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Renata Landgráfová

E-Mail: landgrafova [at] grako-schrift.fu-berlin.de


Ph.D. Project

"Writing, Image and Space in Ancient Egyptian Biographical Texts of the 11th and 12th Dynasties"



The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic system combines principles of alphabetic, syllabic and logographic writing in a multi-layered system which functions on several levels. The alphabetic (monoconsonant) and syllabic (bi- and triconsonantal, morphematic) signs render the phonological structure; classifiers (so-called “determinatives”) reflect the cognitive setup of the Egyptian world. The writing of the phonetic structure of individual words stabilized to a large extent in the course of the 4th Dynasty, and the words received their own typical classifier(s). It appears that there was a certain liberty in the choice of classifiers, which could shift or completely change the meaning of a word.The biographical texts of the Middle Kingdom (Dynasties 11 and 12) represent a genre located at the border between literary and non-literary texts. Despite formulaic elements, they can be highly individualised. In the course of their history (between the Old and the Middle Kingdoms), texts were subjected to a considerable spatial limitation as they were transferred from tomb walls to stele. As a result, texts and images were combined in a highly functional unity, which allowed to express all that had once filled the tomb walls on the limited area of the stele in order to guarantee the resurrection and continued existence of the deceased in the mind of the living – and thus also in the other world. These new strategies were then also applied to those texts, which still had the entire space of the tomb walls at their disposal.  The project is conceived as part of a long-term research project dedicated to the complete publication and interpretation of these texts, which are (both) historically as well as linguistically extremely valuable. Its aim is to investigate in detail the use of writing, image and space phenomena on the level of single signs and sign combinations, as well as on the level of entire texts and their parts, in order to shed more light on the various roles, functions and possibilities of writing (systems) in general. 


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