Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dictionary completed on language used everyday in ancient Egypt

Date:
September 18, 2012
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
A dictionary of thousands of words chronicling the everyday lives of people in ancient Egypt -- including what taxes they paid, what they expected in a marriage and how much work they had to do for the government -- has been completed by scholars at the University of Chicago.

A detail of a marriage agreement in ancient Egypt written in Demotic.
Credit: University of Chicago

A dictionary of thousands of words chronicling the everyday lives of people in ancient Egypt -- including what taxes they paid, what they expected in a marriage and how much work they had to do for the government -- has been completed by scholars at the University of Chicago.

The ancient language is Demotic Egyptian, a name given by the Greeks to denote it was the tongue of the demos, or common people. It was written as a flowing script and was used in Egypt from about 500 B.C. to 500 A.D., when the land was occupied and usually dominated by foreigners, including Persians, Greeks and Romans.

The language lives on today in words such as adobe, which came from the Egyptian word for brick. The word moved through Demotic, onto Arabic and eventually to Spain during the time of Islamic domination there, explained Janet Johnson, editor of the Chicago Demotic Dictionary.

Ebony, the dark wood that was traded down the Nile from Nubia (present-day Sudan), also comes from Demotic roots. The name Susan is indirectly related to the Demotic word for water lily.

"Demotic was used for business and legal documents, private letters and administrative inscriptions, and literary texts, such as narratives and pieces of wisdom literature," said Johnson, the Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor at the Oriental Institute.

"It was also used for religious and magical texts as well as scientific texts dealing with topics such as astronomy, mathematics and medicine. It is an indispensible tool for reconstructing the social, political and cultural life of ancient Egypt during a fascinating period of its history," she continued.

"The University of Chicago is pretty much Demotic central," said James Allen, PhD'81, the Wilbour Professor of Egyptology and chair of the Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies at Brown University. "Besides the Demotic dictionary, the University also has some of the world's top experts on Demotic on its faculty.

"This dictionary will be very useful, as there are more unpublished documents in Demotic than any other phase of ancient Egyptian," he said.

The Demotic language was one of the three texts on the Rosetta stone, which was also written in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Greek. In addition to being used on stone carvings, the script was left behind on papyrus and broken bits of pottery.

"The last four decades have seen a real explosion of Demotic studies, with more scholars focusing on this material, and great leaps in our understanding of this late version of the Egyptian language," said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute. "The Chicago Demotic Dictionary is reaching completion at the perfect time to have an enormous impact on our understanding of Egyptian civilization in the final few centuries, when it still flourished as a vibrant and unique culture.

"The Chicago Demotic Dictionary provides the key to understanding the vast body of Demotic contracts, letters, tax records and other documents; this allows us to hear the voices of the people who made up the vast majority of Egyptian society during the period when they were under first Greek and then Roman rule," Stein said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Dictionary completed on language used everyday in ancient Egypt." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120918145005.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2012, September 18). Dictionary completed on language used everyday in ancient Egypt. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120918145005.htm
University of Chicago. "Dictionary completed on language used everyday in ancient Egypt." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120918145005.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) — Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins