Over 5000 years ago, ancient Egyptians wrote using a picture writing called hieroglyphics. The writers were called scribes. Not everyone had this training not even the Pharaoh and his family. There was a problem because Egyptians wrote down everything, and hieroglyphs were beautiful, but time consuming! The scribes needed a faster way to write. They created the first shorthand called Demotic script. The new scribes used that exclusively and never learned the ancient hieroglyphs. They wrote faster and even created some new scripts.
Hundreds of years passed and archaeologists discovered beautiful hieroglyphic writing on ancient walls of tombs and pyramids in Egypt. But there was a problem. Though they knew there was a story told there on the wall, and they could read Demotic Script, there was not one person on the face of the earth who could read ancient Egyptian! This mystery wasn’t solved until about 200 years ago, when a huge black stone was found in Egypt. The stone had the same short story chiseled into it, in three languages, Greek, Demotic and ancient hieroglyphs. The scientists could read the first two and noticed it was the same story, so they came to the conclusion that the hieroglyphs was also the same story. With their knowledge of Greek and Demotic, and the gift of some ancient Egyptian, the linguists were able to finally begin to read and understand hieroglyphs.
The very famous stone was named the Rosetta Stone. Today it is on display in the famous British Museum in London. When we were there, it was possible to touch the stone and feel the excitement of this discovery many years ago. It is displayed in a glass case currently.
I decided to dust off my teacher hat this morning and tell you about hieroglyphs! It was a system of picture writing. The first were pictographs or pictures of the meaning. A sun was a sun. Later the the meaning could represent ideas and or the literal meaning. An example is the pictures could be the sun or it could mean the daytime. Then the hieroglyphs had became ideograms. Finally, the pictures were not only the appearance of an object, or related to ideas, but also the sound of a spoken word used to describe an object. Now a sun could be “son” or the beginning of Sun-day. So each picture took on a unique sound to form thoughts and ideas. There are no vowels in hieroglyphs. With the combination of sound signs, pictographs and ideograms, no wonder it was so difficult to decipher hieroglyphs! Here is a chart which may make this clearer.
Ready to translate? To read the hieroglyphs you need to know that it is read from right to left, but sometimes left to right or in columns. How is a reader to know? You read towards the faces.
I am going to include the link to the “translator” which my students loved. You type in your name and then the translator will produce your name in hieroglyphs! Or you can first try to write your name and check it with the translator. You can send me a postcard. firstname.lastname@example.org
Namaste. . . . .T I E