Project description

In Ancient Egypt, in addition to the more monumental hieroglyphics, there were also cursive (hand) scripts, of which the hieratic was in use for over 3000 years. In this project, it is the subject of comprehensive basic research for the first time.

On the basis of selected and significant textual evidence, the hieratic, cursive hieroglyphic and cursive hieratic character inventory will be systematically and digitally recorded, taking into account different epochs, regions, text genres and writing media (above all papyrus, linen, leather, wood, clay, stone) from the period of evidence from ca. 2700 BC to 300 AD.

On the one hand, the project will create a digital palaeography: it will contain the entire repertoire of signs, ligatures and selected lexemes together with extensive metadata on the sources used in the form of databases and present them for various search options as well as for cooperation with the international specialist community. The major historical stages of the development of cursive writing will be treated in a modular fashion. Access to the sources will be provided by various preparations of the material (originals, print and online editions, photographs, scans, facsimiles, already published palaeographies or lists of characters). 


On the other hand, the project focuses on various questions in the field of analysis: the developments of cursive fonts, their dependencies on contemporaneous monumental hieroglyphs as well as their adaptations to specific needs and contexts; measures of script economy such as character size and variety, direction of writing, reduction, expansion or linking of individual characters (abbreviations, diacritical marks, ligatures); Significance of manuscripts for attribution to individuals, schools, regions or periods; material and practical aspects of writing by hand and the design of manuscripts; function of manuscripts for the (re)organisation and communication of officials, priests and scholars.

In addition to the classical research and methodological inventory of Egyptological palaeography, algorithmic and digital evaluation procedures are also included due to the cooperation with computer philology. The project also includes modules on the practice of writing and on the didactics of the hieratic in antiquity as well as in current studies.

The project is funded by the federal and state governments as part of the Akademienprogramm.