The AKU project

In April 2015, the Mainz Academy project "Ancient Egyptian Cursive Scripts (AKU) - Digital Palaeography and Systematic Analysis of Hieratic and Cursive Hieroglyphs", planned to last 23 years, began with offices at Johanes Gutenberg University Mainz (Egyptology) and the Technical University of Darmstadt (Linguistics and Literature - Computational Philology).

The aim is the palaeographic examination of the cursive scripts to research their origin, development, and dating within the context of ancient Egyptian writing culture. The investigations also focus on the materiality of the writing surfaces, the variantions in the scribes' hands oscillating between calligraphy and economy, as well as the societal functions, applications, and combinations of the different script types through the millennia. Various digital methods for documentation and analysis are being developed and applied.

Example of a digital analysis of cursive hieroglyphic signs, source: Konrad, Tobias. "Hieroglyphs in a Multidimensional Space. A Case Study on the Applicability of Digital Paleography to Cursive Hieroglyphs." In ICE XII: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Congress of Egyptologists, 3rd–8th November 2019, Cairo, Egypt, edited by Ola El-Aguizy and Burt Kasparian, 787–94. Bibliothèque Générale 71. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2023.


The AKU project has created a list of over 700 different graphemes that correspond to the character repertoire of Hieratic and Cursive Hieroglyphs. Based on selected text witnesses from all eras, the cursive sign forms of Hieratic (Hieratograms) and Cursive Hieroglyphs are entered into the project database, provided with extensive metadata, and linked with image data, among other things. As part of the Open Science policy, an online palaeography derived from the project database has been developed, which has been available as open access under the name AKU-PAL since 2022.

Image of the digital grapheme list in AKU-PAL. Selection of the category Birds and grapheme G0610 (ögel&id=291).


To present the diverse Hieratic and Cursive Hieroglyphic material in AKU-Pal, the project invites international experts to collaborate. This allows a larger amount of palaeographic data to be made accessible to the public. In return, the inclusion of sign material in AKU-PAL enables the automated creation of print-ready palaeographic lists for our cooperation partners. The protection of copyright for external material is ensured through the use of open licenses (e.g. CC BY 4.0).