Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lost in Hieroglyphs

One evening in February 2006, I noticed there had been a huge number of downloads of a draft specification I'd written about the encoding of Egyptian Hieroglyphs in the Unicode Private Zone (EGPZ=EGyptian in the Private Zone). Over 10,000 downloads within a week. A little detective work yielded the discovery that some hieroglyphs had appeared in the TV series 'Lost' and in the thirst for knowledge ... well, goodness knows what the legion of Losties made of such a dry document.

A proposal for Basic Egyptian Hieroglyphs in Unicode by Michael Everson and myself was starting to take shape at that time. I had also begun drafting a presentation entitled Hieroglyphs Everywhere for the Informatique et Egyptologie (I&E 2006) conference being held in Oxford that Summer. So the timing of the 'Lost event' was coincidental, indeed an encouragement to explore further the notion of making Ancient Egyptian more accessible in popular culture beyond the academic dimension.

Four years after. The EGPZ specification was released in 2006, The Unicode 5.2 Standard (October 2009) now contains Basic Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The process of making Ancient Egyptian more accessible continues. I&E 2010 is being held in Liege this July and I've just started writing a minor revision of the EGPZ specification and a followup to the Hieroglyphs Everywhere talk.

And 'Lost' is coming to an end on Tuesday 23rd May after six seasons. Perhaps the full significance of the statue of Taweret will be revealed. Most likely not and thats a good thing in my opinion, the world is a better place for some notions to remain wrapped in mystery.

Then there is the fact that 42 is one of the 'Lost Numbers'.  The mathematics and science of coincidence. Another day!

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