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"When the subject of hieroglyphics becomes better understood, and the world is capable of judging how much we owe to him, the wonderful ingenuity of Champollion will be appreciated; and the greatest praise we can bestow on him is confidently to pronounce, that time will do justice to his merits, and experience prove the truth of what inexperience now calls in question."
If we do not dwell upon the works of Rosellini, Salvolini, Lepsius, Bunsen, Wilkinson, Birch, and others, worthy colaborers or successors in the field which Champollion had opened, it is not from non-appreciation of their merits, but from want of the necessary space in which to do them justice. Suffice it, however, to say, that no point is, at this day, better established, from the labors of the learned, than that the inscriptions found on the decaying monuments and frail papyri of ancient Egypt, are, in many instances, perfectly intelligible; and it is perhaps not too much to hope, that tho day will come when men may read, in their own tongues, the translation of all.
The statement of an amusing and interesting result that followed upon Champollion's discovery of the reading of the hieroglyphics, will not inappropriately close our narrative of his important and extraordinary labors. Among the monuments which had, in an especial manner, attracted the notice of the French savans who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt, none had excited more learned controversy than two zodiacs, the one sculptured upon the ceiling of the temple of Dendera, and the other upon that of the temple at Esneh, in upper Egypt. For these monuments there was claimed an extraordinary antiquity, and it was confidently asserted that they completely exploded all Scriptural chronology. M. Jomard made them at least 3000 years old when the Christian era commenced; while M. Dupuis would not abate a second of 4000 years; and M. Gori was very sure they could not be younger than 17,000 years! "Like birds of the night," (says Osborn,) "hovering over, or perching upon, the uncouth remains of ancient superstition, they filled the air with their dismal forebodings of the downfall of Christianity, or with shrieks of laughter still more revolting, when they thought that their object was accomplished. All these, however, were soon to be put to flight by that of which they professed themselves to be all the while most devoted worshippers—the light of truth."
When Champollion, in the course of his researches into royal rings, came to read that upon the zodiac of Dendera, he found the title of Augustus Ccesar; while on that at Esneh, he read the name of Antoninus. That temple, therefore, which M. Dupuis had declared to be 4000 years older than the Christian era, proved to have been built about the time of its commencement; and the edifice at Esneh, which had been profoundly demonstrated to be 17,000 years old when the Saviour came, was shown to belong to a period 140 years after his advent. And thus were exposed the pretence of learning and the insolence of arrogance, on the part of a class of men who sought, by bold perversion and confident dogmatism, to distort all that Egypt might reveal, into testimony against the Bible. 4
Examples of Egyptian writing.—Hieroglyphic.—Hieratic.—Demotic.
Having, in the previous pages, endeavored to give to the general reader a brief outline, presenting an intelligible view of the chief features in the history of hieroglyphic interpretation; it only remains to complete this division of our task by an effort to illustrate, by examples, the subject of Egyptian writing. That some of the ancients were not entirely ignorant of the phonetic character of Egyptian writing is certain. We have no evidence, however, that any of them knew how to interpret it. Thus Pliny says, "for those sculptures and likenesses which we see, are Egyptian letters."" Porphyry, also, in the "Life of Pythagoras," states that the Egyptians had three different kinds of letters, epistolographical, hieroglyphical, and symbolical. But the most particular account is to be found in Clement of Alexandria. The passage is not without obscurity in some particulars, in others it is direct and plain. We give what seems to be the substance of his meaning, according to the interpretation of Bunsen, who has examined it with great critical care. The English version, as well as the original Greek, may be found in his first volume of "Egypt's place in the World's History." According to Clement, the Egyptians taught, first of all, the method of writing called the epistolographic; secondly, the hieratic, which the sacred scribes employ; and last of all the hieroglyphic. The epistolographic, according to the judgment of the learned, is the same that is sometimes called the enchorial, and sometimes, as by Herodotus and Diodorus, the demotic. It is necessary to speak of these separately.
* Etenim sculpture illee effigiesque, quas videmus, Egyptiffi sunt literae.
This was the original mode of Egyptian writing. It has been conjectured by some who have speculated on the origin of the art of writing, (and with how near an approximation to truth the reader can judge for himself,) that the earliest attempt at conveying ideas to the mind, by marks addressed to the eye, is to be found in what is usually termed "picture writing." That such a mode has been resorted to by savage nations, as well as by those more or less advanced in civilization, is undoubtedly true. We know, for instance, that among the Indians, as they are termed in our own country, their rude representations of men, and brutes, and other physical objects, delineated on bark or skins, have been used, and are still, to convey informa'tion that is intelligible to their own people. So, too, in Mexico, intelligence of the landing of Cortez was communicated to the capital, by this mode of writing. Indeed, among the Mexicans, it had been carried to an extent much greater than is usually supposed, and is worthy of a more attentive study than it has yet received. It may not be uninteresting to present the reader with a specimen. It is the record of a marriage.
Such events as are here commemorated, were usually brought about by an old woman, who was a species of marriage broker. Here she may be seen (T) carrying the bride (W) on her back to the house of the bridegroom, accompanied by four women (X Z) bearing torches. At the house the bride (L) and the bridegroom (M) are seated on a mat; they are tied together by the corners of their garments, and are distinguishable from each other by the fact of the man's sitting on a stool. Two old women (N V) are sitting at one end of the mat, and two old men (I R) at the other. These are the witnesses. After offering to their gods a perfume of copal, came the marriage feast; there are two kinds of meat (P Q.) and some pulse (S), and the cup out of which they were both to drink (A), is also delineated. The witnesses dined after the new married couple. Signs are seen coming from the mouths of the four witnesses; these are tongues, signifying speech.