Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pictographic Representationalism in both Egyptian Art and in Textual Hieroglyphics: No Distinction between "Textual" Characters and "Art". Pictures Large and Small.

The link above presents is an interesting analogy for what I am trying to say, when I say that pictures tell stories.  Here, in this article, Google uses vector space mathematics and other advanced technologies to automatically translate what is going on in a picture into words in the English language.  In the article, we see a picture of people in a marketplace, selling fruits and vegetables.  Google's automatic caption describes precisely what they are doing.  Similarly, Joseph Smith's explanations of pictures in facsimiles and hieroglyphs in text are the same exact thing.  But all of the explanations are different than the "mundane" or Egyptological or "mechanical" translation of the hieroglyphs.  This all has to do with the ability to use things that are more abstract to represent other things and concepts associated with them.  So, if a theme is evident in a certain hieroglyph that represents a concept, and that theme is evident in something from Joseph Smith's explanations that is represented by a hieroglyph in one of the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, then, indeed, a certain hieroglyph was a valid "container" for the "value" assigned to it.  And the same is so with the little pictures from the Sensen Papyrus that are usually only thought of as "textual" characters.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers provide explanations for some of those.

And so, as I have stated over and over there is obviously one way to translate things, which could be called a "mundane" or "regular" way, which is a predictable, mechanical way to translate something.  And then there are things that are art forms that intentionally use things differently, that assign meanings to pictures in more creative ways.  It is these other creative ways that are at the heart of everything on this blog.

As some scholars have written:

Egyptian hieroglyphic was at base a pictographic system.  All of its signs represented some object in the ancient Egyptian world, whether natural, man-made or conceptual.  As such, they occasionally reflected historical changes in the objects they depicted:  for example, in the form of weapons such as daggers and axes.  As elements of a writing system, however, hieroglyphs incorporated several degrees of abstraction from this underlying reality.

Each sign could be used as a logogram [a sign representing a word or phrase] or ideogram [a sign representing an idea of a thing] for individual words or concepts:  for instance, the picture of a dagger, for "dagger," or that of a man falling, for the notion "to fall."  Many hieroglyphs could also be employed as phonograms [sound-symbols] to represent sounds of the language rather than (or in addition to) words or concepts.  This latter function made it possible to write words or concepts that would otherwise be difficult to depict ideographically.  As phonograms, hieroglyphs represented one to three consonants; in common with later Semitic scripts such as Arabic and Hebrew, Egyptian writing reflected the consonantal skeleton of a word, ignoring the vowels.  Triconsonantal [otherwise called triliteral, or three-consonantal] phonograms [or sound-symbols] were largely associated with single lexical items and their derivations, and as such were essentially logographic.  Those representing one or two consonants, however, were used to write, not only words associated with the hieroglyphic object, but also unrelated words containing the same one or two consonants.  Thus, the picture of a tree branch was used not only as the ideogram for ht "wood" but also in writing words such as nht "successful" and htht "throughout."

The uniliteral [one-or-uni-consonantal] signs were the most frequent of all hieroglyphs, amounting to an "alphabet" of Egyptian's twenty-four consonants.  Nonetheless, Egyptian hieroglyphic never made the transition to a single alphabetic system.  In the standard orthography of the Middle Kingdom (early second millennium BC), most words were written with one to six signs, biliteral [two-or-bi-consonantal] or triliteral [three-or-tri-consonantal] phonograms usually being "complemented" by uniliteral signs, and were often marked at the end by an ideogram serving as "determinative" to specify the conceptual class of the word:  for example, the sequence n + BRANCH + h + t + MAN BRANDISHING A STICK for nht "successful, victorious."   (The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, edited by Neil Asher Silberman, Alexander A. Baue, p. 403, emphasis added)

So as you can see, the pictographic/pictorial nature of hieroglyphs is absolutely clear here.  Though many of them were used as phonograms or textual characters, the basis of their pictographic nature is still crystal clear.  An Egyptologist, Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, wrote:

How can we be sure that a symbolic meaning, identified by us, held significance for the ancient Egyptians?  The Egyptologist Berry Kemp . . . remarks:  "If we suppose for a moment, that we could make direct contact with the ancient builders and ask them if this [interpretation] is correct, we might obtain a yes or no answer.  But we might also find them answering:  'We hadn't thought of that before, but its true none the less. . . .'"  Thanks to fluidity of Egyptian theology, which allowed and encouraged free association of ideas the Egyptians could well have answered in the manner Kemp suggests.  The scope for misinterpretation, therefore, in ancient times as well as the present can be considerable  . . . Symbols can in any case seem almost to have lives of their own.  Their meanings may change over time, and it does not always follow that the symbolic significance of a given element in one composition will be identical in another work of earlier or later date.  Symbols in Egyptian art may also exhibit different meanings in different contexts in the same period of time . . . [I]n certain cases where context does not render a clear choice we may wonder what the specific significance of such a symbol might be--or if there could be some kind of generic symbolism meant to embrace any or all of these possible ideas.  The Egyptians themselves were certainly conscious of the ambiguity in their own symbolism and even seem to have encouraged it . . . [T]here is often a range of possible meanings for a given symbol.  While we may select a specific interpretation that seems to best fit the context, other symbolic associations may also be involved.  This is not to say that Egyptian symbolism is either inchoate or inconsistent, simply that a flexible approach must be maintained in attempting to understand its workings. (Richard H. Wilkinson, PhD, Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, pp. 11-13, bold emphasis added)

This ambiguity is precisely what I am talking about when I speak of abstractions in other blog posts.  I mean to say that there are literal meanings for what a hieroglyph is a picture of, and then there are a range of meanings that it can also represent, especially if it is being used pictographically, or in some other context that is not precisely the regular way that it is just "read" as text.  For example, the same author went on to say:

Symbolism of form may be expressed at "primary" and "secondary" levels of association . . . In primary, or direct, association the form of an object suggests concepts ideas, or identities with which the object is directly related.  So in many works, an object associated with a specific deity thus suggests that god or goddess--or by extension, a concept connected with that deity . . . (ibid., pp. 16-17, bold emphasis added)

At the primary level, the symbolism is direct and objects are shown in the forms they are meant to represent.  Thus, the djed pillar, an ancient symbol associated with the god Osiris and sometimes said to represent the backbone of the god, symbolized both the deity and the concept of support and duration . . . (ibid., p. 30, bold emphasis added)

So, if I say that the concept of creation is a secondary intent evident from the hieroglyph for the god Khnum in Book of Abraham Facsimile #2, because Khnum is connected with the concept of creation, (just like Osiris is connected with the concept of support and duration), then it makes perfect sense that an ancient Egyptian would use the hieroglyph of Khnum to represent something else connected with the concept of creation:  Kolob.  Do you see where I am going with this?  And this is not alien to Egyptology at all.  This is a PhD Egyptologist that is writing in these quotes.  Furthermore, remember how I pointed out that the rope coil hieroglyph has a visual affinity to the Egyptian lotus hieroglyph, and both represent Abraham?  Remember how I pointed out how the Baboons representing Kli-Flos-Is-Es or Thoth have a visual affinity to the foot hieroglyph, which is the uniliteral letter B in the Egyptian Alphabet?  And remember how I pointed out how the Khnum hieroglyph has a visual affinity to the heiroglyph for "woman," (B1 on Gardiner's sign list), which the Kirtland Egyptian Papers say represents Kolob?  Indeed, this phenomenon is thoroughly Egyptological.  The same Dr. Wilkinson writes:

Secondary symbolic association occurs where significant forms are represented indirectly in Egyptian art.  Here forms are used which suggest the shape of something else which has symbolic meaning.  this level of association is especially common in amulets such as the cowrie shell--which was used as a symbol of sexuality, because it resembled the female genitalia--or the clenched hand, which was also a symbol of the female principle or of sexual union.  In a similar manner, amulets depicting a bunch of grapes are known to be symbolic of the heart and thus life itself because of their similarity in shape (as well as their color and the blood-like juice of the grape). (ibid., p. 31, bold emphasis added)

Dr. Wilkinson admits that even though Champollion demonstrated the phonetic nature of the Egyptian written language, later on, they have come to recognize just how symbolic and representational the hieroglyphs still are in various contexts:

. . . [T]he hieroglyphic signs seen and copied by explorers and travelers were believed to be purely symbolic in nature--a mysterious picture writing containing the mystical or spiritual secrets of a forgotten age--and even as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century many eminently learned men attempted to see the most absurd symbolic meanings in the ancient signs.  Not until Jean Francois Champollion and his immediate successors finally demonstrated the true nature of the Egyptian script in the early nineteenth century did its all-important phonetic aspect become clear enough that the actual meanings of the inscriptions could begin to be recovered.  Yet ironically enough . . . it is only with the understanding gained in the era of modern Egyptology that we have come to realize that the Egyptians frequently did use their hieroglyphic signs symbolically in certain contexts--and especially in the construction of their works of art.  (ibid., p. 148, bold emphasis added)

Dr. Wilkinson shows how the characters themselves, even textual hieroglyphic characters took on a life of their own in the minds of the Egyptians.  They were magical to them.  And there was no distinction in their minds between the nature of art work in large scale representations on whole panels in tombs, in three-dimensional art in sculpture, or the characters in a text.  The SAME EXACT PRINCIPLES were at work in ALL OF THE CHARACTERS, and all of the pictures:

In short the hieroglyphic signs were themselves powers with which to be reckoned.  In fact, the Egyptians' hieroglyphs far transcended a simple system of communication and were regarded as symbolic entities which could function magically not only within written texts but also in many aspects of what we, today consider artistic representations.  It was not coincidental, therefore that the Egyptains used the same word to refer to both their hieroglyphic writing and the drawing of their artworks, and it was often the same scribe who produced both.  The noted historian of Egyptian art Cyril Aldred stressed this fact when he wrote that ". . . once a scribe had learnt to draw the full range of . . . [hieroglyphic] signs with requisite skill he had become ipso facto an artist, since the composition of his pictures is the assemblage of a number of ideographs with some interaction between them."   This is just as true of three-dimensional works of art as it is of paintings and drawings.  As Champollion realized some one hundred and seventy years ago, a statue is often "in reality . . . only a single glyph, a veritable character of written script."  This use of the hieroglyphic signs in Egyptian paintings and sculptures is sometimes merely the result of the artist following the familiar and accepted forms of the written script, and may have no special significance attached to it.  In other cases, however, "embedded" hieroglyphs may convey a specific idea or message and the individual hieroglyphic elements of these representations must be recognized and "read" like the signs of an inscription, if their intended meaning is to be grasped.  The hieroglyphic signs may appear overtly in a work of art, at what we might call a primary level of depiction, or they may be included more subtly, at a secondary level.  (ibid., p. 151, bold emphasis added)

While Egyptian writing made use of all these different forms of expression in text and inscriptions, exactly the same communication principles were chosen when hieroglyphic forms were used in the construction of large-scale representations. (ibid., p. 157, bold emphasis added)

As we see, even the largest representations were supposed to be READ.  Indeed, pictures tell a story.  So, as I said before, the representations in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham had their explanations provided.  And the KEP is the same exact phenomenon for the characters from the Sensen Papyrus text that were JUST AS MAGICAL, IN THE MINDS OF THE EGYPTIANS AS THE CHARACTERS IN THE PICTURES.  They were JUST AS PICTOGRAPHIC.  Dr. Wilkinson goes on:

At the secondary level of depiction, objects or people may spell out a symbolic message by being represented so as to suggest the form of hieroglyphic signs . . . Egyptian paintings and sculptures may thus contain, or even be wholly composed of, hieroglyphic forms, and the interaction between writing and pictorial representation was one of major symbolic importance.  In fact the hieroglyphic signs form the very basis of Egyptian iconography, which was concerned with the function of making specific symbolic statements through pictorial rather than written means.  The embedded or "encoded" hieroglyphic forms also frequently interact to some degree with the texts or inscriptions with which they are associated . . .  (ibid., p. 152, bold emphasis added)

Hieroglyphics were encoded in the pictures, just like in Facsimile 1, where the figure of Osiris/Abraham is a hieroglyphic for the idea of "to pray."  As I said in many blog posts, the whole Sensen papyrus was utilized as symbolic representations outside of the context of the Egyptological text that it translates to.  Each individual character was used symbolically on its own in this other context.  As I said, these characters were representational of themes.  They did not constitute a text in this context:

In other cases, the interaction is merely a thematic one with the embedded hieroglyphic form being connected with the associated text in only a very general way.  For example, a number of vignettes in the New Kingdom funerary papyri depict the deceased standing before the hieroglyph hut signifying "mansion," sometimes with the sign for "great" added to the picture it indicate "great mansion"--an epithet used of the tomb chapel.  Here, the written hieroglyph, made large, functions as part of the representation (in case, the tomb) which illustrates the theme of the text with which it appears  . . . [T]he pictorial nature of the script was also exploited in a number of ways in hieroglyphic inscriptions.  Because hieroglyphics may be written left to right or right to left, for example, individual signs may be turned to face each other by drawing one of them in the opposite direction to the rest of the writing in instances where this arrangement would suggest some kind of interaction between the two figures, or be symbolically significant in some other way.  A hieroglyphic text may thus be overlaid with representational information, just as representations may be given hieroglyphic meaning.  As the German Egyptologist Wolfgang Schenkel has shown in some cases, such interactions are truly "displays of pure virtuosity"--a fact which is no less true of the Egyptian's use of their hieroglyphs in representational contexts.  Because of the particularly flexible nature of the hieroglyphic system of writing, the symbolic use of hieroglyphs in representational works of art may occur in a number of ways.  The hieroglyphic signs essentially carried information of two types--sounds which could be used to write words phonetically, and visual images which could be used to portray objects and ideas pictorially.  The hieroglyph which depicted a reed leaf, for example, could signify the sound of the Egyptian word for reed (i), which might be used to write other words which contained the sound, or it could be used pictorially to signify the reed itself.  The hieroglyphic writing of most words was usually accomplished by the use of signs of both types of value, combining a phonetic spelling of the word with a pictorial "determinative" indicating the kind of thing being represented.  But the phonetic and pictographic values of the signs could be utilized in different ways, both in writing words and in creation of two- and three- dimensional works of art . . . (ibid., p. 154-155, bold and underline emphasis added)

It is interesting that Wilkinson is saying that the reed symbol, which is the letter I (Uniliteral) in the Egyptian alphabet, could also pictographically signify a reed.  That is precisely what I have been saying here over and over again in this blog.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers/Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar documents use the reed symbol pictographically to represent something associated with a reed, the Land of Reeds, which was Karduniash/Chalsidohiash, the land of the Chaldees.  The ancient name of the place was Kiengi, meaning land of reeds.  Everything I have ever said in this blog is 100% consistent with these quotes from this Egyptologist.  It is not strange at all from an Egyptological point of view that these characters in the text were being used in a representational context, just like the characters in the pictures in the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham were being used.  These characters were magical to the Egyptians.  They could accomplish magical transformations with them into works of art that are mind-boggling.  So it is not me that is out of touch with Egyptology when I have suggest these things.  It is my detractors.  Everything that I have said is 100% consistent with known Egyptological principles for both pictures and text characters, because there is no distinction between them.  They are all pictures, and they are all textual, regardless of size.  The same principles are used from the smallest to the largest.  The Sensen papyrus IS the Book of Abraham, because of pictographic/thematic representationalism.  What I am suggesting in this blog is not at all out of line from what all of this evidence is showing.