A cartouche is a symbolic representation of a royal name, written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Each cartouche contains several symbols enclosed within an oblong “frame”. They first appeared during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu in the Fourth Dynasty.

A cartouche would include a ruler’s nomen, the name he received at birth. It would also enclose his prenomen, his throne name.

During certain periods of Egyptian history, amulets were created in the form of a cartouche. These amulets were then placed in the tomb for the protection of the king. These artefacts now help archaeologists to date tombs and their contents. At other times in history, the name was left off the amulet. Whoever had the amulet would hold power over the person whose name was inscribed on the amulet.

Egyptian hieroglyphics are the world’s oldest known system of writing. Some symbols represent syllables of spoken speech; other symbols represent ideas.

Reading hieroglyphics can be a challenge. Many of the symbols used do not represent those particular objects. To add to the confusion, they could be written horizontally or vertically, and right-to-left or left-to-right.

When deciphering this kind of text, look for a symbol that has a definite front and back, like a person or animal. Generally, these will face towards the start of the sentence, helping you know which direction to read. If that picture is a seated man facing to the left would be read from left to right (remember, he’s facing towards the sentence’s beginning!). Further, that initial hieroglyph also faces the same way as the subject of the picture described.

In 1799, the Rosetta Stone was discovered. This stone was inscribed with three languages – hieroglyphics, demotic Egyptian, and Ancient Greek. They turned out to be translations of the same document, providing valuable data for researchers.

Here are the cartouches for three of Egypt’s most famous rulers – the Pharaoh Ramses II; the Boy King, Tutankamun; and Pharaoh Cheops, mighty builder of pyramids.

Ramses II Cartouche
King Tutankhamun
King Cheops

Do you have a burning desire to learn hieroglyphics? Do you yearn to impress your friends with secret messages? This hieroglyphic phonetic alphabet can help you get started on your journey of discovery.