Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Department of Archaeology

Languages and writing systems


Thematic focus of the specialisation area “Northeastern African archaeology and cultural studies”


The professorship “Northeastern African Archaeology and Cultural Studies” carries the same name as the subject of study (without further specification) and is thus responsible for the subject in its full breadth. In the context of the immense proportions of space and time in the field (Egypt and northern Sudan as well as neighbouring regions, from the Neolithic period to the Christian period) and the diversity of cultural phenomena (which each require a specific methods), it’s clear that specialisation and a transdisciplinary approach are necessary for a proper scholarly investigation of the material and intellectual legacy of the northeast African cultures.


The main object of teaching and research in the specialisation area “Northeastern African archaeology and cultural studies” is, broadly speaking, Egyptian language. This includes the elements, structures, and variations of Egyptian as it was handed down over 4,500 years, the modes of its communication and their successors (Egyptian hieroglyphs and western alphabet, Coptic script), and its concrete textual remains. This means that students learn the hieroglyphic-Egyptian alphabet in their first semesters. Popular specialisations within the field of Egyptian language research are classifiers, phonology, syntax, spatial expressions, study of the writing system, language change, and language contact.


However, even though language is in the center of our study of ancient Nile culture, it’s by no means the only area of interest. This is demonstrated by, for example, research on predynastic jar markings, work on the role of Egyptian art as a source of inspiration for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and other artists of the classical modern period, and analyses of the Egyptological studies of Charles Sanders Pierce, the founder of modern semiotics. Such studies highlight the connection of this specialisation area with the areas “Material culture” and “Theory and history of multimodal communication”.


Representative publications

  • Engel, Eva-Maria. 2016. The Early Dynastic Pot Mark Project, in: Non-Textual Marking Systems in Ancient Egypt (and Elsewhere), hrsg. von Julia Budka, Frank Kammerzell & Sławomir Rzepka, Lingua Aegyptia – Studia monographica 16, Hambur: Widmaier, 215-228.
  • Kammerzell, Frank. 2005. Old Egyptian and Pre-Old Egyptian: Tracing linguistic diversity in Archaic Egypt and the creation of the Egyptian language, in: Texte und Denkmäler des ägyptischen Alten Reiches, hrsg. von Stephan Johannes Seidlmayer, Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae 3, Berlin: Achet, 165-247.
  • Kammerzell, Frank. 2009. Defining non-textual marking systems, writing, and other systems of graphic information processing, in: Non-Textual Marking Systems, Writing and Pseudo Script from Prehistory to Present Times, hrsg. von Petra Andrássy, Julia Budka & Frank Kammerzell, Lingua Aegyptia – Studia monographica 8, Göttingen: Seminar für Ägyptologie und Koptologie, 277-308.
  • Kammerzell, Frank, Aleksandra Lapčić & Winfried Nöth. 2016. Charles S. Peirce’s Egyptological studies, in: Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society – A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy 52, 483-538.
  • Kammerzell, Frank & Hanna Strzoda. 2007. Kirchners Plakatentwurf zur Ausstellung »Deutsche Graphik« im Kunstsalon Wolfsberg Zürich, in: Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 2007, 195-214.
  • Lincke, Eliese-Sophia. 2011. Die Prinzipien der Klassifizierung im Altägyptischen, Göttinger Orientforschungen, Reihe IV: Ägypten 38/6 (= Classification and Categorization in Ancient Egypt 6), Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Lincke, Eliese-Sophia & Silvia Kutscher. 2012. Motivated sign formation in Hieroglyphic Egyptian and German Sign Language, in: Lexical Semantics in Ancient Egyptian, hrsg. von Eitan Grossman, Stéphane Polis & Jean Winand, Lingua Aegyptia – Studia Monographica 9, Göttingen, 113-140.