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Ancient Egyptian Symbols: Measuring Time

Updated: Jun 21, 2022

My reconstruction of a partially destroyed wall relief from the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple dedicated to Ramesses II in Thebes dating from the 19th Dynasty, features this depiction of the god Djhuty (Thoth).

Thoth is the god of wisdom, writing, hieroglyphs, science, magic, art, judgment, and the dead. In this depiction, he is surrounded by symbols relating to time.

His headdress is a combination of the crescent moon and the lunar disk, representing the eternal cycle of time. He holds the stripped central rib of a date palm frond, which was used as a tally to record time, with the notches on it to represent years.

From the palm rib hangs the heb hieroglyphic meaning 'festival', combined with the sed symbol representing a pavilion. The heb-sed was a jubilee festival the king celebrated every 30 years.

At the base of the palm rib is the tadpole hieroglyph meaning 'hundred thousand' combined with the Shen hieroglyph meaning 'encircle', it was used to represent eternal protection. The Shen symbol could be stretched to become a cartouche, providing protection for the contents.

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