Saturday, 19 February 2011

Egyptology: a Beginner's Story Part 2

The need for a proper text book...

It's about two months since I first wrote about my beginners' endeavour into Egyptology: the art and science of reading and comprehending the hieroglyphic script and the Egyptian language. Well, I have made a considerable progress: I can read and write the monoliteral signs with comparative ease and I am currently involved in getting to know the most common bi- and triliterals. Parallel to this there is a lot to study regarding all aspects of Egyptian culture, from online sources, some great books I purchased -or downloaded- and the occasional visit to a museum or exhibit. Thank the gods for the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden!

As I wrote before, I am using several books concomitantly to tackle the language and script study. As much as I love the books I described before, I gradually started to notice that neither of them is really written as a course or curriculum. Interesting as they are, there is a certain lack in systematics that began to bug me. And then I read about the one textbook that many seem to recommend: James P.Allen's Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs.

It's a bit tricky to get -it seems to be available only from second-hand booksellers-, but is extremely well worth the effort for a serious student of Egyptology.
This book systematically teaches you the intricacies of both the hieroglyphic system -including the exceptions to the various rules- as well as the Middle-Egyptian language itself. It does so in a concise and comprehensive manner, and the most amazing thing is that the text is quite lively as well. In the first few lessons I learned a lot that I did not find in any of the other books about the flexibility of the script.

Believe me, Egyptian reading, writing and the language are complicated enough without the additional energy spent on assembling your learning material from various sources. If you want to learn it, do yourself a favour and get this book! You will not regret it!

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