Egyptian History of Hieroglyphics


Egyptian History of Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphs are derived from the Greek word hieroglyphikos that means “sacred drawings” (Sampson 78). Its origin is from the ancient Egyptians from the years of around 3000BC to 300AD (Kamrin 19). The ancient Egyptians referred the writings as the words of god simply because traditionally they believed that their god ‘Thoth’ taught them to do so (Selden 112). Indeed, the development of hieroglyphics in Egypt formed a significant part of the educational transformation whose evolution and development greatly revolutionalized the rest of world in terms of writing and reading.

The Egyptians learned to write using this style before anybody else in history (Sampson 66). Hieroglyphics were either drawings or pictures of known objects, which stood for words. However, they were both time consuming in terms of learning and making. Indeed, it was only senior people like the scribes, royals, the priests, and the government officials could use them. The singular of hieroglyphics was glyphs, and there were about 700 to 800 of them in the ancient Egyptian writing. Hieratics were simpler versions of the hieroglyphics symbols written in cursive. Once again, in about 7th century BC, the Egyptians started another version of the demotics, simpler than the hieratics (Selden 137). Hieroglyphics was by about the 1st century AD outdated and nobody used them, instead they used the demotics.

The hieroglyphics were either phonograms or ideograms, with phonograms representing glyphs of sound and ideograms representing glyphs of objects or ideas (Sampson 41). Their combination produced words. Vowels in the ancient Egyptians did not exist and today’s man may wonder how the glyphs were pronounced (Najovitis 22). The Hieroglyphs first were used on potteries as early as 3100 BCE towards the end of the Predynastic era. At the beginning, the Hieroglyphs were used to write texts on surfaces. However, with the development of hieratic writing, Hieroglyphs were reserved for religious purposes. Hieroglyphs were used in royal documents and in the recording of important information. However, the translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphs was a bit hard. One of the historical tools that assisted in the translation process was the Rosetta stone founded in 1799 (Sampson 33). Three inscriptions were written on this stone. The first one was written in hieroglyphs and the other was done in demotic. The last was written in the Greek alphabet. This played an important role because scholars used it in unfolding the hieroglyphs.

The Hieroglyphic writing employed more than 700 symbols, making it hard to master (Kamrin 13). The symbols were called glyph. However, the number of symbols continued to grow towards the end of ancient civilization in Egypt. This was mooted by the continuing growth in writing of religious texts. In writing, Egyptians used Hieroglyphs in lines from the left to the right. They also wrote them from to the bottom and there were no punctuation marks in between words. Readers had to read both phonograms and ideograms to decipher the meaning of a word or phrase. A significant change took place in the Ptolemaic Dynasty when the country was under the rule of the Greeks (Kamrin 26). It is during this time that the Egyptians developed many glyphs, which were often used by priests to create codes that could be understood by their members. When the Greek left Egypt after the entrance of the Romans, the use of Hieroglyphs was significantly curtailed (Kamrin 33).

The location of Egypt contributed a lot in the use of hieroglyphs. First, there was fertile soil for farming, which came from the floods of the river Nile. This encouraged settlement along the river due to the fertile nutrients deposited along the river Nile. Because of clustered population along the river, there was need for a system of government. This was based on pharaohs. When these rulers died, their bodies were preserved and buried in tombs. These tombs were decorated and painted by use of hieroglyphs (Najovitis 102). They also filled the tombs with jewelry, weapons, tools, clothing, and statues. In addition, the invention hieroglyphs also made advancing steps in mathematics, medicine, irrigation, and good farming methods. Indeed, the discovery of hieroglyphs contributed to the rise of Egypt to a great empire along the Nile (Kamrin 36). The river Nile was used as a superhighway for transportation and a source of fresh water. The land of Egypt was surrounded by mountains, which created a conducive environment for their activities as their enemies rarely invaded them. This environment contributed to the development of disciplines like architecture, mathematics, and construction. Hieroglyphs were instrumental in the development and preservation of these early efforts of civilization among the Egyptians (Najovitis 38). Artwork in sculpture, paintings, and drawing, were also thriving. The observation of sun and the stars brought about the development of their calendar. Records on several aspects of society like ethical and moralistic treatises were written on processed thin pieces of paper made from papyrus. Documentation on these activities was executed by use of Hieroglyphs

Hieroglyphs also played a significant role in archeology (McDonald 54). As pointed above, the evolution of hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt was not only predominant there, but it also spread to other parts of the world. This was a big step in civilization across the world. Hieroglyphs are taught in many colleges worldwide and this has helped in the translation of ancient Egyptian writings as archeologists continue making discoveries (Selden 142). Modern architectural designs, mathematics, medicine, and calendars are from the ancient Egyptians. Their culture has also influenced the western civilization, ranging from the use of the Egyptian words in English. All this is founded on the discovery of Hieroglyphs. Other cultural practices inherited from the ancient Egyptians include the culture of preserving and burying the dead and keeping the records of the same. Moreover, books in Egypt were made from sheets of paper manufactured from papyrus and written with ink. Indeed, the first schools emanated from the Egyptians and were taught by use of Hieroglyphs. This is where other countries borrowed the educational system in their course of civilization. This breakthrough was made possible by the advent of the writing system (Kamrin 41).

In conclusion, the Egyptians Hieroglyphs have contributed heavily on the modern world’s system of life raging from cultural, economic, and social emancipation that was engineered by the discovery of Hieroglyphs. The Egyptians are the fathers of writing, which spread to other cultures. The use of the language was instrumental in education and preservation of the Egyptian life. The transmission of the same to other cultures created a platform for civilization across other countries. Indeed, the discovery of this language was not only a blessing to the Egyptians, but also the whole world.

Works Cited

Kamrin, Janice. Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Practical Guide. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 2004. Print.

McDonald, Angela. Write Your Own Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. Print.

Najovitis, R. Samson. Egypt, Truck of the Tree: A Modern Survey of Ancient Land. London: Algora Publishing. 2011. Print.

Sampson, Geoffrey. Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction. New York: Stanford University Press, 1990. Print.

Selden, L. Daniel (2013). Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom. New York: University of California press, 2013. Print.



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