WRITING in Ancient Egypt. Ancient Studies. Thoth. A hymn to Osiris. I. Origins A. Practical 1. Growing government bureaucracy 2. From Sumerians (through trade) B. Divine
1. Growing government bureaucracy
2. From Sumerians (through trade)
1. God of learning, Thoth, invented it. In some versions, Osiris is attributed as creator of writing.
2. Words were considered to have magical powers,
since they came from the gods.
A. Hieroglyphs (c. 3200 BCE)
1. Means "holy writing" in Greek (Greeks named it c. 300
2. Were originally pictograms. Later evolved into mixture of
pictograms, ideograms, and phonograms.
3. Were more elaborate, artistic, and accurately drawn than
4. Required a great deal of memorization (like Sumerian cuneiform)
5. Unlike Sumerian cuneiform, which scribes wrote in long
lines, right to left, hieroglyphs weren't consistent—
sometimes vertical, sometimes horizontal, etc.
1. Hieroglyphs transformed by priests
2. Faster, more convenient for scribes--fewer,
simpler lines, connected (as in cursive
C. Demotic (c. 700 BCE)
1. An even more simplified version of hieroglyphs
2. Greek for "of the people"
3. Became more widespread amongst population
A. Early: carved on stone with chisel
B. Between 3100 and 2900 BCE began using papyrus, a
reed that grew in Nile valley, a 15 ft. high plant with
strong fibers, roots as big as a human's arm (word
"paper" comes from "papyrus")
A. Ancient Egyptian language died out c. 400 CE and with it, knowledge of
B. Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1799. One of his soldiers, digging a fort in
July 1799 near town of Rashid (Europeans call it Rosetta), found a black
stone (basalt) with writing carved on it. [Stone moved to Cairo, then to
Alexandria, then to London and eventually to British Museum in 1802.]
In 1822, Jean Champollion, French genius, drawing from his knowledge
of Coptic, deciphered it.
C. The stone: 3 feet 9 inches in length, 2 feet 4 1/2 inches in width and 11 inches in thickness (originally was probably 5 or 6 feet in height, dedicated to a king, displayed in a temple) hieroglyphics on top; demotic in middle; Greek on bottom
D.cartouche: royal names circled in ovals; the one on the
Rosetta Stone contained the name of Ptolemy--scholars
compared it with another cartouche from an obelisk from Philae. Also compared signs to a cartouche of the name Cleopatra.
E. The inscription on the stone, according to the British
Museum, celebrates "the first commemoration of the
coronation of Ptolemy V, Epiphanes, king of all Egypt"
(c. 196 BCE).