Short Description of Hieroglyphs for Visual Display

Essay by happyhappy187High School, 11th grade March 2004

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Hieroglyphs were the Egyptians form of written language. They were a number of pictures that were used to represent a sound, syllable, determinative, or even an entire word, similar to the way our letters represent different sounds. Interestingly, although the exact pronunciation of ancient Egyptian words is unknown, so one can not be certain if there was in fact an omission, it is believed that often times words were written omitting the vowel(s). The constraints of the language seem to have been rather liberal, and often gave way to the potential aesthetics. Hieroglyphics would, most commonly, be written right to left, however could be written in any orientation, reading always stating from the side to which all the people and animals depicted look. As well, they could be written in any manner of form when signs were grouped together to create a word. Little more can be said about the language in general as it changed much over the course of it is more than 3500 year usage in Egypt.

It started out sometime around 3100 BCE, as a simple system in which every picture, or sign, corresponded to a word. The language later moved towards approximately a thousand signs that were used in conjunction to form words, whose individual spellings would often differ from place to place. Later still the language shortened down to only 700 or so signs and had standard spellings for words. The final stage in the evolution of hieroglyphs involved thousands of signs and incorporated the ideas of signs representing sounds, syllables, and words as well as determinative. Around 400 CE the Egyptian system of hieroglyphics completely died out and was replace by an essentially Greek alphabet. After this point it was not until 1822, when French Egyptologist Jean François Champollion deciphered the Rosetta...