Egyptian Hieroglyph Man with a Laptop

Frédéric Grosshans via Unicode unicode at
Thu Feb 13 09:33:43 CST 2020

Le 12/02/2020 à 23:30, Michel Suignard a écrit :
> Interesting that a single character is creating so much feedback, but 
> it is not the first time.
Extrapolating from my own case, I guess it’s because hieroglyphs have a 
strong cultural significance — especially to people following unicode 
encoding — but that very few are qualified enough to emit a judgement, 
except maybe for this character.

> It is true that the glyph in question was not in the base 
> Hieroglyphica glyph set (that is why I referenced it as an 
> 'extension'). Its presence though raises an interesting point 
> concerning abstraction of Egyptian hieroglyphs in general. All 
> Egyptian hieroglyphs proposals imply some abstraction from the 
> original evidences found on stone, wood, papyrus. At some point you 
> have to decide some level where you feel confident that you created 
> enough glyphs to allow meaningful interaction among Egyptologists. 
> Because the set represents an extinct system you probably have to be a 
> bit liberal in allowing some visual variants (because we can never be 
> completely sure two similar looking signs are 100% equivalent in all 
> their possible functions in the writing system and are never used in 
> contrast).
This is clearly a problem difficult to tackle, with both extinct and 
logographic script, and hieroglyphics is both. It is obvious to me (and 
probably to anyone following unicode encoding) that the work you have 
been doing over the last few tear is a very difficult one. By the way, 
you expalin this approach very well explained on page 6, when you take 
the “disunification” on *U+14828 N-19-016 and the already encoded 
U+1321A N037A (Which would be N-19-017)
> These abstract collections have started to appear in the first part of 
> the nineteen century (Champollion starting in 1822). Interestingly 
> these collections have started to be useful on their own even if in 
> some case the main use of  parts is self-referencing, either because 
> the glyph is a known mistake, or a ghost (character for which 
> attestation is now firmly disputed). For example, it would be very 
> difficult to create a new set not including the full Gardiner set, 
> even if some of the characters are not necessarily justified. To a 
> large degree, Hieroglyphica (and its related collection JSesh) has 
> obtained that status as well. The IFAO (Institut Français 
> d’Archéologie Orientatle) set is another one, although there is no 
> modern font representing all of it (although many of the IFAO glyphs 
> should not be encoded separately).
I  see this as variant of the “round-trip compatibility” principle of 
unicode adapted to ancient scripts, where the role of “legacy standards” 
is often taken by old scholarly litterature.

> There is obviously no doubt that the character in question is a modern 
> invention and not based on historical evidence. But interestingly 
> enough it has started to be used as a pictogram with some content 
> value, describing in fact an Egyptologist. It may not belong to that 
> block, but it actually describes an use case and has been used a 
> symbol in some technical publication.
I think the main problem I see with this character is that it seems to 
be sneaked in the main proposal. The text of the proposal seems to imply 
that the charcters proposed where either in use in ancient egypt or 
correspond to abstractions used by modern (=Champollion and later) 
egyptologists intended to reflect them.

This character does not fit in this picture, but that does not mean it 
does not belong to the hieroglyphic bloc: I think modern use of 
hieroglyphs (like e.g. the ones described in Hieroglyphs For Your Eyes 
Only: Samuel K. Lothrop and His Use of Ancient Egyptian as Cipher, by 
Pierre//, 2014) 
should use the standard unicode encoding. There is a precedent in 
encoding modern characters in an extinct script with the encoding of 
Tolkienian characters U+16F1 to U+16F3 in the Runic block.

But I feel the encoding of such a character needs at the very to be 
explicitly discussed in the text of the proposal., e.g. by giving 
evidence of its modern use.
> Concerning:
> The question is then: was this well known about people reading 
> hieroglyphs who checked this proposal? If not, it is very difficult to 
> trust other hieroglyphs, especially if the first explanation is the good
> one: some trap characters could actually look like real ones. Except 
> of course if we accept some hieroglyphs for compatibility purpose, but 
> this is not mentioned as a valid reason in any propoal yet.
> > In my opinion, this is an invalid character, which should not be
> > included in Unicode.
> I agree.
> You are allowed to have your own opinion, but I can tell you I have 
> spent a lot of times checking attestation from many sources for the 
> proposed repertoire. It won’t be perfect, but perfection (or a closer 
> reach) would probably cost decades in study while preventing current 
> research to have a communication platform. I don’t have a strong 
> opinion about that character, but I would be very disappointed if 
> people stop the review for what is a minor issue in the overall scheme.
I feel the question is not this character itself, but what it means 
about the process. There are several possibilities: either

1. The persons working on encoding did not notice it had anything 
special at all, and intended to encode it like all the others of the 

2. It was known to be a specific modern case (maybe along with other 
less obvious hieroglyphs)

Given your quick answer, together with the specificities of its inputs 
in the data base, I do not think it was case 1. If it were, it would 
have meant that there are probably many other problems in the proposed 
character set, which are less obvious but would pose problems to 
egyptologists after encoding.

If it is 2, the character was recognized by you and the other 
participants of the encoding to be a modern one, the problem is 
different and easier to solve, either by removing it or by making a 
special case in your proposal for its encoding (together with similar 
modern characters, if they are present in your proposal)

   Best regards,


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