Egyptian hieroglyphs


July 1, 2022

Egyptian hieroglyphs were a writing system invented by the ancient Egyptians. It was used from pre-dynastic times to the fourth century. The ancient Egyptians used three basic types of writing: hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic; the latter corresponds to the late period of Egypt. Hieroglyphic writing was probably the oldest organized writing system in the world, and was used primarily for official inscriptions on the walls of temples and tombs. Over time it evolved into simpler forms, such as hieratic, a more cursive variant that could be painted on papyrus or clay plaques, and not later still and due to growing Greek influence in the Near East, the script evolved into hieratic. demotic, phase in which the original hieroglyphs appear quite stylized, producing the inclusion of some Greek signs in the writing.


The term has its origin in the Greek words ἱερός (hierós) 'sacred' and γλύφειν (glýphein) 'chisel, engrave', the Greek translation of the words with which the Egyptians themselves called their writing system: mdw.w nṯr (« The words of the god»).[1] Only the priests, the members of the royalty, the high officials, and the scribes, knew the art of reading and writing using these "sacred" signs.

History and evolution

It is estimated that hieroglyphic writing began to be used around 3300 BC. C., approximately at the same time that cuneiform writing emerged in Mesopotamia. It was used for more than 3600 years, since the last known inscription is recorded on August 24, 394 and is found in the temple of File. For many years the oldest sample of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was considered to be the Narmer Palette, found during excavations at Hierakonpolis (modern Kawm al-Ahmar) in the 1890s, which were dated ca. 3200 BC However, in 1998 in new excavations in Abydos[2] samples of proto-hieroglyphs were found, dating from the Naqada IIIa period of the XXXIII century BC. C.[3]​[4]​ Since the time of the Old Kingdom, Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was a system in which logograms, consonantal signs (single, double, triple and even four or more consonants) and determiners (silent signs that indicated to which conceptual family a word belongs) were mixed. word). Beginning with the 18th dynasty, scribes began to use a number of double syllabic consonant signs (sȝ, bȝ, kȝ, etc.) to transcribe Semitic or Semitic names, but this type of writing was exclusively restricted to that domain. The symbols were also figurative: they represented something tangible, often easy to recognize, even for someone who did not know the meaning of it, and that is that, to design the hieroglyphic writing, the Egyptians were inspired by their environment: objects of daily life , animals, plants, body parts, etc. During the Old, Middle and New Kingdom it is estimated that there were around 700 hieroglyphic symbols, while in the Greco-Latin era, their number increased to more than 6,000. Hieroglyphs were engraved on stone and wood, or, in the case of hieratic and demotic writing, with pen and ink on papyrus, ostraca, or less durable media. The use of engraved hieroglyphics was limited to domains in which the aesthetic or magical value of words were relevant: offering formulas, funerary frescoes, religious texts, official inscriptions, etc. Hieratic writing was simpler, reserved for administrative or private documents and generally used on papyrus, ostracon (ceramic fragments) and even wooden tablets. Egyptologists distinguish them from the so-called li hieroglyphs