I : Orientation of the signs
comparison of different hieroglyphic texts shows that the
signs were not always written in the same direction. Hieroglyphic
texts could indeed be written both in rows and columns, from
right to left or from left to right. Even within the same
block of text, it was possible for one part to be written
in columns and the other in rows.
this kind of flexibility, however, it is necessary to first
establish the orientation of the signs and where to start
reading. As a general rule, signs representing people or animals
all look towards the beginning of the text. Thus, if the signs
in a text all "look" to the left, one should start
reading from the left to the right, and vice versa. Also as
a rule the signs are written from top to bottom.
following example uses a piece of fictive text to show the
different orientations of hieroglyphic signs.
texts with C and
are written in columns, with a vertical line dividing the
different columns. The signs in text C
look to the left so again the
text is to be read from left to right (and from top to bottom),
whereas the signs in text D
looks to the right.
kind of flexibility allowed a symmetrical construction of
texts on the walls of temples and tombs. The example below
demonstrates how symmetry was obtained while writing on the
lintel of a door.
text in the second row starts in the middle of the lintel
runs to the sides. Thus the text to the left is read from
the middle to the left and the text to the right is read from
the middle to the right.
additional benefit of the way signs could be oriented is that
it is also possible to add text to an image of a person, a
god, an animal or even an object and give it the same orientation.
This way, the text, acting as a legend to a representation
is linked more closely to the image. In scenes with two figures
facing each other, the respective texts of the figures face
each other as well. It thus becomes easier to distinguish
between the legends and speeches of different actors in a
scene and to find the starting point of each actors