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New Book Reveals the Stories that Hieroglyphs Tell About Ancient Egypt

Ever been curious as to what hieroglyphs said or what literature was like in ancient Egypt? Well now you can find out.

Across time, millions of foreigners have flooded to good old Om el donia to marvel at the endless ancient Egyptian pyramids, temples, coffins, and tombs covered in not-so-mysterious hieroglyphic writing. However, unless you actually know how to read and write the language then you probably don’t have a clue what the signs are referring to (and no, the sun symbol doesn’t just mean the sun).

Famed Egyptologist and Cambridge academic, Toby Wilkinson has decided to compile and translate ancient texts in a book titled Writings from Ancient Egypt for the general reader according to the Guardian.

The book will be released on August 24th by Penguin Classics who have explained that “these writings have never before been published together in an accessible collection.”

Although this has been done before by Miriam Lichtheim, her books lean more on the academic side, are very scholarly and divided into volumes according to historical periods, making it hard for the simple ancient Egyptian enthusiast to actually understand what the heck is going on.

Truth is, ancient Egyptian texts tackled various themes like domestic affairs, instructions, royal behaviour, love letters, poems, and religious hymns but not many people are aware of that fact or have been able to read them because even the few previous books that have translation of these texts have been unavailable or are in old English.

“The English in which they are rendered – assuming they are in English – is very old-fashioned and impenetrable, and actually makes ancient Egypt seem an even more remote society,” said Wilkinson according to the Guardian.

Wilkinson is thus making the rich literary tradition much more accessible and known through his book. One of his most beloved pieces of ancient fiction, The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, is about a magical island ruled by a giant snake who has a skin of gold and eyebrows of laps lazuli and comforts and advises a shipwrecked sailor about the importance of one returning home.

“I was here with my brothers and my children ... we totalled 75 snakes ... Then a star fell and they were consumed in flames ... If you are brave and your heart is strong, you will embrace your children, you will kiss your wife and you will see your house,” the story simply reads.

Tales of shipwreck and adventure, descriptions of battles in foreign lands, songs, political observations and satires make up Wilkinson’s anthology that gathers gems taken from a written tradition that lasted over 3,000 years.

Main image courtesy of the Metmuseum.org.


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