Niwt symbol: ancient Egyptian city determinative hieroglyph

First draft: niwt determinative heiroglyph logo

First draft: niwt determinative heiroglyph logo

Second draft: stylized niwt determinative heiroglyph logo

Second draft: stylized niwt determinative heiroglyph logo

From virtually thousands of emails, I know that many of our readers are throbbing with curiosity about the significance, if any, of the logo. There being no reason for secrecy, and the explanation will now be given. The symbol was inspired by the Egyptian hieroglyph niwt (pronounced ‘nee-oot’). Niwt is used as a determinitive so that, for example, if written with a pictogram of a falcon (Horus) the combination of symbols¬† means ‘the city of Horus’ (which the Greeks called Hierakonpolis).

Most heiroglyphs began as pictograms and many people think that this must be true of the niwt symbol. It is read as a protective wall round a settlement with crossing roads within. But it is also known that niwt was used for small towns before it was used for large towns, and it could therefore have meant a house-and-garden before it meant a town. My own reading of the symbol is that it reflects two very ancient and fundamental truths about dwelling places:

  • they must provide safety and security
  • they must be connected to the world outside the dwelling place

IF this is correct, then the niwt hieroglyph can be read is the world’s most ancient ‘plan’ of a dwelling place, representing a linkage between indoor and outdoor space – as the great majority of historical gardens have done. We therefore judged it a most appropriate logo for a website dealing with ‘design on the land’ by landscape architects, garden designers and others. We hope you like it. Logo design is an interesting craft.

The Egyptian settlement which most obviously reflects the ‘niwt’ plan is the worker’s village of Dier el Medina.

One thought on “Niwt symbol: ancient Egyptian city determinative hieroglyph

  1. Christine

    In the Bible symbols are used in a particular way to convey a lesson or truth. The rainbow for example was a symbol [oth] of the convenant between God and the people of the Old Testament. In ‘Interpreting the Bible’ Berkeley Mickleson says the rainbow was “..a pledge that he would not bring another flood to destroy mankind.” (p265)

    This is an interesting symbol to revisit in the light of contemporary concerns with global warming.

    One of the principles of interpretation the author suggests needs to be attended to is the frequency and distribution of a symbol and the differing contexts in which it is found.


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