The formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that contained a combination of logographic and alphabetic elements is called Hieroglyphs. They began developing this system at around 3000 BC.
The first hieroglyphics were used on buildings and tombs such as Tutankhamen sarcophagus symbol .Ancient Egyptian writing uses more than 2,000 hieroglyphic characters.
Each hieroglyph represents a common object in ancient Egypt. The Hieroglyphics involved a series of picture words. It could represent the sound of the object or they could represent an idea associated with the object. The system consisted of several hundred words and was complex and labour intensive.
Visually hieroglyphs are all more or less figurative: they represent real or illusion elements, sometimes stylized and simplified, but all generally perfectly recognizable in form. However, the same sign can, according to context, be interpreted in diverse ways: as an ideogram, as a logogram or as a Phonogram.
Ideograms were used to write the words they represented. An example of an ideogram would be a picture of a woman that actually looked like a woman and represented the word ‘woman’. Phonograms were used to spell out the sound out the words they represented. They had no relation with the word they were sounding out.
Hieroglyphs were called, by the Egyptians, “the words of God” and were used mainly by the priests. For decorating the walls of temples, these painstakingly drawn symbols were used.
Hieroglyphs are written in rows or columns and can be read from left to right or from right to left. . In order to know which direction to begin reading, the scribe would position the figures so that they faced in the correct direction.
You can distinguish the direction in which the text is to be read because the human or animal figures always face towards the beginning of the line. The system did not have any form of punctuation or spacing. It neither had vowels. The upper symbols were read before the lower.
Hieroglyphic signs are divided into four categories:
1. Alphabetic signs represent a single sound. Unfortunately the Egyptians took most vowels for granted and did not represent such as ‘e’ or ‘v’. So we may never know how the words were formed.
2.Syllabic signs represent a combination of two or three consonants.
3. Word-signs are pictures of objects used as the words for those objects. They are followed by an upright stroke, to indicate that the word is complete in one sign.
4. A determinative is a picture of an object which helps the reader. For example; if a word expressed an abstract idea, a picture of a roll of papyrus tied up and sealed was included to show that the meaning of the word could be expressed in writing although not pictorially.
Over several thousand years, the system of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics developed by Egyptian civilization evolved and developed into an even more complex system consisting of varying forms of formality.
Eventually, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were used to decorate jewelry, record events on papyrus and to form a kind of signature for royalty and deities on oval stones known as the cartouche.
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