Dictionary of ancient Egyptian completed

Sept. 19, 2012 at 4:44 PM
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CHICAGO, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Linguists at the University of Chicago say they've completed a dictionary of thousands of words revealing the everyday lives of people in ancient Egypt.

The words reveal what taxes they paid, what they expected in a marriage and how much work they had to do for the government, a university release reported.

The language in the dictionary is Demotic Egyptian, a name given by the Greeks to denote the language of the demos, or common people, used in Egypt from about 500 B.C. to A.D. 500, when Egypt was occupied and usually dominated by foreigners including Persians, Greeks and Romans.

"Demotic was used for business and legal documents, private letters and administrative inscriptions, and literary texts, such as narratives and pieces of wisdom literature," Janet Johnson, editor of the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, said.

"It was also used for religious and magical texts as well as scientific texts dealing with topics such as astronomy, mathematics and medicine. It is an indispensable tool for reconstructing the social, political and cultural life of ancient Egypt during a fascinating period of its history," she said.

Some words from Demotic Egyptian survive today, like adobe, from the Egyptian word for brick that moved through Demotic to Arabic and eventually to Spain.

Ebony, the dark wood traded down the Nile from Nubia (present-day Sudan), also comes from Demotic roots, the dictionary shows.

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