The Mastabas of Qar and Idu G 7101 and 7102 - Digitally Revised and Enhanced Edition

Part II - Idu G 7102

Section 2.3 - Facade - Remarks on the Transliteration and Translation of the Text
Feb 13, 2019

Written by Ariel W. Singer, Egyptologist, PhD candidate at the University of Chicago and Epigrapher at the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

The mastaba of Idu (G 7102), architrave, detail (orthomosaic based on photos by Marleen De Meyer)

Simpson’s original publication of the texts found in the tombs of Qar and Idu was quite good, so when we began discussing how and what to update for the digital version, there was a consensus that the changes that needed to be made were more cosmetic than structural. We also immediately realized that a complete update of all the inscriptions would not be feasible within our time frame, so we opted to do a test case using the architrave of Idu, while the rest remains in Simpson’s original format for now. Additionally, we were fortunate that the texts from Qar and Idu have been entered into the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae (TLA), providing another source of reference.


The translation of the original did not need much modification, but there were a few issues that we felt should be addressed. Our first choice was to add new footnotes wherever we made more than a minor cosmetic change to the Simpson translation, with a note as to the original and why we felt a modification was justified. We also opted to lean towards more literal translations in general, and to include parenthetical literal translations of titles when appropriate. Finally, we decided that it was best to render ancient Egyptian words in italics (such as the concept of ma’at), but this may be subject to change as we move forward.


The original publication already included a very useful transliteration, and we knew this needed to be preserved in the digital version, but the question was, how to update it to a more modern system? There were several factors to be addressed, some easier than others. The easiest decision was to not use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters to reflect the transliterated text, since we now have a largely functional Unicode font system that allows us to type ꜣ, ꜥ, ḥ, ḫ, ẖ, š, ṯ, and . However, there still remained a number of issues, such as how to render the yod (with an ı͗, or a j), what to use to differentiate the suffix pronoun (a dot,, or =), how to identify the plural (with .w, and/or .pl), etc. The original publication used one of the standard systems for the time, with the dot as the only separator (so for the suffix and any verbal endings), but nothing to delineate the feminine t ending, the plural ending, nor any other grammatical indicators. Furthermore, the q was written with a , which is still used in modern transliteration, but not nearly as frequently as it once was.

Another issue we discussed was that, since the texts from Qar and Idu are in the TLA with its specific format, we didn’t want to re-invent the wheel, and since the TLA is such a phenomenal resource, we wanted to leave open the possibility of a connection with their work further down the road. As there were so many useful sources of input, and we wanted to keep things as clean and simple as possible, we eventually decided that the best course of action was to use the new TLA format. Some of the specifics of this are: the use of the j for yod, and thefor the indicator of a weak verb, the use of the dot before verbal endings, markers of plurality, and gendered adjectives, the comma before other grammatical endings and the feminine t of a noun, the .w and pl. for the plural, the = before a suffix pronoun, and dashes between words that are part of longer known phrases.

As an example, the first line of the architrave of Idu was written by Simpson: Ḥtp di nswt ḥtp di Inpw ḫnty sḥ-nṯr tpy ḏw.f imy wt nb tꜣ ḏsr nb ḳrs nfr m ẖryt-nṯr ḥtp di Wsir ḳrs.t(i).f nfr m is.f nt(y) m imnt ḫp.f ḥr wꜣwt nfrt, and the modified transliteration reads: ḥtp-ḏı͗ nswt ḥtp-ḏı͗ Jnp,w ⸢ḫnt,(j)-zḥ-nṯr⸣ tp(,j)-ḏw=f jm,j-wt nb-tꜣ-ḏsr nb-qrs-nfr-m-ẖr(,t)-nṯr ḥtp-ḏı͗ Wsı͗r qrs.t=f nfr m jz=f n,t(j) m jmn.t ḫpı͗=f ḥr wꜣ,t.(pl.) nfr.(w)t.

There are still many debates to be had over the best way to update the transliteration—primarily, what is important to indicate within it and what is too much, making the text difficult to read. Our intent was not to resolve all of these issues, but rather to have a discussion and come up with a workable prototype for our project.

We would like to provide the TLA link of Idu's texts for our readers’ reference (you need to have access to Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae).

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