Mummy Box Hieroglyphs

William Barnet shared this work with me months ago and I’m finally entering this valuable info on it’s own page!  Mr. Barnet’s experience with these special decoding skills are very extensive.  Having degrees in history from Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA and a BA in Art History from UC Santa Cruz.  Then spending 30 years working as a librarian at UCSC’s humanities library and continuing in hobby form to this day, he’s well qualified to do so!  I hope to add some pictures and links to the information referenced in this doc.  Stay Tuned for that.  Have fun looking through all of this extremely interesting info on what these hieroglyphs actually meant to say.  We have the impression that the Milton Bradley team might have know what they were doing as within this royal name cartouche, he 

has his own name!  Thanks again William!

“Dear Rich ,
Hello from an old fan of Milton Bradley games.  I remember playing my best friend’s game shortly after it came out,  and the Egyptian theme and talking mummy really stayed with me,  dormant for forty years. Out of curiosity, my friend and I played the instruction record on his mini-turntable so we could catch all of the imaginative captions and listen more carefully to their weird sound effects in the background.  Now a historian and Wargamer, I recently looked up the game online on a whim and I saw your informative and dazzling website and decided the cost wasn’t too much to relive a fond memory. Many of the hieroglyphs and much of the artwork for the game are authentic and derived from the treasures of Tutankhamen’s tomb. I originally had MB’s Seance as a kid but wished it had been VotM instead!

Thank you for offering a fun trip back into Egypt’s past and into my own past as well,
William Barnet”

The 4 Precious Jewel TemplesThe Sphinx, the god Ra-Horakhty, Thoth and the god Anubis are all faithfully rendered from the original Egyptian art of which there are numerous examples for all three.  The green cat appears odd at first glance but is derived from various bronze statuettes and is modeled after a specific piece called the Gayer-Anderson Cat, even down to the collar and nose-ring.  On the chest-ornament over the collar is the protective Eye of Horus.  Received its name from Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson who donated it to the British Museum.  The original bronze has acquired a green patina with age.
All four temples have two different inscriptions on opposite sides, each temple bearing the same pair of inscriptions.  The ancient Egyptians could write vertically, right-to-left, and left-to-right so that the words themselves would appear balanced and visually pleasing.
With the disassembled temples viewed while they are lying flat, the left-hand inscription reads vertically down each column from right to left:
“Of the Delta, of the Sky, who gives (on behalf?) of the Lord of the Two Lands to Upper Egypt, She of the Two Lands, Mistress of the Sky.  She recites: ‘Giving a name to Eternity are the Sky Gods (and their) Lord’.”
The right-hand inscription on the temples reads vertically down each column from left to right:
“The Western Lord of our House (gives?) as an offering from above to the local places to make (us) happy, the Lord of everything, Osiris of the Desert, more than our Life, Great Lord of the Two Lands and of the Gods (of the) Two Houses.”
These slightly confusing inscriptions are obviously taken out of context – few verbs, mostly declarations.  The left-hand inscription refers to a female subject who isn’t even named, though with its mention of the delta she’s probably the winged goddess Isis, “Mistress of the Sky” and connected to the Nile delta in mythology.  She was also consort to the god Osiris named in the right-hand inscription.  The “Two Lands” are Upper and Lower Egypt.  I can’t identify the source or sources of these phrases, but their clear, sharp-edged symbols are close in style to those on the walls of the Tomb of Queen Nefertari at Thebes.

Long Side of Box ExteriorViewing left to right, same color pictures are on both outer sides of the box:
Ra-Horakhty blessing worshipper with flower-like rays – Stela of Tanetperet, Thebes.  Near-identical with the Ra-Horakhty on one of the Player Temples.
Workmen crushing grapes in vat, collecting wine – from the Tomb of Nakht, Thebes.
Donkey Driver – adapted from the Mastaba of Ty, Saqqara.  Hieroglyph letters are “n”, unknown, “sh”, and “y”.
Nobleman Nakht spear-fishing with his family – slightly rearranged version from his own Tomb of Nakht, Thebes.

Short Side of Box ExteriorViewing left to right, same pictures on both sides:
Axeman chopping papyrus stalk, craftsmen atop stone blocks – similar to several scenes in the Tomb of Rekhmire, Thebes, but the hieroglyphs are unidentifiable though the circle & dot may mean “day”.
Pharaoh pouring double libation and raising cup to enthroned god Amun – Chapel at Deir el-Bahri, Thebes.  Hieroglyphs are abbreviated, the originals read, “Tuthmosis III, son of Ra” and “Making sacrifice to Amun, Giver of Life”.
Caretakers with Ducks – derived from goose- and crane-feeding scenes from the Tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara.  Hieroglyph letters are “t” and “n”.

Sepia-toned Box InteriorModified bas-reliefs taken from the Mastaba of Ty, Saqqara.  Both long sides and both short sides have the same pictures opposite each other.  On the long side of the box the scribes are writing, “The Living God gives all”.  On the short side the scribes are writing, “Lord Osiris, Giver of Life”.

Mummy Tomb HieroglyphsMummy’s Head space – A perfect image of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s death mask, one of the most famous and expressive ancient Egyptian masterworks of portraiture.  “Tutankhamun” happens to mean “Living Image of (the god) Amun”.
Precious Jewel space – A winged scarab/falcon composite, a close rendering of part of a gold cloisonné pectoral with a central chalcedony beetle from Tut’s treasury at Thebes.  In both talons it grasps the circular hieroglyphic sign for “shen” (“infinity”) and on one side holds an open lily while on the other a lotus flower and buds.  It’s coincidental but appropriate that green Precious Jewels are rarer in VotM games than red ones since translucent red carnelian was commonly used by the ancient Egyptians but dark green stones appear infrequently, such as the feldspar insets in the collar of Tut’s death mask.  The Middle Egyptian word for Precious Jewel, amazingly enough, is “art”.
Both long sides of the tomb area have the same hieroglyphs; both short sides have the same as well.  They look very much like the excellent hieroglyphs found once again in the Tomb of Queen Nefertari.

Bottom Level spaces3 yellow flags with red bases, blue half-circle (a figurative bread loaf) above – “netcheru” meaning “The Gods”
2 green circles with green X in centers – “nuti” meaning “two towns” or “local”
Green loop bound in yellow cord, blue sandal strap, multi-colored tower crossed by 4 horizontal lines – “tyet, ankh, djed” meaning “Protection, Life, Stability”

Middle Level spacesBlue rectangle with pointed “legs”, blue half-circle above – “pet” meaning “sky” or “Heaven”
Stacked blue half-circle, yellow “lips”, blue zig-zag – “ren” meaning “name”
Red folded cloth, blue zig-zag above red foot and calf, green and red roll of papyrus standing on end – “seneb” meaning “health”
3 blue marks, yellow bird – “u-u” meaning “quail chicks”  

Top Level spaces
Green basket, 2 blue wedges above, blue half-circle underneath – “neb tawy” meaning “Lord of the Two Lands”
Green swallow with yellow head and underside – “wer” meaning “great”
Great Jewel space, a red solar disk with yellow rearing cobras – “uraei” in Latinized Greek (single is a uraeus), symbolic protectors of the pharaoh
Red solar disk flanked by green twisted cords – “heh” meaning “Eternity”
Blue mark, red solar disk above pair of brown ribs – “re im” meaning “of the god Ra”
Blue zig-zag above red mountain with blue base – “en khast” meaning “desert river” or “of the desert”

Mummy and CaseUpper left column:  “Ra the Living God created the grains of sand of the Moon, (so it is) written(?)”.  Bottom symbol is iffy.
Left cartouche:  Title above cartouche is “Given Power and Goodness”.  Name within is “Neb-kheperu-re”, meaning “Lord of the Forms of Ra” or “Many are the Forms of Ra”.  This is the throne name, or prenomen , of the pharaoh, assumed at his coronation.  For our Mummy, his throne name is the same as Tutankhamun’s.
Lower left column, above Speed Control Knob:  “Councillor (?) (within his) wrappings of the ka-spirit of Ra, good”.
Upper right column, above Re-set Lever:  “Cobras . . . Golden Field (?) of Hoeing (cultivation?)”.  The visual style is a little mushy here.  Difficult to interpret what the symbols are, let alone what they mean together.
Right cartouche, below Re-set Lever: Title above cartouche is “Son of Ra”.  Name within is “Neb-shes-en-ir, heka-ankh” meaning “Lord of the Alabaster River, The Watcher, The Living Ruler”.  This is the personal name of the pharaoh given at his birth, and the one I translate here is not the name of any king of Egypt I know of – truly an original creation.  The Mummy’s name, Pharaoh Nebshesenir, Ruler of the White Nile and Watcher of the Explorers, works out so well, so poetically, that it makes me wonder if someone on the Milton Bradley staff actually knew the basics of hieroglyphs.  Definitely not just a bunch of random symbols strung together, but a logical name that makes sense within the context of the game.  Wow, the Mummy’s personal name!
Lower right column:  “Rising (like Ra) from his throne and going forth from his sacred mound”.
The hieroglyphs on the case are more free-flowing in appearance and thus more difficult to read than those on the temples and tomb.  They remind me of a cursive type of ancient Egyptian writing called “hieratic”, and their abstract forms admittedly leave some room for imaginative interpretation.  Hieratic Egyptian may seem really advanced for a kid’s game (ages 7-14, the box says), yet I could still make them fit after a fashion.  It does raise the issue of whether some of the case’s hieroglyphs aren’t authentic and were simply made up and mixed in as filler by MB’s art department.  Several of the symbols on the box exterior and interior show evidence of being misunderstood, also – a circle substituted for an ankh sign, for instance.  If they are invented, that’s actually okay, because well-meaning people have been using bogus “Egyptianized” writing for decorative purposes since the late 1400’s.  Even the ancient Egyptians themselves faked a few hieroglyphs they couldn’t be bothered with getting right (see Wilson below, p.147).  However, I feel that the pharaoh’s names inside the two cartouches are solid in both translation and interpretation.
The Mummy’s image resembles Tut’s third coffin of solid gold, particularly with the absence of whites and pupils for the eyes.  He holds two flails instead of the traditionally-paired crook & flail.  In Middle Egyptian, the Great Jewel scarab is called “kheper”, and the Cobra is called “iaret”.
I’m really impressed by the results.  The game’s designers and artists did their homework pretty thoroughly, borrowing from Tut and elsewhere in Thebes, and from Saqqara, but also going their own way by reworking some of the art that has come down to us.  “Another MB key to fun and learning”.
William BarnetSoquel, CA

SourcesAllen, James P., Middle Egyptian, 2000
Collier, Mark & Bill Manley, How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs, 1998
Curl, James Stevens, The Egyptian Revival: Ancient Egypt as the Inspiration for Design Motifs in the West, 2005
McDermott, Bridgett, Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs, 2001
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Treasures of Tutankhamun, 1976
Wilkinson, Richard H., Reading Egyptian Art, 1992Wilson, Hilary, Understanding Hieroglyphs, 1996

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