Hieroglyphs are writing systems that use iconic symbols to communicate messages. Multiple ancient cultures used hieroglyphs, but the most famous variety are Egyptian hieroglyphs. There have been numerous encounters with hieroglyphs throughout Lost. Damon Lindelof indicated in Access: Granted that the symbols are used because "there are many interpretations of hieroglyphics [sic], that's what we were going for." Some of the hieroglyphs, like those on the countdown timer in the Swan station, were created by the DHARMA Initiative. (Access: Granted#Hieroglyphics) Others, like those on The Temple, appear to be much older.
Each hieroglyph is given an alphanumeric code so it can be written using the letters and numbers of western society. Each code is referred to as the symbol's Gardiner Code. For example, the first symbol in the countdown timer, folded cloth, has the code "S29".
- 1 Occurrences
- 1.1 Countdown timer
- 1.2 Rachel Blake
- 1.3 Ben's secret door
- 1.4 Frozen wheel chamber
- 1.5 Ajira Airways
- 1.6 The Temple wall
- 1.7 Daniel's map
- 1.8 Statue of Taweret
- 1.9 Paul's necklace
- 1.10 Cerberus chamber
- 1.11 DHARMA Classroom
- 1.12 The Tunnels
- 1.13 Jacob's tapestry
- 1.14 Inside The Temple
- 1.15 Inside The Lighthouse
- 2 Translations
- 3 Non-canon appearances
- 4 Trivia
- 5 Unanswered questions
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
The first hieroglyph sequence to have been shown on Lost was displayed by the countdown timer in the Swan. The same hieroglyph sequence can be found on the Ajira Airways boarding pass, and in Rachel Blake's blog. Damon Lindelof stated that the Dharma Initiative included the hieroglyphs as an homage to the historical occupants of the island. (Access:_Granted#Hieroglyphics)
These hieroglyphs, known as "folded cloth", "curl", "fire drill", "vulture" and "stick", correspond to symbols S29, Z7, U29, G1, Z6 from Gardiner's Sign List. Raymond O. Faulkner's A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, translates a virtually identical sequence (below), substituting only U29 for U28, as "die".
At Comic Con 2006, producer Damon Lindelof translated the countdown timer sequence to mean "underworld", which is now considered the official translation, though Carlton Cuse noted that they are "subject to interpretation". (Official 'Lost' Podcast/July 31, 2006) Various hieroglyphs on the Countdown timer, as shown in the three images to the right, were shown only during the failure sequence. The following hieroglyphs can be seen:
In The Lost Experience, the same hieroglyphs as shown on the countdown timer were found in one of Rachel Blake's blogs. In her blog she corroborates that the definition is "die". (Rachel Blake Iceland 02)
Rachel also muses about whether or not the symbols are connected to the Valenzetti Equation. During Rachel's secretly videotaped interview with Armand Zander, Armand mentions that the Valenzetti Equation includes symbols that "looked like... egyptian hieroglyphics. There are 5, maybe six of them in there, and, it's a vulture, a staff...". (Rachel Blake Iceland 01)
Rachel Blake wondered, in her blog, if the hieroglyphs should be examined one by one, instead of trying to read them together. She also wondered if they could mean something else if they were rearranged. (Official 'Lost' Podcast/July 31, 2006)
Ben's secret door
The first line corresponds to the symbols A26 S29 M17 and N35 (Man With Out-stretched Arm, Folded Cloth, Blooming Reed, Water). The second line corresponds to symbols A24 W24 and Aa27 (Man With Weapon, Pot, Unknown). Unlike most other hieroglyphs on the island, these appear to read right to left. <hiero>N35:M17*S29-A26</hiero>
N35:M17*S29-A26 translates as "summon". <hiero>Aa27-W24:D36</hiero>
Aa27-W24:D36 (Unknown, Pot, Arm) translates as "protection", and determinately symbol A24 (Man With Weapon) may function, in this case, the same way as symbol D36 (Arm). Roughly translated, then, they appear to read "to summon protection...".  Unlike the image from the Season 4 DVD extra, the actual door appears to have the aforementioned hieroglyphs plus V18 (amulet), which translates as "protection", reinforcing the interpretation of the second line.
Frozen wheel chamber
The frozen wheel used to move the Island is within a rock chamber with a rock column in the middle that is inscribed with hieroglyphs. Some of these hieroglyphs are very similar to the hieroglyphs on The Temple. Just below the lamp, can be seen a set of hieroglyphs that correspond directly with one set on The Temple: <hiero>N35:T34*G17-M17-O5:D54</hiero>
These translate as "travel". Near the bottom of the column is another set of hieroglyphs that is not entirely visible from any one angle, but a composite of images shows that it is
This series can also be found on The Temple, and translates as "time" or "vicinity". There are other hieroglyphs on the column, however, it is not clear what they represent. Producer Damon Lindelof, in a podcast, said that the hieroglyphs on the column indicated "resurrection". (Official 'Lost' Podcast/February 5, 2009)
The boarding pass featured on ajirairways.com  has hieroglyphs in semi-transparency in the corners and along the top and bottom of the sample pass. Visible are the same five hieroglyphs from the countdown timer: S29, Z7, U29, G1, and Z6, which producer Damon Lindelof translated to mean "underworld".
The Temple wall
Hieroglyphs can be seen on the temple wall where Jin finds Montand's rotting arm. ("This Place Is Death") Specifically, the hieroglyphs surround the declivity in the wall. Two of the sets of hieroglyphs on the Temple
wall can also be seen on the column of the frozen wheel chamber. Since Damon Lindelof indicated in the February 5, 2009 podcast that the hieroglyphs in the frozen wheel chamber mean "resurrection", we can assume that at least part of the message on the Temple wall means the same thing.
|Hieroglyphs on the Temple wall:|
While searching the filing cabinets in Ben's office at the Hydra, Caesar found a photocopied page from Daniel's journal, along with Daniel's map to the Tempest. ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham") However, unlike the first time it was shown, ("The Other Woman") hieroglyphs had been added in the bottom left corner. Two different sets were visible.
The first, Aa1:D46-P1 (placenta?:hand-boat on water), means "Northward travel" or "travel downstream".
The second, D21:V31-N5 (mouth:basket-sun), is most likely "Time of kings/ancients", and was also seen on the Temple.
Statue of Taweret
In an unknown ancient time period, Sawyer, Jin, Juliet, and Miles saw a statue of Taweret, the precursor to the four-toed statue that had been seen before, but only from quite a distance. (LaFleur-Enhanced transcript) The Statue was also shown in 1867. ("The Incident, Part 1") ("Ab Aeterno") Taweret was holding an ankh, which represents eternal life, in each hand. ("LaFleur") Egyptian Gods are often depicted as carrying the ankh by its loop, or holding one in each hand, crossing their chest.  The Gods were often depicted conferring that life to mummies, thereby giving the deceased eternal life. A Native American symbol with the same meaning can be seen on the artwork for the the Geronimo Jackson single Dharma Lady.
Paul, a member of the DHARMA Initiative who died in the episode LaFleur, wore a necklace with an ankh hieroglyph pendant. The ankh was often carried as an amulet by ancient Egyptians. In modern times, the ankh has been used as a symbol since the 1960s, often in association with cultural movements.  Paul's wife, Amy, took his ankh from him after his death. She is seen breathing into the pendant which is considered to be an offering of "The Breath of Life". The breath you will need in the afterlife. Later, Amy's subsequent husband, Horace, found the memento among Amy's things and became upset. ("LaFleur") This symbol, which means “life”, was often used to show Pharoahs as having been conferred with life after death. As such, the symbol is often associated with immortality. 
- For an "in-progress" transcription of the hieroglyphs seen in the Cerberus chamber, see The Temple hieroglyphs.
Within the declivity in the Temple wall, underground, Ben found a chamber with many hieroglyphs and other symbols of Egyptian religion (including an engraving of the Monster facing the Ancient Egyptian god Anubis). The majority of these hieroglyphs were written in a cursive form, and so deviate from their formal counterparts to varying degrees. Cursive hieroglyphs were most often used from religious writings in Ancient Egypt. ("Dead Is Dead")
A lesson on Ancient Egypt and hieroglyphs was taught in the DHARMA classroom. ("Some Like It Hoth") Below is a summary of the contents of the blackboard, which includes both hieroglyphs and descriptions of the Egyptian language. The first line of hieroglyphs is a phrase that means "Egyptian (language)". The second line translates as "Writing of the words of God". The third line means "Egypt".
|Egyptian||Old Egyptian||Egyptian language|
|<hiero>D21:Z1-N35-I6-G17-X1:O49</hiero>||2600BC to 2000BC Tripling ideograms, phonograms, and determinatives||?|
|"Writing of the words of God"||Middle Egyptian||Phonetics|
|<hiero>Y4-N35-R8-S43-Z3</hiero>||2000BC to 1300 BC classic stage of language||Meaning conveyed ? form ???|
|Archaic Egyptian before 2600BC||Late Egyptian||?|
|<hiero>N16:N16</hiero>||1300BC to 700 BC From synthetic to ? language||?|
Within The Tunnels, a series of underground tunnels controlled by The Others, there are numerous pillars identical to those found in the Cerberus chamber. The sequences of hieroglyphs on those pillars are identical, and so can be found on the page where the hierglyphs are currently being transcribed: The Temple hieroglyphs
Along with Greek writing, numerous hieroglyphs can be seen on Jacob's tapestry. ("The Incident, Part 1") For example, near the right tip of the wings extending from the Eye of Horus can be seen the sequence D36-V30:Z2 (see below), which would translate as "appoint lords" or "lords give/grant".  
The three Egyptian seasons appear to be written near the bottom of the tapestry (series shown below). The center and right hieroglyphs mean "winter"  and "summer"  respectively. The left hieroglyphs are likely a variant of the third egyptian season "inundation", which is usually written M8:Aa1*X1, but is here written Aa1-M8:X1. 
Inside The Temple
Most of the hieroglyphs in The Temple are not yet translated, but above the pool can be seen a series of hieroglyphs that are a conjunction of words (in a sense). The series, seen below, likely translates as "The Primaeval Waters of Nun" (or nwu pt nu ntr).  Nun, as a deity, represents the water from which all creation formed.
Inside The Lighthouse
Translating hieroglyphs is difficult and inaccurate. First, hieroglyphs may be written left-to-right or right-to-left, although key symbols, such as humans and animals, were supposed to be drawn to face towards the beginning of the sentence. It can also be challenging to identify where one word stops and another begins. Correctly identifying each symbol can be a challenge, as some hieroglyphs are drawn less clearly than others, and some hieroglyphs look very similar. In religious writings, cursive forms of hieroglyphs, which can vary from their originals significantly, were also used. To further complicate translation, each symbol can mean something on its own (ideogram), represent a sound (phonetic), or give you a clue about the word written before it (determinative).
For example, S29 (folded cloth) represents the idea of 'health' (ideogram). However, S29 also represents the sound 's' (phonetic). Since most of the words written in hieroglyphs are missing many or all of their vowels, it can be hard to know what a word spelled phonetically means. It would be like trying to figure out what the word "crs" means if our writing didn't include vowels. It could mean "Cures", "Curse", or "Cares", for example. In hieroglyphic writing, then, a symbol will be placed at the end of a phonetically spelled word in order to give the reader a clue as to which possible meaning is intended (determinative). For example, if you wrote the word "crs" and put a heart at the end, you might assume the word meant "cares", whereas if a symbol of evil (like the hieroglyph Z6-Enemy) was placed at the end of the word "crs", you might assume the intended word was "curse".
Series of hieroglyphs
The following table summarizes the sets of hieroglyphs seen so far, relevant information associated with them, and citable translations.
* links to uncropped image
|Aa1:D46-P1||xdi||"Travel north" or "travel downstream" or "flow (of water)" or "North" ||Daniel's map *, Mysterious
Egyptian Influences, Season 4 DVD *
|N35:T34*G17-M17-O5:D54||nmi||"Travel" or "traverse" ||Frozen wheel chamber *,
Egyptian Influences, Season 4 DVD *
|V13:O34-U40a||Ts||"Reprehensible/Reproachable"  or "Rise up!" ||The Temple *, Mysterious
Egyptian Influences, Season 4 DVD *
|D2:D21-X1:N31||Hrt||"The way to sky/heaven" ||The Temple *, Mysterious
Egyptian Influences, Season 4 DVD *
|D2:D21||Hry||"Master" ||The Temple *|
|O4-G1-G43-Y1:Z2||hAw||"Surroundings" or "time" or "lifetime" ||Frozen wheel chamber *,
Egyptian Influences, Season 4 DVD *
|M8-G1-S29-D54||SAs||"Travel" ||Mysterious Egyptian Influences, Season 4 DVD *|
|P6-D36-G43-N5||aHaw||"Lifetime" or "period" or "space of time" ||The Temple *|
|D21:V31-N5||rk||"Time (of kings/of ancients)" ||The Temple *,|
|S29-Z7-U29-G1-Z6||swDA||"Underworld"  or "die" ||The Swan *,|
|A26-S29-M17-N35||nis (read backwards)||"Summon"  or "Invoke" ||Ben's secret door *|
|A24-W24-Aa27||nD (read backwards)||"Protection" ||Ben's secret door *|
|R8-O29v||aA nTr||"Great God"||Frozen Wheel Chamber *|
|V13?Z4b?:O34?||Ts?||"Reprehensible/Reproachable"?||Frozen Wheel Chamber *|
|O5:M17?D55?||nmi?||"Travel"? "Traverse"?||Frozen Wheel Chamber *|
|Z1a?N105?Aa12?:Z6||?||"1 Enemy"?||Frozen Wheel Chamber *|
|D21:Z1 N35 I6-G17-X1:O49||r n kmt||"Language of Egypt" ||DHARMA classroom *|
|Y4-N35-R8-S43-Z3||ssch n nTr md||Writing of the words of God||DHARMA classroom *|
|N16:N16||tAwy/tAwj||"the Two Lands, Egypt" or "both Lands" ||DHARMA classroom *|
The following table summarizes the phonetics and meanings associated with the hieroglyphs seen so far, as well as some related hieroglyphs. Note that many of the symbols seen under The Temple Wall were alchemic, not hieroglyphic.
|Hieroglyphs||Symbol||Gardiner Code||Phonetics||Stand-alone Meanings|
|Man pointing hand at mouth||A2||none||"Eat" or "drink" or "speak" or "think" or "feel" or "tell" or "refrain from speech" or "advise/counsel" or "love" |
|Bound man||A13||none||"Enemy" or "rebel" or "foreigner" |
|Wounded man||A14||none||"To die" or "dead enemy" |
|Man with stick||A24||none||"Hit" or "beat" or "strength" or "strong" or "force" or "teach" or "instruct" |
|Man with out-stretched arm||A26||none||"Servant" or "to call" |
|Face||D2||Hr||"Face" or "on" or "around" or "over" or "for" |
|Mouth||D21||r||“Mouth” or "spell"  or "against"  or "to" or "at" or "concerning" or "more than" or "from" or "so that" or "until" or "according to" or can indicate that something is a future event |
|Hand||D46||d or dw||"Hand” or "give" or "place (verb)" or "put" or "implant (obstacle)" or "strike (blow)" or "cause" |
|Legs walking||D54||none||"Walk" or "stop" or "enterprise" or "come near" or "not move" |
|Legs walking backward||D55||iw||"Back" or "to return" |
|Vulture||G1||A||"Vulture" or “eagle" or "bird" or "but" |
|Owl||G17||m||"With" or "by means of" or "from" or "out of" or "as" or "namely" or "when" or "as though" or "together with" or "in the position of" or "do not" or "owl" or "in" |
|Quail Chick||G43||w||"Property" or "not" |
|Crocodile skin||I6||km||"Shield" |
|Pool with flowering plants||M8||SA||“Season" |
|Blooming reed||M17||i||"Sedge" or "reed"  or "I/me/my" |
|Sun||N5||ra||“Sun” or "rise” or “day” or “hour” or “time” |
|Earth||N16||tA||"Earth" or "ground"  or "country" or "eternity" |
|Road with shrubs||N31||none||“Ascend” or “travel” or “army” or “here” |
|Water ripple||N35||n||"To (someone)" or "for (someone)" or "in (sun, dew, time)" or "because" or "belongs to" or "of, belonging to" or "we/us/our" |
|Inverted moon||N105||?||? |
|House||O1||pr||“House” or "sanctuary" or "building" or "place" or "location" or "horizon" |
|Street||O5||nm or mr||"Street" |
|Door Bolt||O34||s||"She/Her/It/Its"  or “Demolish” |
|City||O49||none||"City" or "village" or "Thebes" or "inhabited region" or "Egypt" |
|Boat on water||P1||none||“Ship” or "sail" or “boat” or “go downstream” |
|Mast||P6||aHa||“Stand” or "portion" or "stela" or "tree trunk" or "unfavourable (of calendar dates)"  or "building" or "temple" or "enclosure" or "foundation" |
|Cloth wound on a pole||R8||nTr||"God" or "divine, sacred" |
|Folded cloth||S29||s||"Health" or "she/her/hers"  or "it" or "who?" or "what? |
|Ankh||S34||anx||"Life" or "sandal strap"  or "swear" |
|Walking stick||S43||md(w)||"Staff" or "rod" |
|Knife||T30||none||"Knife" or "to cut" or "to" or "cut off" pr "to sharpen" or "sharp" |
|Fire drill||U28||DA||“Safely” or “healthy” |
|Fire drill||U29||DA||“Safely” or "healthy" |
|Pennants of the scales||U40a||Ts or wTs||"Hold up" or "carry" or "wear" or "pick up" |
|Cattle tie||V13||T||“You/Your” or "rope with 2 holes" |
|Basket||V31||k||"You/Your" or "basket"  or “you said to the man” |
|Pot||W24||nw, jn||Nekhbet |
|Bread||X1||t||"You/Your"  or "bread" or abbreviation for "father" |
|Papyrus scroll||Y1||none||“Book” or "write" or “abstract idea” or "to be large" or "to be new" |
|Scribe's supplies||Y4||naa or snaa||"Scribes supplies" or "write" or "writing" |
|Single stroke||Z1a||none||"Singular" or "space". Can be used as a substitue for a person, to indicate that the prior word is meant as an ideogram, or to make some words feminine. |
|Plural stroke||Z2||none||“Plural” or “multiple” or can also be used to replace a word that is too dangerous to write |
|Plural stroke||Z3||none||“Plural” or “multiple” or can also be used to replace a word that is too dangerous to write |
|Dual stroke||Z4b||y||“Plural” or “duality” or can also be used to replace a word that is too dangerous to write |
|stick||Z6||none||Hieratic form of A13 or A14 |
|curl||Z7||w||Hieratic form of G43 |
|Human placenta?||Aa1||x||“Youth” or "are young" |
|Unknown||Aa27||nD||"Save" or "protect" |
- In the Lost Untangled for "Follow the Leader", hieroglyphs are visible on the pillars within the Tunnels. While the hieroglyphs are real hieroglyphs, they do not match the actual hieroglyphs as shown in the episode.
- Lost University offers a course on hieroglyphs called Ancient writings on the wall.
- An advertisement for Mysteries of the Universe, a short series of videos about the DHARMA Initiative, includes an image of a film reel, along the edge of which can be seen a row of hieroglyphs. The series, seen below, represents the phrase "nm sSmw", which loosely translates as "Who is the leader?":
- In a season six promotional poster, hieroglyphs can be seen drawn within the phrase "THE FINAL SEASON". This series of hieroglyphs is the same as seen in the Mysteries of the Universe advertisement, and so translates as "Who is the leader?"
- When the student enrollment countdown timer at the Lost University website reached zero, a series of hieroglyphs were shown. The left portion of the glyphs, shown on the black background, translates as "ordain, order, predestine, assign, settle, or decide".  The right portion of the glyphs, shown on the red background, likely translates as "he who is summoned, or reckoner".  Together, then, the series could be translated: "The summoned one ordains it."
- The Lost University image of Professor Erik Wells, who is one of the professors for the course about hieroglyphs, is standing in front of a whiteboard with hieroglyphs written on it. These hieroglyphs are G17-Q3*X1:N1, as seen below. G17 can translate as "with, by means of, from, out of, as, namely, when, as, though, or together with".  Q3*X1:N1 translates as "sky or heaven".  Together, then, the series would translate as "from the sky", or "out of heaven."
- The same series of hieroglyphs as had been seen on the countdown timer on the Lost University website are shown (obscured) on the Season 5 Blu-ray cover.
- Dr. Kara Cooney, Assistant Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA, is LOST's hieroglyphic consultant. She is also one of the professors for the Lost University course about hieroglyphs 
- Duncan Crawford (a.k.a. Skulboy [sic]), is an artist who sculpted many of the hieroglyphic pieces shown on LOST, including the pillar in the Frozen wheel chamber and the mural in the The Cerberus chamber. On each of these sculptures, he carved a hieroglyph-like skull as a signature. 
- In the DamonCarltonAndAPolarBear.com ARG, the 11th poster revealed contained the hieroglyphs from the countdown timer.
- For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: Hieroglyphs/Theories
- Where did the original hieroglyphs come from?
- Why did DHARMA employ hieroglyphs?
- EGPZ Word List Project (25,000 Ancient Egyptian Words)
- EGPZ's list of hieroglyphs and codes
- CCER's extensive list of hieroglyphs and codes
- Wikipedia Article About Interpreting Hieroglyphs
- Wikipedia Article With Gardiner List and Meanings
- Ancient Egypt Online's heiroglyph portal
- Lost Hieroglyphs in The Swan test equipment
- Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs By James P. Allen
- Google Books: Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs