6 Facts About Ancient Egypt's Hieroglyphic Writing

By: April Carson


The word hieroglyphic loosely translated in Greek means 'sacred carving' and is attributed to the fact that Egyptian writing appeared on temple walls and monuments of a sacred nature. The modern term 'hieroglyphs' applied to this ancient language was first mentioned by an English traveler, Thomas Young, who visited Egypt in 1801-1802.


Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was a system of pictures, but not picture writing. A more correctly term is, 'ideograms', that emerged into a cursive form to become an early mnemonic device. The Egyptian hieroglyphs were then replaced by the Phoenician alphabet in the 7th century BC; however it is important to remember that the ancient Egyptian writing system was based on a combination of word-image and sound, thereby making it an integral part of the great 'oral tradition' that has always been at the core of Egyptian culture. All hieroglyphic signs are phonograms which represent one or more sounds only, but a given sign may have more than one value (or none at all) and the values of hieroglyphs frequently changed over time.


These scripts were found on the insides of ancient Egyptian temples, monuments and tombs. They represent a complex remnant of history that can be studied to understand how life was lived back then.


The ancient Egyptian script evolved through time, and hieroglyphs that were found on the oldest objects are very different from those used in the latest times. Conventional hieroglyphs had no punctuation, spacing, or vowels.



Here are 6 interesting facts about Hieroglyphic writing:

  1. Hieroglyphic writing was used to convey the ancient Egyptian language. Ancient Egyptians spoke a variety of languages, and hieroglyphs were the official written script.

  2. There are two types of ancient Egyptian scripts: Hieratic and Hieroglyphic. Hieratic is more cursive than hieroglyphs and derived from hieroglyphs. Hieratic was used in everyday writing, while hieroglyphs were mostly used on temples and tombs. Hieratic writing was written on papyrus with a pen or brush. It is more difficult than modern hieroglyphics as they lack vowels and do not have the same set of symbols for each consonant.

  3. Hieroglyphic texts can be written in columns or rows, and both the direction of writing (left to right or right to left) could vary during ancient times or within different text.

  4. Hieroglyphic writing is difficult to understand because there are no spaces between the words and it lacks punctuation. Without a good grasp of ancient Egyptian grammar, readers can only determine individual words or clauses within sentences by looking at context clues.

  5. Hieroglyphic writing can be found primarily in elite tombs. People often believe that hieroglyphic writing was invented in Ancient Greece because it is so similar to Greek. However, the earliest known examples of this form of communication are found on grave goods and temples dating back before recorded history began. Hieroglyphs have a deep link with early Egyptian art due to their usage within funerary objects as well as royal monuments praising kings throughout time.

  6. Hieroglyphics is not picture writing. The hieroglyphic symbols look like pictures of people, animals and objects but instead they represent sounds in the ancient Egyptian language. Some are ideographic signs that don’t have a sound attached to them representing concepts.



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