Hieroglyphs Facing Right

Limestone, pigment
First Intermediate Period, Dynasties 9-10, ca. 2213-2010 BCE
Dendera, Tomb of Merery, EEF, 1897-8
Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund, OIM 4953
Photo ©Joan Ann Lansberry, 2010

Order and Arrangement of Hieroglyphic Signs
"Hieroglyphs could be written from right to left or from left to right. Although the usual and dominant direction of writing was from right to left, signs were commonly written in the opposite direction to create symmetrical bands of inscriptions on statue bases and architectural..."

"In this inscription, all the signs with an obvious orientation (the owl, the human leg and the seated figure) face to the right, indicating that the text was written and read from right to left."

To further illustrate this, let's examine the text in Horemheb's tomb. Many parts of his tomb were not finished in time for the funeral, so we can see the working progress. The first limner sketched basic positions in red, and the black limner refined and corrected the first sketch:

Oops! Bad Bird!
(Photo credit for this photo © William Petty)

Back to Merery's fragment:

Photo ©Joan Ann Lansberry, 2010

"The signs are read in the following order. Signs 3-4 have been reversed to make a more attractive arrangement and to save space. Signs 8-9 are in reverse order to give sign 9 (the word 'god') honorific precedence over sign 8 (the word 'servant' [of].

"The inscription is a list of titles of a man named Merery, which include Sole [Companion], Lector Priest, Overseer of the Prophets, and Herdsman [of Cattle]." (Text in quotes is from museum info cards.)