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Riddle of pyramid's secret hieroglyphs solved
Last month we reported on some secret writing discovered in the Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, near Cairo. A robot with a camera went down a mysterious passage only eight inches wide and found some hieroglyphs daubed with red paint onto the floor of a secret chamber at the end of the tunnel.
Egyptologist Luca Miatello has deciphered the writing and says they're engineering marks. They make the number 121, which corresponds to the length in cubits of the so-called Queen's Chamber of the pyramid.
The numbers are written in hieratic. Ancient Egyptian writing had three forms. Proper hieroglyphs were the most formal style and the one we usually associate with ancient Egypt. Hieratic was a cursive style that was quicker and easier to write. It was usually used for religious texts but since a royal tomb was a highly sacred place, it's no surprise to find it here. Demotic was derived from hieratic and was used much later, after Egypt had lost most of its power and glory. All three styles are often termed "hieroglyphs".
The numbers in the pyramid are sloppy, as if written by some foreman who wasn't completely literate. Because of this, new interpretations of the writing will probably be published in the future.
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]