Egyptian writing - an art form.

Ancient codes.

Although pretty to look at, Egyptian writing, or Hieroglyphs, remained a mystery for centuries. Archaeological finds could tell a great deal about the ancient civilization at the edge of the Nile. But, imagine if we could read the seemingly complex picture style words carved into stone or painted to papyrus. Surely then we could know everything about them?

In the 18th century a fanatical Frenchman, Jean Francois Champollion, unraveled the mystery of the writing. But did it unravel the mysteries of Ancient Egypt?

Well ... not all of them, but it gave Egyptologists and other such experts more to work with.

Where was Egyptian writing found and what does it tell us?

*Papyrus scrolls- These tell us that Egyptians were great at keeping records. For instance the number of animals owned by someone of nobility was recorded by assigned scribes.

*Tombs- The writing found in tombs has mostly centred around prayers needed by the deceased to travel successfully to the afterlife.

*Clay tablets- An interesting and thought provoking find in the tomb of a king named Scorpion, shows clay tablets with records of oil and linen deliveries. It was dated somewhere around 3300BC. Could it be the oldest writing in the world?

Did the Egyptians invent writing?

*War- The Egyptian military wrote to communicate effectively over distances during their wars against other nations.

*Temples- To perform rituals intended to please the gods, priests needed to read the instructions carved into reliefs on temple walls.

*Pharaohs- We have learned much about Pharaohs and the history of Egypt from the writing found in tombs, temples, papyrus scrolls, clay tablets etc. Also we have learned a lot by the attempted erasing of writing. For instance the attempt to erase the evidence of the heretical Akhenaten's monotheistic worship of his sun god Aten.

Egyptian writing discoveries.

*The Rosetta Stone- This was the key to cracking the code. Click on the link to learn more about it.

*The Papyrus of Ani- More famously known now as the book of the dead is a seventy eight foot scroll with cursive hieroglyphics and colour illustrations. It was created in the 19th Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. It was the ancient Egyptians conception of the afterlife. It was complete with hymns and spells.

*The Pyramid Texts- The pyramid texts were religious texts carved on the walls of pyramids in Saqqara during the 5th and 6th Dynasties. They were not illustrated and were writings reserved only for the Pharaoh who was to be placed in the Pyramid.

*The Coffin Texts- The coffin texts, likely derived from the Pyramid texts, are more relative to the common man and made the afterlife less exclusive to those in power.

*The Narmer Pallette- An important find. Discovered in 1898, this early form of hieroglyphics was found on a palette similar to that used for grinding cosmetics. It shows a figure, supposedly the Pharaoh Narmer, with one crown on one side and a different crown on the other. The interpretation could be read in many ways.

It could show the unification of upper and lower Egypt.

Or does it record a military success?

Do the headless bodies represent Narmers slaid enemy?

Does the images of a ship, falcon and harpoon represent the town of the enemy?

All possible interpretations.

Explore the links below and find out more about this important form of communication invented by the ancient Egyptians.


Rosetta Stone



For a closer look at where the writing was used

click here

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