The Digitized Slip Archive and the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache
A lexicographical project unique within Egyptology, the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache Adolf Erman initiated in 1897 has to date remained unrivalled in size.
Headed by Erman, this large-scale project spanned three decades, with many untiring co-workers, including noted Egyptologists the world over, contributing. Between 1926 and 1931, the five main
volumes of the resulting masterpiece, the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, were published.  Substance and quality made it a standard reference in Egyptology, and such it has remained
to the present day, notwithstanding the many new findings made ever since.
A presentation in book form, however, did not come without compromise, as is not unusual with lexicographic compilations. Many interesting facts about how words were used in different periods of
Pharaonic history or in different text genres could only be hinted at or would fall victim to economic restraints. 
The Slip Archive
Work on the old Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache left a host of material now being kept in the archives of today's Ancient Egyptian Dictionary project at the Berlin-Brandenburg
Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin. At its heart, the dictionary archive consists of lexicographically catalogued texts recorded on slips. Between 1897 and 1943, thousands of Egyptian texts
were recorded on slips to be included in the corpus of this immense project. Organized by content and following practical considerations, this slip material was assigned to various categories. From
these categories, several series of slips were generated (and arranged alphabetically). The better part of the slips became part of
Other series of slips constitute the
- The main, alphabetical slip catalogue.
Consecutive texts, that is, all individual slips belonging to one text, one placed after the other, are to be found in the following two collections
- Special catalogue of personal names
- Special catalogue for the names of the kings
- Special catalogue of place names
- Special catalogue for names of gods
- The so-called Vogelsangexemplar
- The so-called Mappenexemplar.
Excluded material, which has not yet been fine sorted, is also being stored in the archives
Organization and use of the Berlin Slip Archive
The main, alphabetical slip archive of the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache is made up of about 1,200,000 slips with copied texts documenting how Egyptian words were used. This
enormous quantity of material can only be effectively utilized thanks to detailed fine sorting. Lemma cards and so-called rider cards sort and rank the slips. Ranking first in this hierarchy are
lemma cards, which were sorted into boxes alphabetically. Naturally, this alphabetical sorting was based on the reading of the Egyptian words current when the archive originated (c. 1910-1925). Lemma
cards are usually followed by slips containing variants of hieroglyphic spellings of the words under investigation. Then, the slips with the specific text segments follow. These slips are subdivided
by rider cards sorting them according to lexical usage and, partly, grammatical constructions. The many text slips filed between lemma and rider cards are divided into citation slips marked with
specific numbers and, in many cases, slips that are not marked. Those marked, that is, the "true" citation slips, are identical with the passages referred to in the volumes of citation
(Belegstellenbände) published later on to supplement the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache .
These slips accurately attest to the usage of a word and as such are referred to as examples in the dictionary. The many unmarked slips that follow may illustrate this usage just as well, but for
reasons of space were not included in the publication. So these slips could be verified only by consulting the archives in Berlin. The lexical fine sorting started in 1909 goes back to a suggestion
by Kurt Sethe, following first attempts to compile a manageable dictionary manuscript . And thanks to this fine sorting, the Slip Archive has made it possible for users to explore many interesting
uses of Egyptian words up to idiomatic expressions. Eventually, it was this lexical subcategorization that furnished a solid basis for compiling (between 1925 and 1931) the five main volumes of the
Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache.
Notwithstanding publication of the dictionary, this archive is as up-to-date a tool as ever for studying Egyptian texts - owing to its sheer size and lexical sorting, which provide a starting point
for this novel use within digital lexical systems.
The Digitized Slip Archive
The entire archive the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache is based on was digitized between 1997 and 1998, and indexed between 1998 and 2002, partly supported by funds from the
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation). Between 1999 and 2004, it was made available on the Internet as Digitalisiertes Zettelarchiv (DZA) or Digitized Slip Archive using a
special displaying programme.  In 2004, it was integrated into the navigation surface of the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae. Part and parcel of a comprehensive lexical system of Egyptian
texts, it has been of service in a wide range of linguistic and historico-cultural investigations. 
Except for the material excluded, the entire archive is now available in digitized form. To put this enormous number of image files (about 1.5 million) to practical use, they had to be indexed. This
means that search is restricted to material that has been indexed so far. Indexed material currently includes the main, alphabetical slip catalogue, which is at the heart of the archive. The special
slip catalogues containing place names, names of kings, personal names and names of gods have not yet been indexed. Hence, with few exceptions, a search for such lemmata is bound to fail - even in
the case of a reference (Belegstelle) for such a word being cited in the reference volumes (Belegstellenbände) of the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache. Indexing of these slip
catalogues is planned to follow at a later stage. Nevertheless, individual digitized slips from the non-indexed section can already be accessed by using their image numbers, as is explained in the Online-Dokumentation des DZA under the section "Citing and locating a specific slip".
Navigating in the Digitized Slip Archive
The Digitized Slip Archive may only be entered from the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae at the following URL
Upon logging in to the TLA, users will arrive at a page displaying the options offered within the framework of this Thesaurus. Via "Search Digitized Slip Archive" you may access a
search mask and enter a search value. The results set will be displayed as a lexical list of all entries matching the search criteria. Clicking on selected lemmata, users may view the corresponding
slips in the archive. Although the arrangement of the material in the published volumes of the dictionary parallels the Slip Archive in important aspects, the two systems are not identical in
organization. The printed dictionary represents the large Slip Archive in a condensed form. For this reason, both systems may even start from different lemmata. Hence, it is recommended to seek
access not only by starting from the citation (Belegstellen) structure, but to also use the diverse alternative options of navigation included in the Online-Dokumentation des DZA and the corresponding Help text under "Search Digitized Slip Archive".
Digitization of the Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache
The Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache was compiled strictly on the basis of complete slip text cataloguing; and citations from the Slip Archive were referenced in the printed
version as well using encoded citation numbers. This made it possible for at least part of the citations to be eventually published in, also five, volumes of citations in the years between 1935 and
1953.  However, these volumes of citations merely contain bibliographic references to the catalogued slip texts. The texts as such are, only in rare cases, included in the form of brief sentence
passages. The immense quantity and wealth of the text archive remained unpublished.
By eventually digitizing the printed dictionary as well and linking the encoded citation numbers shown therein with the digitized slips of the reference archive, we have been pursuing the following
Moreover, the present project is to pay tribute to the invaluable achievement of Danish Egyptologist Wolja Erichsen, who undertook to complete the laborious task of producing, by hand,
the script of the dictionary, bringing it to a successful close.
- Give direct access to all entries of the dictionary in a way allowing Egyptologists to do so intuitively and as they are used to,
- Provide options to instantly verify this information using the underlying texts copied on to the slips, including the predominantly chronologically sorted slips with
- Make available concise information on hieroglyphic spellings related to individual dictionary entries, on citation periods, text types and frequent word combinations, of which
there is ample proof in the printed dictionary.
Using the dictionary's digitized pages in this fashion offers an additional format in which to exploit the Digitized Slip Archive. This approach provides the opportunity of
accessing the underlying Slip Archive by precisely following the printed Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache. However, it should be noted that this kind of access allows for
one-dimensional navigation only. In contrast, access via the Digitized Slip Archive is much more complex in that it offers search modes via transliteration, translation, or encoded citation number,
or a combination of these.
Slips may also be accessed by starting from the lemma list of the new text database of the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae . Getting started from this
advanced text database offers the latest results of lexicographic and philological research, and, with continuous updates, lives up best to what the Internet medium has to offer.
 A. Erman und H. Grapow (eds..), Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, 13 Bde, Berlin und Leipzig 1926-1963.
 A. Erman und H. Grapow, Das Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, Zur Geschichte eines großen wissenschaftlichen Unternehmens, Berlin 1953; S. Seidlmayer, Altägyptisches
Wörterbuch, herausgegeben von der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1999, 16 ff..
 A. Erman und H. Grapow (Hrg.), Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, Belegstellen, 5 Bde, Berlin und Leipzig 1935-1953.
 S. Seidlmayer, Der Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae im Internet, Göttinger Miszellen 203, 2004, 102; vgl. http://aaew.bbaw.de/tla/ unter der Rubrik "Das Vormanuskript des Wörterbuches der
 S. Seidlmayer et.al., Das Zettelarchiv des Wörterbuches der Ägyptischen Sprache. Aufbau, Digitalisierung, Erschließung und Konsultation im Internet, Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae 1,
Berlin 2000. See also Online-Dokumentation des DZA
 S. Seidlmayer, Der Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae im Internet, Göttinger Miszellen 203, 2004, 99-104.
 Die neue Version des Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae im Internet. Göttinger Miszellen 207 (2005), 107-111.