Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Decipher the language of ancient Egypt and learn what hieroglyphs can tell us about history, accompanied by an acclaimed Egyptologist.
Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 95.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Strong Foundational Course Succinctly: superb. Bob Brier is an amazing professor. He presents the material in such a way that it challenges but does not overwhelm you. His understanding of and passion for the subject matter are apparent - and it is contagious! I never thought I would learn so much in such a short period of time. To make the most of this course, get a notebook and construct a dictionary after each lecture. Also make tables for pronouns and gender, gods and math. These will help you study and retain what you have Learned. I have since purchased each of Dr. Brier's classes and they are all well worth the money. However, I think this is his best. It has been over half a year since I completed the class and have since gone on to further my studies in Middle Egyptian. I took the class for a novelty, but have turned into a passionate enthusiast. If you read these reviews, thank you very much, Dr. Brier!
Date published: 2021-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Descriptive & realistic My favorite professor is Dr. Bob Brier who teaches the Egyptian history classes and the Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyph class. He is informative and entertaining with a conversational delivery that leaves you in suspense, excited about each lesson. It is really difficult to stop watching him, he is so interesting--like a storyteller rather than a lecturing professor. Would you PLEASE have him do a "Great Tour" to Egypt covering the temples, tombs & sites along the Nile, or a class on Egyptian Art & literature. I have several hundred of your courses and to me he is the absolute best. His Egyptian History & Great Pharaohs are also superb.
Date published: 2020-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very fun and interesting The material in “Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs” is made very easy to absorb, maybe because the guidebook has more homework to be worked out on paper than any other Great Course I’ve enjoyed so far. Although the printed material seems to have just a few typographical errors, each lecture begins with a review of the solution for the previous lesson’s assignment. By about the fifth lecture I realized when I heard a pharaoh’s name I was sounding it out to visualize it in hieroglyphs. I pay much more attention to Ancient Egyptian inscriptions now, just curious to see how much I recognize. It’s enriching to acquire a better understanding of communication between people from a different place and time.
Date published: 2020-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Course emphasis on reading and writing hieroglyphs Although the professor is well versed and extremely encouraging, the course focus is teaching the skill (art?) of reading and writing hieroglyphs. The history and discovery of interpretation of hieroglyphs is covered but since this was not the primary focus, I was a little disappointed and spent some time fast forwarding through the “penmanship” parts of the lessons. That being said, I still feel the course was worth my time. Maybe the course should be titled “Reading & Writing Hieroglyphs.”
Date published: 2020-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Twenty years ago, in December 2000, my wife and I spent nearly a month in Egypt, traveling from Alexandria to Abu Simbel, gawking at temples and tombs along the way, totally clueless about the hieroglyphics we saw. Not long after, I bought a book, "How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself" by Mark Collier and Bill Manley (British Museum Press, 1988), but only got through the first chapter when boredom set in. I am here to tell you that there is not a boring moment in these 24 lectures. Professor Brier’s delivery, organization and enthusiasm make this course a delight to watch. I especially liked the lectures that addressed the grammar of suffix pronouns, tense, voice and negation. The course guidebook is great. My wife complained that I was cheating by reading the guidebook lesson before watching the lecture, but that helped me to follow Brier’s very smooth explanations during the translation exercises. As a side benefit, I sometimes consulted my Collier & Manley book for comparison on a few points of grammar and sentence structure. That helped the language concepts sink in. The big mystery for me is that the ancient Egyptians built structures of such size and symmetry with a numbering system that is almost as cumbersome as that adopted by the Romans. There must have been floor plans and elevation drawings, but how were dimensions calculated? My wife and I have taken about a dozen of The Great Courses while housebound, hiding from the COVID-19 threat. This course on Egyptian hieroglyphs is among the best of the lot. HWF, Mesa AZ.
Date published: 2020-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK BUT..... Bob starts off simple, but the big problem he is telling us at the start to get a grammar book that is over £100. No chance of me getting that. I suppose that is a warning sign really. Then tells us to get JSesh, which is free right. Yep, it is free, but it does not work, so it is useless. I put A in and got the vulture sign. Great you say, then I put in B, D, C, and got errors. So it is useless. Thie first lecture is a rehash of introduction to Egypt, which is ok, but if you bought that one, it is a bit repetitive with this course. Now we get to the alphabet, which is fine but it lost me when he kept mixing things up. He says to write your own vocabulary, great I thought, but he does not do it well for an English speaker: he wants you to put in words for Egyptian, which is counterproductive and confusing. It's just a teacher getting ahead of himself and never fully explaining what he means. Then he goes to explain grammar right at the start of the course. My head exploded by this esp. when he uses two versions of the rule of the T, which means a sentence end with it, except it does not always do that. So why would he confuse people right a the start? He also does not explain why the E is used between the words. it's just taken for granted. I hate English jargon, adjectives, nouns, words. Soon as he started to use them - my brain switched off. When he shows you how to draw the king hieroglyph, it all starts to go further downhill from there. His hand is in the way so you can't see what he is doing, as the camera is right above his hand. Also, the coursebook gives you examples right at the start of the book. For example, he says a word means this when you have no clue what he is on about. For example, the first letter as given as Y, but in the previous lessons, he says a double reed is a Y, not a singular one. Some may say he is just transliterating - so what - he is trying to teach us not confuse people and its stuff like this confused me greatly. Why add this complication at the start. So is the course a recommendation, a big no. it is if you're into English grammar, so you be at home with this. It is not a beginner's course and he is pushing really really expensive books. Shame really I thought it be good,.
Date published: 2020-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course about Egyptian Hieroglyphs I like this course because it is a didactic course and show you many aspects of the Egyptian culture.
Date published: 2020-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great way to learn I am enjoying this course, it is easy to follow and I can go at my own speed.
Date published: 2020-08-22
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Overview

Noted Egyptologist Bob Brier's Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs is the key to unlocking this ancient language. In 24 lectures, you'll cover the basics of reading and writing hieroglyphs, including vocabulary words, number systems, and sentence structure. You'll also translate hieroglyphs found on ancient sites and artifacts, such as the temples at Abu Simbel and the tomb of Tutankhamen.

About

Bob Brier
Bob Brier

To a great extent, the fun of history is in the details. Knowing what kind of wine Tutankhamen preferred makes him come alive.

INSTITUTION

Long Island University

Dr. Bob Brier is an Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Brier has twice been selected as a Fulbright Scholar and has received Long Island University's David Newton Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of his achievements as a lecturer. He has served as Director of the National Endowment for the Humanities' Egyptology Today program. In 1994, Dr. Brier became the first person in 2,000 years to mummify a human cadaver in the ancient Egyptian style. This research was the subject of a National Geographic television special, Mr. Mummy. Dr. Brier is also the host of The Learning Channel's series The Great Egyptians. Professor Brier is the author of Ancient Egyptian Magic (1980), Egyptian Mummies (1994), Encyclopedia of Mummies (1998), The Murder of Tutankhamen: A True Story (1998), Daily Life in Ancient Egypt (1999), and numerous scholarly articles.

By This Professor

Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Trailer

Why Egypt Needed Hieroglyphs

01: Why Egypt Needed Hieroglyphs

Before learning how to read and write hieroglyphs, you have to understand why ancient Egypt had to invent some form of writing. Central to this introductory lecture is a study of the Narmer Palette, whose writing would set standards and conventions that would be followed for 3,000 years.

33 min
The Ancient Egyptian Alphabet

02: The Ancient Egyptian Alphabet

It's time to learn the hieroglyphic alphabet. Professor Brier shows you how to write each hieroglyph and how to position them, including a stylized hand ("D"), a horned viper ("F"), and two hieroglyphs for which English doesn't have a letter. Then, transcribe your name from English to ancient Egyptian.

29 min
How a Language Becomes Lost

03: How a Language Becomes Lost

How is it possible for a language used by the world's greatest civilization to become lost? The answer, you'll learn, involves charting the rise and fall of ancient Egypt's spectacular kingdoms, as well as investigating the ways Christianity replaced hieroglyphs with Greek letters.

31 min
Napoleon in Egypt

04: Napoleon in Egypt

Explore how hieroglyphs, and the ability to read them, was rediscovered during Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. Along the way, you'll consider the birth of Egyptology and the role of ushabtis, statues of servants buried with prominent Egyptians so they could avoid having to work in the next world.

32 min
Early Attempts to Decipher the Rosetta Stone

05: Early Attempts to Decipher the Rosetta Stone

With the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by the French, the process of deciphering hieroglyphs could begin. But early attempts were thrown off by what Professor Brier calls the "Big Mistake". Here, examine the reasons why so many scholars made the error of treating hieroglyphs like picture writing.

32 min
William Bankes and the Keys to Decipherment

06: William Bankes and the Keys to Decipherment

Learn how several key discoveries showed how to decipher hieroglyphs the right way, and also shaped our understanding of ancient Egypt. First: a bilingual obelisk that extended the Egyptian alphabet. Second: the "Hall of Ancients", which contained the longest list of pharaohs ever discovered.

31 min
Jean-François Champollion Cracks the Code

07: Jean-François Champollion Cracks the Code

Meet Jean- François Champollion, the first man in 2,000 years to read hieroglyphs and correct the "Big Mistake". After studying Champollion's vital contribution to the field, you'll spend time learning how to read and write biliterals: hieroglyphs that represent two sounds, one after the other.CHECK THIS RECORD

31 min
Suffix Pronouns and the Hieroglyphs of Ptah

08: Suffix Pronouns and the Hieroglyphs of Ptah

In the first half of this lecture, learn how to work with suffix pronouns (which, unlike in English, are the same for possessive and nominative). Then, discover what hieroglyphs reveal about the role of the creator god Ptah in Egyptian religion-and his close connection with writing and words.CHECK THIS RECORD

32 min
The Immortal Scribe

09: The Immortal Scribe

First, continue working on suffix pronouns with several English-to-hieroglyph sentence translations. Then, unpack the hidden meaning of the scarab beetle hieroglyph (kheper). Finally, learn about the scribes responsible for writing everything from cattle inventories to Books of the Dead, then learn about the medium on which they wrote, papyrus.

31 min
Hieroglyphs and the Bible

10: Hieroglyphs and the Bible

After giving you a few more pointers on suffix pronouns (including an unusual feature of the Middle Egyptian language), Professor Brier invites you to do a little applied hieroglyphs. How does a little knowledge of hieroglyphs help us answer some biblical questions about iconic events from the book of Exodus?...

31 min
Dependent Pronouns and the Passive Voice

11: Dependent Pronouns and the Passive Voice

Dependent pronouns, as you'll learn, don't have to be added onto any other word; they stand alone and are usually the object of the verb. From there, you'll consider the first expedition to copy hieroglyphs (epigraphy), and learn about a current program designed to save inscriptions on fragile temple walls.

31 min
Past Tense and Adjectives

12: Past Tense and Adjectives

Start working with the past tense in your hieroglyphic sentences (the secret involves tacking a water sign onto a verb). Then, expand your Egyptian vocabulary to include new biliterals, as well as adjectives like "evil" and "excellent." Also, learn how to use adjectives as modifiers, predicates, and nouns....

28 min
New Ideograms Related to the Gods

13: New Ideograms Related to the Gods

From suns and pillars to flagpoles and scepters, uncover what the hieroglyphs of gods reveal about ancient Egyptian thought and belief. For example, flagpoles were the ideogram for "god" (pronounced netcher) and ram-headed scepters (pronounced was) were representations of power inspired by the god Amun....

31 min
Names of the Pharaohs

14: Names of the Pharaohs

Learn how the kings of Egypt wrote their names. Using the Sneferu stela as a guide, examine the development of a pharaoh's five royal titles: the "Horus" name, the "King of Upper and Lower Egypt" name, the "Two Ladies" name, the "Golden Horus" name, and the "Son of Re" name....

32 min
Ancient Egyptian Numbers

15: Ancient Egyptian Numbers

Learn the Egyptian way of writing whole numbers and fractions, which were used to keep track of everything from taxes to dates when the Nile would rise. Also, visit the mortuary temple of Ramses III, where a pile of hands reveals how many enemy soldiers were killed in battle....

31 min
The Egyptian Calendar

16: The Egyptian Calendar

Explore why the calendar was crucial to Egypt's success as a nation, and learn how the civilization divided a year into months and seasons based on the activity of the Nile River. Then, find out how Egyptologists use ancient Egyptian calendars to pinpoint dates....

29 min
Names of the Gods

17: Names of the Gods

By understanding hieroglyphic names of gods and goddesses, you can read the stories told on temple walls. Among the pantheon of deities you'll learn to recognize are Isis and Osiris, Atum (the first terrestrial god), and the earth and sky gods Geb and Nut....

31 min
Negation in Ancient Egyptian Sentences

18: Negation in Ancient Egyptian Sentences

How do you say "no" in ancient Egyptian? The answer, it turns out, involves knowing how to use (and draw) your arms. After practicing your skills at negation, you'll follow Professor Brier on a study tour of amulets (for both the dead and living) as "three-dimensional" hieroglyphs....

33 min
Reading Hieroglyphic Jewelry

19: Reading Hieroglyphic Jewelry

With your newfound knowledge of hieroglyphs, decipher what several pieces of exquisite ancient jewelry say - and why they're more than just pretty, decorative baubles. The jewels you examine include a pectoral worn by Queen Meret (used as political propaganda) and one worn by Princess Sat-Hathor (used for protection).

31 min
Palimpsests: When Scribes Make Mistakes

20: Palimpsests: When Scribes Make Mistakes

What happens when a scribe makes a mistake-especially when the hieroglyph is carved in stone? How do modern archaeologists know how to recognize errors? Using inscriptions on the Pyramid of Unas and at Abydos Temple, explore the topic of palimpsests, the writing of one text over another....

32 min
An Ancient Egyptian Prayer for the Dead

21: An Ancient Egyptian Prayer for the Dead

Enter the temples and tombs of the ancient Egyptians and explore some of the fascinating hieroglyphic prayers inscribed on their walls. Central to this lecture is a standard prayer for the dead that started in the Old Kingdom: the Hotep-di-nesu, which asked the king to grant an offering to Osiris....

33 min
Translating the Tomb of Perneb

22: Translating the Tomb of Perneb

Join Professor Brier for an in-depth tour of the Tomb of Perneb's hieroglyphs-specifically those in its chapel, or mastaba. What lies behind the "false door" common to chapels like this? Why were ka-priests so important to the afterlife of the wealthy?...

32 min
Translating Tutankhamen's Tomb

23: Translating Tutankhamen's Tomb

In the first of two lectures on the most famous find in all archaeology, learn the story of the excavation of King Tut's tomb. Then, translate some of the inscriptions on the gilded shrines in the Egyptian ruler's burial chamber (among them: messages by carpenters for use in construction)....

31 min
King Tut's Magic Mirror and Sarcophagus

24: King Tut's Magic Mirror and Sarcophagus

Decode and understand the inscriptions on two astonishing artifacts: a magic mirror used during Tutankhamen's lifetime and the lid of the pharaoh's sarcophagus. Then, conclude the course with suggestions on how to continue studying hieroglyphs, including scholarly resources and translation tips....

34 min