Have you ever had the urge to follow in Lara’s footsteps and learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphs? If so, you may be interested to know that there are a number of useful, free online resources at your disposal. These, if used in combination with a good textbook such as James P. Allen’s Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs (Buy it on Amazon/Amazon UK) or Mark Collier and Bill Manley’s How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs (Buy it on Amazon/Amazon UK), will help you get to grips with this complex but fascinating ancient language and deepen your knowledge of Egyptian history and art.
Here are ten fantastic free online resources for learning the Egyptian hieroglyphic script:
1) Biblioteca Alexandrina’s Hieroglyphs Step by Step – What better place to begin your foray into Egyptian hieroglyphs and grammar than at the Biblioteca Alexandrina? The grammar lessons are straightforward and make ample use of example sentences and clauses, and the site’s dictionary allows students to search by sign category, keyword, or transliteration. Students can put their newfound knowledge to the test by taking a quiz or reading sample texts taken from Egyptian art and artefacts. The website is available in both English and Arabic and all of the resources available on the site have been peer-reviewed by professional Egyptologists.
2) Rutgers University: Middle Egyptian Grammar – This is a comprehensive course on Middle Egyptian grammar that comes courtesy of Dr. Gabor Toth of Rutgers University. It includes an overview of the hieroglyphic script and basic grammar points as well as a dictionary and some exercises designed to test your knowledge of Middle Egyptian. What sets it apart from similar online courses is the fact that many of the grammar points are taught through the use of literature and sample texts taken from stelae and other ancient artefacts. What better way to master Middle Egyptian grammar than see it being used in context? Update: Most of the online material has been removed since this list was published. It has been incorporated into Dr Toth’s book, Introduction to Middle Egyptian Grammar through Ancient Writings (Buy this on Amazon).
3) Ancient Egyptian Language Discussion List – The AEL Discussion List has been around since 1997 and is considered an invaluable resource by amateur and professional Egyptologists alike. The primary scope of the list is the discussion of ancient Egyptian texts and languages and it boasts a membership of over 900 scholars and enthusiasts. Older discussions can be found in the AEL Archives and links to resources for learning Middle Egyptian, hieratic and Coptic can be found on their Learning page.
4) GlyphStudy – GlyphStudy is an online study group which makes use of the two course textbooks mentioned above (Allen and Collier/Manley). Students who are serious about learning Middle Egyptian are encouraged to join one of the two study sections and submit homework according to the study schedule. Once you’ve been granted access to the site, you will be able to take part in discussions and make use of the resources that are available in the Links section. These include flashcards, online grammar lessons, supplementary reading, and links to members’ Egyptology sites. This study group is ideal for anyone who wishes to follow a more rigid study schedule, meet fellow learners and get feedback on their progress. Membership is free and the only requirements for following either of the two study sections is a copy of one of the aforementioned books and a passion for ancient Egypt.
5) Egyptian Hieroglyphs – This blog was only a couple of weeks old at the time of writing this post but it shows a great potential for future growth. It currently offers 9 grammar lessons as well as a handy sign list and a comprehensive bibliography for those who want to further their studies. There’s also a discussion forum where visitors can meet fellow learners and discuss various aspects of the ancient Egyptian language.
6) Pyramid Texts : Dictionary of Middle Egyptian – This dictionary was compiled by Paul Dickson in 2006 and vocabulary has been arranged in Gardiner classification order instead of the usual phonetic-based system employed in other online and print dictionaries. Each entry displays the hieroglyphic spelling of the word, its phonetic spelling (or transliteration), the part of speech (where applicable), its English translation and the names of the signs under the Gardiner classification system. You can search for a word under its English translation or transliteration by using the search function in your PDF reader.
7) Ancient Egyptian Calligraphy : A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Hieroglyphs – This guide was put together by the late Henry George Fischer, former Curator Emeritus of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for the purpose of encouraging “a better standard in writing Egyptian hieroglyphs”. Not only does it teach you how to improve your Egyptian handwriting skills, it will also teach you how to differentiate between similar signs, understand what each sign represents and spot variant forms of certain signs across the different periods of Egyptian history.
8) St Andrews Corpus – The St Andrews Corpus consists of a broad selection of ancient Egyptian texts in PDF format. The texts are drawn from monuments and literature and while less than half of the texts contain the original hieroglyphic text, bibliographies, transliterations and English translations are provided for all of them. Intermediate and advanced learners might enjoy using these texts as means of perfecting their own translation skills.
9) Hieroglyphs.Net – This site may not as comprehensive as some of the others covered in this list but it is still quite a useful resource for learning hieroglyphs and basic vocabulary. The Daily Quiz and Weekly Hieroglyph are good ways to test yourself on your recognition of common hieroglyphs and you can look up words in the dictionary by searching or by browsing through the alphabetic lists. Another fun feature is the Compose section, an interactive tool which allows you to compose your own short sentences and learn some basic grammar points in the process.
10) PlanZero: Hieroglyphic Flashcards – These flashcards are an excellent way to test your knowledge of Egyptian phonograms. The card sets are interactive and cover a wide range of unilateral, bilateral and trilateral signs. The only drawback is that you cannot test yourself on the meaning of each sign. The creator has plans to create flashcards for simple words and phrases in the near future so if this sounds like a great idea, why not contact the creator and let him know?
Honourable Mention: JSesh – While this technically isn’t a resource for learning Middle Egyptian, this open-source hieroglyphic text editor is a must-have for anyone who wants to practice writing their own sentences or keep notes of their progress. The editor makes use of the full Manuel de Codage and full instructions on how to use this software can be found on the website.
If you know any other resources that may be useful to people learning Middle Egyptian and/or Egyptian hieroglyphs, feel free to let me know by leaving a comment with links to the resources in question. 🙂
Author’s note: Last updated on 24 September 2018.