In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a line at one end at right angles to the oval, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. The first examples of the cartouche are associated with pharoahs at the end of the 3rd Dynasty, but the feature did not come into common use until the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu. While the cartouche is usually vertical with a horizontal line, if it makes the name fit better it can be horizontal, with a vertical line at the end (in the direction of reading).
The Ancient Egyptian word for a cartouche was shenu, and the cartouche was essentially an expanded shen ring. Demotic script reduced the cartouche to a pair of brackets and a vertical line.
At times amulets took the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king and placed in tombs. Archaeologists often find such items important for dating a tomb and its contents. Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval surrounding their name was meant to protect them from evil spirits in life and after death. The cartouche has become a symbol representing good luck and protection from evil.[need quotation to verify]
Besides the cartouche hieroglyph use for the word 'name', the cartouche in half-section, Gardiner no. V11
has a separate meaning in the Egyptian language as a determinative for actions and nouns dealing with items: "to divide", "to exclude".
The cartouche hieroglyph
is used as a determinative for Egyptian language ?n-(sh)n, for "circuit", or "ring"-(like the shen ring or the cartouche). Later it came to be used for rn, the word 'name'. The word can also be spelled as "r" with "n", the mouth over the horizontal n
^White, Jon Manchip, Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt, Courier Dover 2002, p.175
Najovits, Simson R. (2003). "The Social Context of the Egyptian Politico-Religious System". Egypt, Trunk of the Tree. Espiritualidad y religion. 1: The Contexts. New York: Algora Publishing. p. 251. ISBN9780875862347. Retrieved 2020. The shenu has come to be known as the 'cartouche' -- it was so named after a rifle cartridge, whose shape it resembled, by the French scientific team that accompanied Napoleon's occupying force in Egypt between 1798 and 1801.
^Betrò, 1995. Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt, Cartouche, p. 195.