Cartouches are of an oval shape and encompass
the names of royal persons in hieroglyphic
inscriptions, thus further symbolising the pharaoh
as a ruler of all that the sun encircled.
Ancient Egyptians used writing to communicate
information about a person shown on a sculpture
or relief, naming such writing ‘divine word’
because they believed that Thoth, the god of
wisdom, had taught them how to write.
The modern term hieroglyphs means ‘sacred
carvings’ and was already used by ancient Greek
visitors to Egypt to describe the symbols that
they saw on tombs and temple walls.
The number of hieroglyphic signs gradually grew
to over 7000 in total, though not all of them were
used on a regular basis.
First developed in about 3250 BC, hieroglyphs
were still used in the early centuries of
Christianity but gradually became less and less
understood except by temple priests.
By the time Egypt officially became a Christian
country in the 4th century AD, hieroglyphs had
completely fallen out of use. The Egyptian
language continued to be spoken, but was now
written in an alphabetic script called Coptic.
When the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th
century AD, they introduced the Arabic form of
spoken and written language, which is still used
by Egyptians today.
The cartouche is of Ptolemy II. Philadelphus (285-
39.7cm (high) X 60.8cm (wide) X 2.8cm(depth)