The hieroglyphic sign for “mountain” depicted to peaks with a valley running between them. This image approximated the hills that rose up on either side of the Nile valley.
Although the djew hieroglyph did portray the mountain ranges the Egyptians saw in their everyday lives, it also was a visualization of their cosmic beliefs. Symbolically, the “mountain” was an image of the universal mountain whose two peaks were imagined to hold up the sky. The eastern peak was called Bakhu, to the west was Manu. The ends of this great mountain were guarded by two lions who were called Aker. Aker was a protector of the the sun as it rose and set each day.
The Egyptian necropolis was typically located in the mountainous desert and so the djew was also closely associated with the concepts of the tomb and of the afterlife. The god of mummification, Anubis bore the epithet, “He who is upon his mountain.” [HetHeru], the “Mistress of the Necropolis”, while in the form of a cow, was often shown emerging from the side of the western mountain.
In painted scenes, the concept of a “hill” or “heap” of such things as grain are often expressed representationally with the djew sign. The use of the hieroglyphic shape is an effective tool to convey not only the shape but the size of such large heaps of grain.
A variation of the hieroglyph showing a range of three peaks was used to portray the concept of “foreign land.”