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How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs

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How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs
Revised Edition. A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself. By Mark Collier and Bill Manley. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 1998. Pg. ix, 179. Illustrated) ISBN: 0-520-23949-0.

Reviewed by Herbert White - August 26, 2003

When I was a young lad, I was fascinated with Egyptology and had grandiose visions of being an intrepid archaeologist who fought off hordes of bad-guys (a la Indiana Jones) while making remarkable discoveries that would rewrite history. As I grew up I became a bit more pragmatic, and settled upon a career in engineering rather than archaeology. I have also tried to stay away from as many bad-guys as possible! However I have never lost my love of early Egyptian History, and I expect that my wonder at the engineering marvels created by the ancient Egyptians played a major role in my desire to become an engineer.

I consider myself a bit (ok a bit more than a bit) of an Ancient Egyptphile, and I'm always intrigued when a new book about Egyptology is released. Hence, I was thrilled when I was asked to review Mark Collier and Bill Manley's newly revised book, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs. This is a step-by-step guidebook that enables you to teach yourself how to read Egyptian Hieroglyphs.

Not only is this an excellent teach-yourself textbook, but it is also lavishly illustrated with actual inscriptions. According to the text, by the time you are finished with the book, you will be able to go to any museum and read the inscriptions found on the type of ancient Egyptian monuments that most often found in modern museums. Plus you'll also be able to read ancient Egyptian texts. I've not worked my way through the entire book yet, but the chapters that I've complete so far lead me to believe that the authors are being factual in with their claim - and I look forward to being able to read Ancient Egyptian like a pro!

The authors based this book upon their years of experience teaching university students how to read hieroglyphs. Designed specifically for beginners studying on their own, this book guides you through the fundamentals of the language and provides some background information on Egyptian history to help you understand the context in which the hieroglyphs were originally used. In addition to teaching you the various anceint Egyptian glyphs, this text also explains how to pronounce the glyphs, basic grammar and sentence structure, fundamentals of hieroglyphic script, and how the hieroglyphs are transliterated into English. Throughout the text are exercises designed to give you practice in reading the glyphs and to test your understanding of what you have studied. An answer key for the exercises can be found at the end of the book.

How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs is a must have for any amateur Egyptologist. It will also serve college students just beginning their study of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The lessons are well designed and easy to follow, and with practice you should be able to read Ancient Egyptian in very little time. In the process of working through this book you will also gain insights into the political and religious organization, and the history, of Ancient Egypt.

This book includes a complete list of the individual glyphs that the Egyptian's used, as well as an Egyptian-English vocabulary section. Also included is a reference guide that outlines the basic principles of Ancient Egyptian grammar. Once you have mastered the material in this excellent book, you'll want to keep it on hand as a valued reference book.

Related Reviews:

Write Your Own Egyptian Hieroglyphs, by Angela McDonald.
Lavishly illustrated, this is a marvelously informative and fun to read book that will introduce novice Egyptologists to the fundamentals of reading and writing Egyptian hieroglyphs.

An Introduction to the Study of the Maya Hieroglyphs, by Sylvanus Griswold Morley.
An introductory text on reading and understanding the Maya glyphs, calendar, and writing system.

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