The Hieroglyphic Inscription Above
the Great Pyramid's Entrance

GP entrance
© Photo copyright Larry Orcutt

Though it is often reported that the Great Pyramid of Giza is bereft of any hieroglyphic inscription save for some quarry marks on inside surfaces, and also that the last hieroglyphics in Egypt were inscribed at Philae in AD 394, both of these statements were made somewhat inaccurate in the middle of the 19th century.

Karl Richard Lepsius, born in 1810 in Naumburg (Saale), Germany, began studying Egyptology after completing his European archaeology doctorate in 1833. He studied in Paris, using Champollion's newly published grammar. By 1837 he had a good working knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language. During the years 1842-1845, Lepsius led an expedition of Prussian scholars to Egypt, Nubia, and Sinai to record monuments and collect antiquities. Architects and draftsmen described and sketched tombs, temples, and other monuments in the Nile Valley and, with the cooperation of Muhammed Ali, about 15,000 artifacts were taken to Berlin. The resulting work, the twelve-volume Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien, made Lepsius a dominating figure in Egyptology. In 1855 he became a Scientific Director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, and in 1865 he was appointed its Director. Lepsius died in 1884.

While in Egypt, the expedition thought appropriate to honor the birthday of Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV, patron of the project, by adding a unique set of graffiti to one of the western gables above the original entrance of the pyramid.

GP glyphs
© Photo copyright Larry Orcutt

In a letter dated 17 January 1843, Lepsius himself provided the translation:

Thus speak the servants of the King, whose name is The Sun and Rock of Prussia, Lepsius the scribe, Erbkam the architect, the Brothers Weidenbach the painters, Frey the painter, Franke the molder, Bonomi the sculptor, Wild the architect: All hail to the Eagle, The Protector of the Cross, to the King, The Sun and Rock of Prussia, to the Sun of the Sun, who freed his native country, Friedrich Wilhelm the Fourth, the Loving Father, the Father of his Country, the Gracious One, the Favorite of Wisdom and History, the Guardian of the Rhine, whom Germany has chosen, the Dispenser of Life. May the Most high God grant the King and his wife, the Queen Elizabeth, the Rich in Life, the Loving Mother, the Mother of the Country, the Gracious One, an ever vibrant and long life on earth and a blessed place in heaven for eternity. In the year of our Savior, 1842, in the tenth month, on the fifteenth day, on the forty-seventh birthday of his Majesty, on the Pyramid of King Cheops; in the third year, in the fifth month, on the ninth day of the reign of his Majesty; in the year 3164 from the commencement of the Sothis period under the King Menepthes.

GP glyphs

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