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Egyptian Cartouche

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The writing of the name of a pharaoh or a king powerful as he could be, was enclosed in an oval frame or band to signify his glorious title. The writing was in hieroglyphic symbols.

   The writing of the cartouche or shenu commenced at the start of the third dynasty (2658-2185BC). Before the names of the kings and gods were written in rectangular frames.

Later, as the Egyptians introduced more religious beliefs they started to write the names of royalty in oval frames, which represented the elliptical course of the sun around the world and defined the limits of the kingdom that it shined upon. The oval band or frame was set on a square base.  

A "cartouche" was found on Egyptian monuments and papyri. 'Cartouche' became so commonly used that it has remained the standard name for the shape around the name of an Egyptian pharaoh or queen.

In the NEW KINGDOM the cartouche was used as an amulet, evidently to prevent demons from devouring the name of the dead

'Cartouche' is actually a French word meaning 'gun cartridge'. When Napoleon's soldiers were in Egypt, they nicknamed this shape 'cartouche' because it reminded them of the shape of their gun cartridges, or bullets.




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