The Fascinating World of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

The Fascinating World of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

One of the fascinating periods in human history is, without a doubt, the ancient Egyptian civilization. Temples, obelisks, and sarcophagi are cultural artifacts that continue to elude us, but if you know how to read hieroglyphs, you can discover their actual significance.

Hieroglyphics was the name of the writing system used by the ancient Egyptians. Instead of using letters, Egyptian hieroglyphs used beautiful visuals. But since its inception, the system has undergone significant alteration. The intriguing world of Egyptian writing is revealed as we look deeper at the evolution of hieroglyphs in today’s post!

Details on Hieroglyphics

Although hieroglyphics originated in Egypt, the word itself is Greek. The name means “holy writings” since “Hiero” is Greek for “holy” and “glyphics” is Greek for “marks” or “writings.” The Egyptians believed that a person’s name had enormous power. A person would live in the afterlife if their name were remembered. That is why the terms of the pharaohs were engraved in hieroglyphics on their tomb walls!

A Brief History Of Hieroglyphs

The name Medu Netjer, which means “The Words of the Gods,” was given to the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. The more than 1,000 hieroglyphs that make up the hieroglyphic writing systems were thought to have been created by the gods. More specifically, the god Thoth developed the writing system to improve Egyptian wisdom and memory.

Ra, the first solar god, thought giving humanity a writing system was horrible because he wanted them to think with their minds, not with texts. Ra objected, but Thoth nonetheless handed the Egyptian scribes their writing method. Because they were the only people who could read Egyptian hieroglyphs, scribes were highly revered in ancient Egypt.

When the pharaonic civilization first emerged, just before 3100 B.C., the pictorial script was developed. Three thousand five hundred years after their invention, in the fifth century A.D., Egypt produced its final hieroglyphic writing. And strangely, after the language was replaced with writing systems based on letters, it was impossible to understand it for 1500 years.

 Ra the first solar godSource: World History Encyclopedia

Egyptian Hieroglyphics’ Basic Structure

Early Egyptian hieroglyphs, or pictographs, could not convey feelings, thoughts, or beliefs. Furthermore, they could not express the present, past, or future. But by 3100 B.C., vocabulary, syntax, and grammar were all part of their language system. Also, they developed their writing skills by using a system of ideograms and phonograms.

Phonograms represent the individual sounds that make up a given the word. Phonograms, in contrast to pictographs, are incomprehensible to non-native speakers. These were 24 of the most widely used phonograms in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

What Do The Images Represent?

As I’ve mentioned, most visuals can stand in for the item they represent, but most often, they represent noises. The owl represents the sound “m” in Egyptian. While typically being read as the sound “r,” the Egyptian symbol for a mouth can also mean mouth. Because they are two highly different languages, it is impossible to translate our alphabet into Egyptian hieroglyphs precisely, but historians have come up with a simple translation.

Symbols, everyday objects, and images of living things can all be found in hieroglyphic writing. Some are simple to recognize, while others are difficult or impossible!

Comparing Hieratic And Hieroglyphic Writing

To speed up the drafting of business and literary documents, hieratic writing originated as a cursive writing technique. It was a reduced version of hieroglyphic lettering and Egyptian hieroglyphs. Up to 800 B.C., the ancient Egyptians employed this writing system. What is the primary distinction between hieratic writing and Egyptian hieroglyphs? They etched hieroglyphics from the Old Kingdom of Egypt into stone. On papyrus, hieratic writing was done!

Before the development of the hieroglyphic language, Egyptians painted images on rocky walls. Between 3500 and 3200 B.C., or more than 5000 years ago, they marked thousands of artifacts, including pottery pieces, in this manner. Writing implements used by ancient Egyptian scribes included bone, metal, and leather. They frequently used thick paper known as papyrus.

When a ruler passed away, it was common practice around 3000 B.C. to engrave hieroglyphs into unique stones. These stones carried biographies of the King and his achievements. Yet, the Pyramid Texts, written by the Egyptians beginning in 2500 B.C. on the walls of the pyramids, are some of the earliest examples of Egyptian literature.

The Egyptians created numerous new writing systems as hieroglyphs and the Egyptian linguistic system developed. Why? So, to make writing systems simpler. Hieroglyphic writing eventually fell out of usage as a result of this. The Egyptians stopped writing using hieroglyphs around 600 A.D. Although hieroglyphics have persisted, they were primarily used for major religious writings.

Hieroglyphics Ideograms And PhonogramsSource: Postposmo

Ancient Egypt’s Adoption Of The Christian Alphabet

The Greek alphabet significantly impacted the Egyptian language and culture from 332 B.C. until 395 A.D. Strong Roman influences were also present. By the end of the first century A.D., Christianity virtually replaced religion and culture in Egypt.

The Coptic alphabet, which has 32 letters and is very different from the hieroglyphic system, was used by Egyptian Christians. And as the Coptic alphabet began to replace the hieroglyphs, the language of the ancient gods vanished for about two thousand years. It impacted Egyptian culture but also fundamentally changed the direction of Egyptian history.

The Rediscovery Of The Ancient Gods’ Egyptian Language

But then, Lieutenant Pierre Francoise Xavier Bouchard made the Rosetta Stone discovery in 1799 while leading Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt. The Egyptians recorded a speech by Egyptian King Ptolemy V in three languages on the Rosetta Stone, a black basalt rock. Greek, hieroglyphics and a third Egyptian writing system known as demotic script are the three languages on the Rosetta Stone.

The development of hieroglyphs can be traced back to the demotic script. However, no images were included in the demotic script. The ancient hieroglyphics code was successfully deciphered by a man named Jean-François Champollion! He discovered Ptolemy V’s name by correlating Egyptian symbols on the Rosetta stone with a Greek phrase he knew.

Next, he compared the words and other artifacts from ancient Egypt. Champollion determined that hieroglyphics was not a recognized alphabet among the Egyptians. Instead of letters, it used images to represent sounds, concepts, and words. The owl, for instance, stands in for the letter M. The Egyptian word for “mouth” may indeed mean “mouth,” but you read it as the sound “r.”

Status Of Egyptian Hieroglyphs Today

Although hieroglyphics and Egyptian language words have been deciphered, experts still need to comprehend these ancient writing systems. Anyone with even the slightest interest in reading hieroglyphs must have a firm grasp of subjective phonetic interpretation.

Not so much the use of phonetic markers is what makes the translation so tricky. The difficulty arises from the need for written documentation of ancient Egypt’s complete vocalization. This means that the complexity of the Egyptian language system is still a matter of speculation, and it is difficult to pronounce the meaning of these sacred engravings in the present era.

About The Author

Rajika Nanayakkara

My name is Rajika Nanayakkara and I am a passionate writer with a deep love for ancient history. With a keen eye for detail and a natural curiosity, I have dedicated myself to exploring the mysteries and wonders of the past. Through my writing, I seeks to bring the stories of ancient civilizations to life, providing a glimpse into the rich and fascinating world of our ancestors. My writings has been featured through

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