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Write Your Name in Hieroglyphs
Students will study hieroglyphs then carve or mold their names phonetically in hieroglyph plaques.

Gwen Bouler and Kim Radden, Glazer Elementary School, Detroit


  • large hieroglyph charts, posted
  • modeling material (we used Klean Klay)
  • tempera paint
Have on hand:
small paint brushes

Glazer Elementary is a year-round school and during the summer of 1996 the entire school studied ancient Egypt. This project is one of many activities we did, and is suitable for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. We needed at least 2 50 minute class periods to complete this project.

Step 1 -- Sketching Name in Hieroglyphs
After discussing hieroglyphs using many resources [see Preparation and Resources], students practiced saying and writing their names, phonetically, in hieroglyphs, using pencil and paper, and referring to hieroglyph charts, or using commercially made stencils.

Each name can be checked by having the student say each sound as he or she points to the hieroglyph symbol; there may be more than one way to write a name.

Step 2 -- Position of Characters
Next, point out that names could be written horizontally from left to right, as we do, or from right to left ! Names could also be written vertically, from the top down (but not from the bottom up). If a cartouche is used, the name is read towards the tied end, so that the last symbol of the name is at the tied end. Students may want to write their names in paper again, in one of these configurations.

Royal names were enclosed in a cartouche, a round or oval-shape. The cartouche, formed by a tied rope that was seen as endless, had a symbolic meaning of eternal life.

The hieroglyphs are read toward the tied end.

Use this vertical cartouche if you want your name to readfrom top to bottom.

Use this horizontal cartouche if you want your name to read from leftto right.

Use this horizontal cartouche if you want your name to read from rightto left.

Note: Hieroglyphs should be "reversed" to face rightif you choose this direction.

Step 3 -- Molding a Name
Each student should have enough clay to make a flat oval about 3-4 inches long and 2 inches wide. Using the end of a paint brush, or similar tool, students can carve into the material removing excess clay, referring to their drawing. If they choose to make a royal name, they should start by carving a border line around the edge of the oval shape, and cross the lines for a "tie" at the end of their name. Any mistakes can be reworked while the material is still wet. After the material has dried overnight names can be painted to enhance their presentation.

Step 3 Alternate plaster mold
Or, students can pour plaster (according to package directions) into milk cartons, mini loaf pans, or other "recycled" containers to the depth of 1/2" to 3/4". After the plaster has set up overnight the container can be cut away, and the smooth side of the plaster can be used. The hieroglyph can be first drawn on in pencil, then carved away with a pointed object such as a pencil or brush tip. The plaster can be painted, also.

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