Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
- Author(s): Spieser, Cathie
- et al.
The cartouche is an elongated form of the Egyptian shen-hieroglyph that encloses and protects a royal name or, in specific contexts, the name of a divinity. A king’s throne name and birth name were each enclosed in a cartouche, forming a kind of heraldic motif expressing the ruler’s dual nature as both human and divine. The cartouche could occur as a simple decorative component. When shown independently the cartouche took on an iconic significance and replaced the king’s, or more rarely, the queen’s, anthropomorphic image, enabling him or her to be venerated as a divine entity. Conversely, the enclosure of a god’s or goddess’s name in a cartouche served to render the deity more accessible to the human sphere.