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I would like to come up with a guide to transcribe hieroglyphs in books into Unicode. How do I do that? First is Gardiner's list. But I would assume you simply read the hieroglyphs left to right, but it doesn't seem so in an example such as the following.

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It seems that you read recursively, from left to right, top to bottom. So it would be:

  • first square: Z1
  • second square: D21 Z1
  • third square: N35 (ignoring the brackets for some reason)
  • fourth square: O1, D21, X1
  • fifth square: G4/G17
  • sixth square: ? Z1
  • seventh square: G4/G17
  • eighth square? how to translate this one?

Basically wondering where I learn how to do this properly, or how to do this properly.

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It's a non-trivial process!

First, break the text into units. In this case, the units are the rows, with nice gaps between them.

Then you have to determine the overall direction of each unit. This is usually left-to-right or right-to-left; humans and animals in the text will look toward the starting point. In this case, the birds are all looking to the left, so you start at the left.

Once you've done that, break the text into blocks, from the appropriate starting point. When one glyph is above another, they go in the same block.

Finally, read the blocks one at a time, in the same order. Within each block, read from top to bottom. When you get to the end of your unit, go to the next unit, and repeat.

There's a lot more nuance than this, but this should be a good enough rule of thumb to get you started. If you actually want to learn to read hieroglyphs, I recommend James Peter Allen's Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. The book is unreasonably expensive, but it can be found pretty easily in libraries.

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  • Do you have an example off-hand of a nuanced one I could learn from? – Lance Pollard Sep 21 '19 at 4:19
  • @LancePollard Allen's Middle Egyptian. – Draconis Sep 21 '19 at 4:19
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    @LancePollard Some inscriptions are written right to left, or vertically; don't know of any diagonal. And yes, the brackets mark interpolations. – Draconis Sep 21 '19 at 5:18
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    @LancePollard "Then you have to determine the overall direction of each unit. This is usually left-to-right or right-to-left; humans and animals in the text will look toward the starting point. In this case, the birds are all looking to the left, so you start at the left." – Draconis Sep 21 '19 at 16:51
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    @LancePollard The general rule is, "humans and animals in the text will look toward the starting point". If the text starts at the left, humans and animals will look toward the left. If the text starts at the right, humans and animals will look toward the right. – Draconis Oct 3 '19 at 17:30

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