlife. The stela is the part of the tomb that contains carved images of the deceased and the people who would serve them in the afterlife. The stela in the print is part of the tomb of a priest and his mother. Egyptians believed that there was an afterlife and that all the things of the living world need to be provided for the dead people in their burial chambers. The Hieroglyphics on the stela have symbolic meanings and were meant for religious and magical purposes.

Note that the example on the website is not the same one as the Art Awareness poster, but is a good example for lesson preparation.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out.

How many people do you see? What kinds of animals? What other objects do you see? Why do you think these objects were included?

Why do you think the priest and his mother were seated with their head, legs, and feet in profile with eyes and shoulders in frontal view? The Egyptian artists had to learn the rules of this art form from their youth. Although it may look different, at the time this was the only way that the artist could portray the portraits.

What colors are used? The colors of the people have symbolic meaning. Women are painted lightly and men are painted darkly.

The stela is a sunk-relief sculpture with the figures and objects in the middle section and the border, sun disc, and watching eyes, incised or cut into the stone. Do you consider this sculpture art? Why?

The Hieroglyphics or picture writing have symbolic meaning and are part of a story and illustration. What do you think the pictures are telling us?

How do you think people were able to decode the ancient writings?

Do we have any coded message today? Examples: Morse code, texting, etc.

Activities for the Classroom

Additional Kid Friendly Resources at the AHML are "Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphics: how to lead the secret language of pharaohs" by Bridget McDermott, and "Eyewitness ancient Egypt" by George Hart. There is a set of hieroglyphic stamps in the resources drawer.

Bring in a decoder chart of the Hieroglyphic alphabet and ask the students to write their names in Hieroglyphics. You can use the template on page 5 of the additional information pdf file.

Bring in a message, written in Hieroglyphics, and a decoder, and ask the students to decode the message. Have the message be relevant to ancient Egypt.

Ask the students to develop their own code for writing and write a message for their classmates to solve.

Use the Hieroglyphic stamps set in the Resources drawer and pre-stamp images on paper, cardboard, or construction paper squares. Let the students use the Stela template in the additional information packet to then make their own Stela.

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