Notebookcheck Logo

Write like an Egyptian: Unicode 16.0 Alpha introduces almost 4000 Egyptian hieroglyphs and several retro gaming characters

Hieroglyphs from the Encoding Proposal. (Image: Michel Suignard)
Hieroglyphs from the Encoding Proposal. (Image: Michel Suignard)
Researchers will be pleased about Unicode 16.0, which introduces a very high number of Egyptian hieroglyphs into the standard. But there are also numerous new features for retrogamers in the first alpha version.

According to the current stand of information, Unicode 16.0 will introduce 3995 Egyptian hieroglyphs (PDF) into the standard and thus the majority of the 5187 new characters planned for the next Unicode version. This extension, called Extended-A, significantly expands the current list of hieroglyphs (per Unicode 15.1, PDF) and is likely to make it easier to map corresponding texts completely in Unicode.

The new hieroglyphs expand Gardiner's list, which has been in Unicode 5.2 since 2009 but only contains a little more than 1000 characters (PDF). To encode around 90% of Egyptian texts, 700 characters, which are part of the Gardiner list, are sufficient. However, the remaining 10% cannot be represented with these characters.

Some characters are so rare that they only appear once or twice, as described in the 2023 Encoding Proposal. The 129-page document shows the enormous effort required to digitize Egyptian hieroglyphs into Unicode. Accordingly, around 4000 additional characters are needed in order to be able to display the remaining 10% of the texts in Unicode. The project was supported by philologists who helped with the selection. But the work is not finished. As the encoding proposal stated at the time, missing important characters can still be submitted.

The extension is particularly relevant for research. As the encoding proposal states, Egyptologists are part of the target group.

Sprites and emojis

In addition to its professional application, there are also innovations that are more entertaining in nature. Fans of retro games will be blessed with lots of new symbols (Symbols for Legacy Computing Supplement, PDF). These include sprites for flying saucers, aliens, snakeheads and go/racing carts, which are particularly reminiscent of the Atari 2600 era.

New emojis are also planned. There will be eight pieces (PDF), including an exhausted smiley ("face with bags under eyes"), a fingerprint and a shovel.

Feedback for the alpha review is possible until April 4, 2024, before the next phase of development begins.

A list of all characters in Unicode 15.1 can be found on the Unicode charts page. All new characters are available on the "Unicode 16.0 Versioned Charts Index" page. Here, Unicode is able to display 155,000 characters. There is already a draft for the announcement of the next standard, which is currently dated September 2024.


static version load dynamic
Loading Comments
Comment on this article
Please share our article, every link counts!
> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 02 > Write like an Egyptian: Unicode 16.0 Alpha introduces almost 4000 Egyptian hieroglyphs and several retro gaming characters
Andreas Sebayang, 2024-02-13 (Update: 2024-02-13)