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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology

UEE: open version

Egyptology has as its object of study the history, practices, and conceptual categories of a culture that was remarkably prolific in terms of written texts, art, architecture, and other forms of material culture. The knowledge of Egyptologists, archaeologists, linguists, geologists, and all other professionals who are involved in research related to Ancient Egypt reflect the interdisciplinary approach that is needed to make sense of such a wealth of information. The peer-reviewed articles of the UEE are written by the world's leading scholars.

In the coming decade we will continue to build the content of the UEE, while a separate web site, the UEE Full Version, will be available starting in 2010. The full version will have enhanced searches, such as a map-search functionality, alphabetical and subject browsing, in-text links, explanations of terminology for non-professionals, an image archive, and Virtual Reality reconstructions. In addition, a Data-Access Level is under development, which links articles with the results of original research. Information on the development of the UEE Full Version can be found at

Cover page of Dialects in Pre-Coptic Egyptian

Dialects in Pre-Coptic Egyptian


In scholarship there is no consensus on how to define a dialect, especially since the concept of “dialect” is a modern one, carrying with it political implications. Indeed it can be demonstrated that, historically, local idioms have sometimes gained national status for reasons relating to politics and culture. The existence of different dialects in pre-Coptic Egypt was discerned early in Egyptology, in the late nineteenth century, and is today accepted with only occasional skepticism. The identification and analysis of dialects is problematic for the Egyptologist for several reasons, among them the constraints of the hieroglyphic script, which was phonologically unspecific; the geographically unbalanced nature of the surviving corpus of texts; and the often elusive determination of textual provenance. Dialects have left written traces, however, in all areas of Egyptian—phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon—such that the standard view of a linear succession of five well-ordered language states (Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic, and Coptic) can no longer be maintained.

Cover page of Meroitic Writing

Meroitic Writing


Meroitic, the primary language of ancient Sudan, remained unwritten for at least two millennia. There were only rare transcriptions of proper names in Egyptian texts. With the rise of the 25th “Kushite” Dynasty, Egyptian script and language became the official means of written communication in Kush. A local form of Demotic was probably used in addition to the hieroglyphs, although archaeological evidence thereof is lacking. This local Demotic was very likely the ancestor of the Meroitic cursive script, which appeared in the third century BCE. A century later, a second script, called “hieroglyphic,” was created in order to replace Egyptian in monumental inscriptions. The signs were selected from the Egyptian hieroglyphs, but this new script was merely the prestigious counterpart of the Meroitic cursive characters, with a one-to-one correspondence between signs. The Meroitic writing system is an alphasyllabary. It includes 16 basic signs for syllables, with a default vowel /a/and three vocalic modifiers used to write syllables with /e/, /ə/, /i/, and /u/. Four additional signs are used for the frequent syllables ne, se, te, and to. A word-divider made of two or three dots is inserted between the different groups of sentences. The Meroitic script disappeared in the fifth century CE, but three signs were integrated in the Old Nubian alphabet, which remained in use until the Islamic Period.

Cover page of Language Contact

Language Contact


Although language contact and multilingualism are universal phenomena, the topic has not been given due consideration in Egyptology. Language contact in ancient Egypt comprises a spectrum, in ascending order, of small-scale phenomena (loanwords, loan translations), through non-Egyptian texts in Egyptian script and the evidence for bilingualism and multilingualism, to the large-scale phenomena of new language forms resulting from language contact and phenomena of language convergence through a sprachbund situation.

Cover page of UEE news for 2022

UEE news for 2022


Editors and Staff of the UEE wish you a happy, healthy and productive 2022. Here is the latest on ongoing developments.

Cover page of Tower Houses

Tower Houses


Egyptian tower houses are a type of dwelling developed in the Third Intermediate Period in Egypt. They were extensively used in the time from the Late Period (26th Dynasty) until Roman times and were still in use through Late Antiquity, Medieval times until modern times. Many of these houses used the so called casemate foundations, a foundation type that was also used for other types of buildings. This article discusses typical elements, functions and chronological development of casemate structures and tower houses as well as known sources and possible reasons for their development.

Cover page of Gender-Based Violence

Gender-Based Violence


Gender and violence intersected in ancient Egypt in many ways. In general, the ancient Egyptian gender system privileged men and the masculine. Exceptions to this were status dependent. Gendered patterns of violence are evident in cases of mistreatment of women through beating and rape. War-related royal texts used gendered language to frame enemies as feminine and place them lower on the hierarchy vis-à-vis the pharaoh. Enemies were also feminized in visual representations such as temple reliefs. The symbolic violence of gendered language also served to establish indigenous gender hierarchies. Although there is evidence that some Egyptian queens and female rulers organized military operations, there is no evidence for the participation of women in war. In contrast, some goddesses had a strong affiliation with war and violence and were frequently associated with the pharaoh in this regard.

Cover page of British Egyptology (1882-1914)

British Egyptology (1882-1914)


The period from 1882 – 1914 has been called the “Golden Age” of Egyptology, but that term is problematic in light of the fact that it was a Golden Age only for Europeans and Americans. In Britain, the founding in 1882 of the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF, now Egypt Exploration Society [EES]) and the beginning of the Great War in 1914 bookend this tumultuous period of Egyptology. During this period, political, religious, economic, and institutional structures impacted the intellectual development of British Egyptology as practiced both in Britain and in Egypt. The establishment of Egyptology as a university-taught subject was crucial to the field. By 1904, the signing of the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain meant that France recognized diplomatically that Britain occupied Egypt. In turn, the French had control over the direction of the Antiquities Service; however, that service was ultimately under the control of the British.

Cover page of Non-Royal Self-Presentation

Non-Royal Self-Presentation


In ancient Egypt the primary intention of creating textual self-presentations—or self-portraiture in words, similar to that in paintings, statuary, and reliefs—was to present the explicit characteristics of protagonists in a corresponding fashion, introducing their values and effectiveness to live and rejoice in immortality, both in the afterlife and in the consciousness and thoughts of Egypt’s subsequent generations. The practice of self-presentation was rooted in Egyptian literature from at least the Third Dynasty, and through the course of dynastic history, it differed in aspect, composition, and theme. Self-presentations show the lives of the elites, vividly portraying their beliefs, culture, and expectations for the afterlife. The relationship between royalty and nobility in self-presentations is alluring and informative and compels us to envision the times and the contingencies in which they were created. These texts also make explicit their owners’ wish to be remembered—not forgotten—after death. The presentation of the non-royal self in ancient Egypt represents a window into its culture and historical periods.

Cover page of Meroe and Egypt

Meroe and Egypt


The Meroitic Period, which lasted from the third century BCE to around the mid-fourth century CE, comprises the second of two phases of Kushite empire in the territory of what is today Sudan, the first phase comprising the Napatan era (c. 655 – 300 BCE). While Meroitic culture reflects both Napatan influence and that of periods of Egyptian colonization (during Egypt’s New Kingdom, c. 1550 – 1070 BCE), it is characterized by the emergence of indigenous cultural elements. These include an indigenous script as well as ideological features such as concepts of kingship, burial customs, and the introduction of indigenous deities into the old Egypto-centric pantheon. Meroitic rulers were buried in cemeteries in the regions of (Gebel) Barkal and Meroe. The shift of burial grounds from the vicinity of Barkal to Meroe has led scholars to designate the period and culture as “Meroitic.” There was, however, no cultural break with former times, but rather a continuation and development of prevailing cultural features with the addition of new elements. Special focus is laid on the border area between Ptolemaic and, later, Roman Egypt and the Meroitic Empire, in which both power structures had interests. The politics of both states in Lower Nubia—today territory held by Egypt and Sudan—were of varied intensity during the c. 650 years of the Meroitic Period. Documentation of Meroitic history is hindered by our as yet insufficient understanding of Meroitic texts and thus relies heavily on archaeological data and the factual remains of art and architecture. In general, our knowledge is uneven: some periods are well documented, while for others we have little to no information.

Cover page of Egyptian Among Neighboring African Languages

Egyptian Among Neighboring African Languages


Northeast Africa is dominated by two linguistic macrofamilies, Afroasiatic, with its constituent branches of Egyptian, Semitic, Berber, Cushitic, Chadic, and Omotic, and the Nilo-Saharan languages, with the most relevant phylum being the Eastern Sudanic branch spread across the Sahel and East Africa. On present research, there is evidence for contact between ancient Egyptian and ancient Berber, Cushitic, and Eastern Sudanic languages, with possibilities of contact with Ethiosemitic languages (the Semitic languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea). Evidence of Egypt’s contact with neighboring peoples in Northeast Africa is well established from the archaeological record and historical texts, especially along the Middle Nile (Nubia). The use of linguistic material, including loanwords and foreign names, for reconstructing ancient phases of contact between Egyptians and neighboring peoples is a relatively “untapped” source. The lexical data demonstrates a great familiarity and exchange between Egyptian and neighboring languages, which, in many cases, can be attributed to specific historical phases of contact through trade, expeditionary ventures, or conflict. Impediments remain in reconstructing the ancient “linguistic map” of neighboring Africa and our reliance on modern dictionaries of African languages for identifying ancient loanwords. Despite this, the stock of foreign words in the Egyptian lexicon is incredibly important for piecing together this “map.” In many cases, the ancient Egyptian lexicon contains the earliest data for foreign languages like Meroitic, Beja, or Berber.