Comparative Guts

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Hieroglyph from the obelisk of Thutmose III at the Constantinople Hippodrome

Wikimedia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The hieroglyphic sign F46 depicts coiled intestines, abstracted to the point of forming a regular, oblong spiralling shape. As with other internal organs used in Egyptian iconography, the intestines depicted are almost certainly those of an animal, as would have been familiar from butchery practices. By contrast, human organs, although they would have been known from practices of mummification, were not usually depicted, nor did they form part of the iconography of the hieroglyphic script. The sign is used to write the word qꜣb “intestine, coil”, a word which is also used in a compound preposition meaning “inside, in the midst of”. This hieroglyph also finds use as a so-called determinative to mark various verbs with meanings related to “going around” or “turning”.