Hieroglyphs were the writing system used by ancient Egyptians using thousands of distinct signs. Egyptians are believed that hieroglyphs start as a form of writing in approximately 3200 BC. There were over 6,000 signs in their writing system by 300 BC. The only members of Egyptian society who are capable of reading hieroglyphs were Scribes, royals, priests, and nobles. Scribes knew approximately 700 to 750 of the signs, while skilled scribes knew over 3,000 signs. Hieroglyphs were created in two phases. The scribes first painted the inscriptions on objects or walls of buildings then the Carvers would follow and engrave the inscriptions into the walls or objects. Scribes also wrote on papyrus.
The word ‘hieroglyph’ is derived from the Greek adjective ‘hieroglyphics’, which means, ‘sacred god’s words’.
Only 3% of the population of ancient Egypt knew how to read hieroglyphics.
Hieroglyphs were meant to represent both ideas and sounds.
Hieroglyphics could be written from left to right, right to left, or even top to bottom depending on the scribe. It was up to the reader to determine the direction; based on the direction the symbols were written.
Hieroglyphics were consisting of four different categories including alphabetic, syllabic, word-signs, and determinatives.
Every Alphabetic signs in hieroglyphics represent one sound each but because Egyptians did not represent vowels, the actual sounds represented may never be known.
A triple sign in hieroglyphics meant that it was plural.
Syllabic signs in hieroglyphics were created to represent two to three consonants.
Demotic writing was a simpler form of hieroglyphics that the commoners learned to write. It was common to write on papyrus with demotic writing.
As hieroglyphs progressed two additional scripts were developed by the Egyptians including heretic and demotic.
The Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799 near Rosetta, Egypt, helped scholars decipher hieroglyphics. Before this discovery it was believed they may never be deciphered. The Rosetta Stone had Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphics to convey a message which made it possible for scholars to begin making sense of it.
These facts help us to know how the ancient Egyptian alphabet became the writing system in this period.