Hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. The word hieroglyphs means ‘holy or sacred writing’.
Hieroglyphs were a form of picture words that looked like art and consisted of symbols, some of which represented individual letters and others represented complete words.
It took many years to learn hieroglyphs, and the education of this would start at a very young age, usually under 10. People taught hieroglyphs would become scribes.
Hieroglyphs were normally carved on stone or wood, but were also sometimes painted and not carved.
As writing became more popular and widespread, simpler forms of writing were developed.
Hieratic (priestly form of writing)
Demotic (popular form of writing)
These were normally written on a form of paper called ‘Papyrus’.
Hieroglyphs were pictures of:
Deciphering the meaning of hieroglyphs was difficult as the symbols often had more than one meaning and could be written in many directions, sometimes left to right, right to left and even top to bottom.
When a picture of a person or animal at the start faced left it meant it was to be read left to right, as hieroglyphs face the beginning of the line.
This however was not known until the discovery of the ‘Rosetta Stone’ in 1799 by Napoleon’s troops during his invasion of Egypt.
The stone, later named the ‘Rosetta Stone’ after where it was found, was covered in text. As well as being written in hieroglyphs, the same text was written in a demotic version and Greek.
As there was already knowledge available to decipher Greek, this made it easier to decipher hieroglyphs and finally give an insight into Egyptian writings.