Cartouche

Cartouche

Overview

In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an ellipse with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 name, coming into use during the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty
Fourth dynasty of Egypt
The fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom. Dynasty IV lasted from ca. 2613 to 2494 BC...

 under Pharaoh Sneferu
Sneferu
Sneferu, also spelled as Snephru, Snefru or Snofru , was the founder of the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. Estimates of his reign vary, with for instance The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt suggesting a reign from around 2613 BC to 2589 BC, a reign of 24 years, while Rolf Krauss suggests a 30-year reign...

, replacing the earlier serekh
Serekh
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a serekh is a rectangular enclosure representing the niched or gated façade of a palace surmounted by the Horus falcon, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name...

. While the cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, it is sometimes horizontal if it makes the name fit better, with a vertical line on the left. The Ancient Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 word for it was shenu, and it was essentially an expanded shen ring
Shen ring
A shen ring is a circle with a line at a tangent to it, which was represented in hieroglyphs as a stylised loop of a rope. The word shen itself means, in ancient Egyptian, encircle, while the shen ring represented eternal protection...

.
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In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an ellipse with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 name, coming into use during the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty
Fourth dynasty of Egypt
The fourth dynasty of ancient Egypt is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom. Dynasty IV lasted from ca. 2613 to 2494 BC...

 under Pharaoh Sneferu
Sneferu
Sneferu, also spelled as Snephru, Snefru or Snofru , was the founder of the Fourth dynasty of Egypt. Estimates of his reign vary, with for instance The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt suggesting a reign from around 2613 BC to 2589 BC, a reign of 24 years, while Rolf Krauss suggests a 30-year reign...

, replacing the earlier serekh
Serekh
In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a serekh is a rectangular enclosure representing the niched or gated façade of a palace surmounted by the Horus falcon, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name...

. While the cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, it is sometimes horizontal if it makes the name fit better, with a vertical line on the left. The Ancient Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 word for it was shenu, and it was essentially an expanded shen ring
Shen ring
A shen ring is a circle with a line at a tangent to it, which was represented in hieroglyphs as a stylised loop of a rope. The word shen itself means, in ancient Egyptian, encircle, while the shen ring represented eternal protection...

. In Demotic
Demotic (Egyptian)
Demotic refers to either the ancient Egyptian script derived from northern forms of hieratic used in the Delta, or the stage of the Egyptian language following Late Egyptian and preceding Coptic. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus to distinguish it from hieratic and...

, the cartouche was reduced to a pair of parentheses and a vertical line.

Of the five royal titularies it was the throne name, also referred to as prenomen, and the "Son of Ra" titulary, the so-called nomen, i.e., the name given at birth, which were enclosed by a cartouche.

At times amulets were given the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king and placed in tombs. Such items are often important to archaeologists for dating the tomb and its contents. Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval surrounding their name was meant to protect him from evil spirits in life and after death. The cartouche has become a symbol representing protection from evil and good luck. Egyptians believed that if you had your name written down in some place, then you would not disappear after you died. If a cartouche was attached to their coffin then they would have their name in at least one place. There were periods in Egyptian history when people refrained from inscribing these amulets with a name, for fear they might fall into somebody's hands conferring power over the bearer of the name.

Etymology


The name cartouche was first applied by soldiers who fancied that the symbol they saw so frequently repeated on the pharaonic ruins they encountered resembled a muzzle-loading firearm's paper powder cartridge
Paper cartridge
Paper cartridge refers to one of various types of small arms ammunition used before the advent of the metallic cartridge. These cartridges consisted of a paper cylinder or cone containing the bullet, gunpowder, and, in some cases, a primer or a lubricating and anti-fouling agent...

 ( in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

).

Hieroglyph use of cartouche, and half-cartouche


In the Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek...

, the cartouche hieroglyph
Cartouche (hieroglyph)
The Ancient Egyptian Cartouche hieroglyph- is used to represent the Egyptian language word for 'name'. It is Gardiner sign listed no...

 is used for the word "name", Egyptian rn. For the cartouche cut in half, the "half-cartouche hieroglyph", Gardiner's sign list
Gardiner's Sign List
Gardiner's Sign List is a list of common Egyptian hieroglyphs compiled by Sir Alan Gardiner. It is considered a standard reference in the study of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs....

ed no. V11, (the cartouche hieroglyph is V10), is used in the Egyptian language
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

for words meaning: "to cut, to divide, to separate"'