Red Eye On White (The Lord Of Everything That Does Not Yet Exist)


Objects For Eternity 


Description of an ancient Egyptian scribal  palette.

Each of the inkwells is surrounded by the hieroglyphic sign shen, which not only means “encircle”, but also represents “everything the sun encircles”, i.e. the universe. This shen sign is often found on scribal pallets, but the reason for this is uncertain. Generally speaking the shen ring is a protective symbol, and on scribal palettes it may refer to royal protection, for the king’s name was written within a shen ring (cartouche). Although not every scribe bore the prestigious title “royal scribe”, all scribes were ultimately in the service of the king. The scribe who “holds the palette freely” has “a powerful office given to him by the king”, he is “one whom the king trusts”.1 All other professions are inferior to that of the scribe, for he alone records the output of all other occupations. Scribes were well aware of this powerful position and extolled the virtues of their craft in poems which are often found in schoolbooks. Perhaps the shen shaped inkwells even refer to the universal character of the scribal profession; like their patron god Thoth, the “lord of the god’s words” and the inventor of the art of writing, they administered “everything which exists”.


Dr J van Dijk, Scribal palette, in, Objects for Eternity.  Egyptian Antiquities from W. Arnold Meijer Collection


Hieroglyphic representation of the possibility of drawing a white circle on a white background

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s