Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Egyptian Hieroglyphics Alphabet

Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Egyptian Hieroglyphics Alphabet

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script was one of the writing systems used by ancient Egyptians to represent their language. Because of their pictorial elegance, Herodotus and other important Greeks believed that Egyptian hieroglyphs were something sacred, so they referred to them as ‘holy writing’. Thus, the word hieroglyph comes from the Greek hieroholy’ and glypho ‘writing’. In the ancient Egyptian language, hieroglyphs were called medu netjer, ‘the gods’ words’ as it was believed that writing was an invention of the gods.

The script was composed of three basic types of signs: logograms, representing words; phonograms, representing sounds; and determinatives, placed at the end of the word to help clarify its meaning. As a result, the number of signs used by the Egyptians was much higher compared to alphabetical systems, with over a thousand different hieroglyphs in use initially and later reduced to about 750 during the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BCE). In the 1820s CE, Frenchman Jean-François Champollion famously deciphered hieroglyphs using the 2nd century BCE Rosetta Stone with its triple text of Hieroglyphic, Demotic and Greek. Egyptian hieroglyphs are read either in columns from top to bottom or in rows from the right or from the left.

origin of egyptian hieroglyphs

Like most ancient scripts, the origin of Egyptian hieroglyphs is poorly understood. There are, however, several hypotheses that have been put forth. One of the most convincing views claims that they derive from rock pictures produced by prehistoric hunting communities living in the desert west of the Nile, who were apparently familiar with the concept of communicating by means of visual imagery. Some of the motifs depicted on these rock images are also found on pottery vessels of early Pre-dynastic cultures in Egypt. This is especially marked during the Naqada II period (c. 3500-3200 BCE). The vessels were buried in tombs, and it is also in tombs of the Naqada III/Dynasty 0 period (c. 3200-3000 BCE) that the earliest securely dated examples of Egyptian hieroglyphs have been found.

In Abydos' cemetery U, tomb j, a member of the local elite was buried around 3100 BCE. He was a wealthy man, probably a ruler, and he was buried with several goods, including hundreds of jars, an ivory sceptre and other items. Many of these objects were looted and we know about them due to the approximately 150 surviving labels, which contain the earliest known writing in Egypt.

material form & use of Egyptian hieroglyphs

The labels found in the Abydos U-j tomb were carved on small rectangles made of wood or ivory with a hole in their corner so they could be attached to different goods. Other inscribed surfaces such as ceramic, metal and stone (both flakes and stelae) are also known from early royal tombs.

Papyrus, the chief portable writing medium in Egypt, appears during the First dynasty (c. 3000-2890 BCE): the earliest surviving example we know of comes from a blank roll found in the Tomb of Hemaka, an official of King Den. Egyptian scribes used papyrus and other alternative writing surfaces, including writing boards generally made of wood. Until the end of the Eighteenth dynasty (1550-1295 BCE), these boards were covered with a layer of white plaster which could be washed and replastered, providing a convenient reusable surface. Examples of clay tablets, a popular medium in Mesopotamia, dating to the late Old Kingdom (2686-2160 BCE) were found in the Dakhla Oasis, an area far away from the various locations where papyrus was produced. Bone, metal and leather were other type of materials used for writing. Surviving inscriptions on leather dating back to the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BCE) have also been found, but the preservation of leather is poor compared to papyrus, so there is no certainty about how extensively leather was used.

The inscriptions found at Abydos display different types of information: some of them are numbers, others are believed to indicate the origin of the goods, and the most complex show administrative information related to economic activities controlled by the ruler. In tombs from Dynasty 0, the signs found on pottery and stone vessels (and also on the labels attached to them) were used to indicate ownership of their content, probably connected with taxation and other accounting data. The signs on pottery vessels become increasingly standardized and since these pot-marks are believed to express information about the contents of the vessels (including their provenance), this tendency may reflect a growth in the complexity of record keeping and administrative control.

Towards the Late Pre-dynastic/Early dynastic transition (c. 3000 BCE), we find examples of writing in the context of royal art to commemorate royal achievements. In this case, writing is found on ceremonial maceheads, funerary stone stelae and votive palettes: the function of these items was to honour the memory of the rulers both in terms of the ruler’s achievements during their life and his relationship with the various gods and goddesses. Around 2500 BCE we find the oldest known examples of Egyptian literature, the “Pyramid Texts”, engraved on pyramids’ walls, and later, around 2000 BCE, there emerged a new type of text known as the Coffin Texts, a set of magical and liturgical spells inscribed on coffins.

development of ancient hieroglyphs

As Egyptian writing evolved during its long history, different versions of the Egyptian hieroglyphic script were developed. In addition to the traditional hieroglyphs, there were also two cursive equivalents: hieratic and demotic.

Hieroglyphic

This was the oldest version of the script, characterized by its elegant pictorial appearance. These signs are typically founnd in monument inscriptions and funerary contexts.

Hieratic

Encouraged by priests and temple scribes who wanted to simplify the process of writing, hieroglyphs became gradually stylized and derived into the hieratic ‘priestly’ script. It is believed that hieratic was invented and developed more or less simultaneously with the hieroglyphic script. Some of the hieroglyphs found in tombs dated to the c. 3200-3000 BCE period were in the form of royal serekhs, a stylized format of the king’s name. Some serekhs written on pottery vessels had hieroglyphs in cursive format, possibly a premature stage of hieratic. Hieratic was always written from right to left, mostly on ostraca (pottery sherds) and papyrus, and it was used not only for religious purposes, but also for public, commercial and private documents.

Demotic

An even more abbreviated script lacking any pictorial trace known as demotic ‘popular’ came in use around the 7th century BCE. The Egyptians called it sekh shat, "writing for documents". With the exception of religious and funerary inscriptions, demotic gradually replaced hieratic. While hieratic still carries some traces of the pictorial hieroglyphic appearance, demotic has no pictorial trace and it is difficult to link demotic signs with its equivalent hieroglyph.

legends On the origin of Egyptian hieroglyphs

According to Egyptian tradition, the god Thoth created writing to make the Egyptians wiser and to strengthen their memory. The god Re, however, disagreed: he said that delivering the hieroglyphs to humanity would cause them to contemplate their memory and history through written documents rather than relying on their actual memories passed down through generations. Writing, in Re’s view, would weaken people's memory and wisdom. Despite the will of Re, Thoth gave the techniques of writing to a select number of Egyptians, the scribes. In ancient Egypt, scribes were highly respected for their knowledge and skill in using this gift of the gods and this position was a vehicle of upward social mobility.

DECIPHERING hieroglyphs

For many years hieroglyphs were not understood at all. In 1798 CE Napoleon Bonaparte went to Egypt with many researchers and they copied several Egyptian texts and images. One year later, the Rosetta Stone was found, a decree of Ptolemy V, with the same text written in Greek, demotic and hieroglyphic writing.

Finally, Jean-François Champollion unravelled the mystery. He identified the name of Ptolemy V written on the Rosetta Stone, by comparing the hieroglyphs with the Greek translation. Then, he continued to study the names, using an obelisk from Philae (now in Dorset, England). The obelisk had the name of Ptolemy and Cleopatra written on it. This made it possible to conclude that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was a mixture of signals representing sounds, ideas and words, not a common alphabet. Champollion's achievement in deciphering the Rosetta Stone unlocked the secret of the ancient Egyptian writing system and allowed the world to finally read into Egyptian history.

DECLINE OF EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHS

During the Ptolemaic (332-30 BCE) and the Roman Period (30 BCE-395 CE) in Egypt, Greek and Roman culture became increasingly influential. Towards the 2nd century CE, Christianity started to displace some of the traditional Egyptian cults. Christianized Egyptians developed the Coptic alphabet (an offshoot of the Greek uncial alphabet), the final stage in the development of the Egyptian language, employed to represent their language.

Examples of the full 32-letter Coptic alphabet are recorded as early as the 2nd century CE. Its use not only reflects the expansion of Christianity in Egypt but it also represents a major cultural breakup: Coptic was the first alphabetic script used in the Egyptian language. Eventually, Egyptian hieroglyphs were replaced by the Coptic script. Only a few signs from the demotic script survived in the Coptic alphabet. The written language of the old gods plunged into oblivion for nearly two millennia, until Champollion’s great discovery.

EGYPT TOURS AND TRIPS

Ancient wonders. Hidden treasures. Endless seas and golden sand. Make lifelong memories on our Egypt tours.

Once a land of dynasties and decadence; now a land where time stands still. Our Egypt Journeys sets you in the shadows of history. At the foot of the legendary Great Pyramids. In the heart of the tomb-strewn Valley of the Kings. Or before the mighty temples of Abu Simbel.

That's not all. Our tours to Egypt offer what money can't buy. Like once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Rare experiences. And life-long friendships with your fellow travellers.

  • 5 Days In Egypt | Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria

    5 Days In Egypt | Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria Incredible 5 days in Egypt with the excursions to the most valuable sightseeings of the country. Discover Great Pyramids of Giza, mysterious Sphinx a...
    From USD 870
    Book Now!
  • Cairo Airport Transfers to Cairo & Giza Hotels

    Cairo Airport Transfers to Cairo & Giza Hotels We offer a private airport transfer service between Cairo International Airport and all locations in Cairo, Giza for clients who value comfort,...
    From USD 35
    Book Now!
  • Cairo and Luxor | Exciting 4 Days Egypt Trip

    Cairo and Luxor | Exciting 4 Days Egypt Trip The best way to feel the ancient atmosphere of Egypt it’s to visit Luxor. But what if this trip will contain also tour to Cairo and Giza? Right,...
    From USD 725
    Book Now!
  • Cairo and Nile Cruise - 7 Nights

    Cairo and Nile Cruise - 7 Nights Bask in the timeless majesty of ancient Egypt on an immersive journey through the land of the pharaohs, exploring its quintessential archaeological treasures wit...
    From USD 1'215
    Book Now!
  • Cairo, Nile Cruise & Hurghada

    Cairo, Nile Cruise & Hurghada Holiday Package| 12 Days-11 Nights Explore the top sights of Egypt. Tailor-made Travel package for your holiday includes Cairo, Nile cruise and Red Sea in ...
    From USD 1'550
    Book Now!
  • Cairo, Nile Cruise & Sharm El Sheikh

    Pyramids, Nile Cruise & Sharm El Sheikh | Vacation to Egypt Experience one of the best Egypt tours packages with Journey To Egypt. Indulge yourself in a vacation to Egypt visiting Pyramids o...
    From USD 2'085
    Book Now!
  • Egypt & the Nile on a Luxury Nile Cruise | 10 Days

    Egypt & the Nile on a Luxury Nile Cruise | 10 Days Cruise the Nile River for four nights on a Luxury Nile Cruise, explore an ancient pyramid from the inside out, gain exclusive access to the...
    From USD 1'000
    Book Now!
  • Luxor East And West Bank Tour

    Luxor East And West Bank Tour See the most famous sites around Luxor on both sides of the river in one day. Visit Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple on the East bank and then see the Valley of the K...
    From USD 100
    Book Now!
  • Nile Cruise Luxor Aswan - 4 Nights

    Nile Cruise Luxor Aswan - 4 Nights Cruise the Nile River for four nights aboard ‘5 star Nile Cruise,’ explore the archaeological icons of ancient Egypt, with your own private and exp...
    From USD 550
    Book Now!
  • Tour to Pyramids & The Egyptian Museum

    Tour to Pyramids & The Egyptian Museum Explore Ancient Egypt all in one day. Take in the Giza Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykreinus and the Sphinx before visiting the Egyptian Museum wi...
    From USD 85
    Book Now!

FAQ

Q- Is it safe to travel to Egypt 2020? A-Tourists have been visiting Egypt for centuries and Egyptians have well-earned reputation for warmth and kindness toward visitors. Egyptian cities are generally very safe, especially in area where tourists frequenty.


Q-What are Egypt's Visa Requirements? A-If you want to apply for a Visa On Arrival that lasts for 30 days then you should be one of the eligible countries, have a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining and pay 25$ USD in cash, as for the E-Visa for 30 day you should have a valid passport for at least 8 months, complete the online application, pay the e-visa fee then print the e-visa to later be presented to the airport border guard. You could also be one of the lucky ones who can obtain a free visa for 90 days. Read More About Egypt Travel Visa.


Q-What is the Top Traditional Egyptian Food?A-Egypt has a variety of delicious cuisines but we recommend “Ful & Ta’meya (Fava Beans and Falafel)”, Mulukhiya, “Koshary”, a traditional Egyptian pasta dish, and Kebab & Kofta, the Egyptian traditional meat dish.


Q-What is the Best Time to Visit Egypt?A- The best time to travel to Egypt is during the winter from September to April as the climate becomes a bit tropical accompanied by a magical atmosphere of warm weather with a winter breeze. You will be notified in the week of your trip if the weather is unsafe and if any changes have been made.


Q-What to Pack for Your Egypt Tour?A-You should pack everything you could ever need and but in a small bag so you could move easily between your destinations.


Q-Why Book With "JOURNEY TO EGYPT"? A-We have been creating the finest vacations for more than 10 years around the most majestic destinations in Egypt. Our staff consists of the best operators, guides and drivers who dedicate all of their time & effort make you have the perfect vacation. All of our tours are customized by Travel, Financial & Time consultants to fit your every possible need during your vacation. It doesn't go without saying that your safety and comfort are our main concern priority and all of our resources will be directed to provide the best atmosphere until you return home.


Q-What is the Weather is Like? A-The temperature in Egypt ranges from 37c to 14 c. Summer in Egypt is somehow hot and winter is cool and mild but sometimes it becomes cold at night. The average of low temperatures vary from 9.5 °C in the wintertime to 23 °C in the summertime and average high temperatures vary from 17 °C in the wintertime to 32 °C in the summertime. The temperature is moderate all along the coasts..