The word hieroglyphics means "sacred writing" and comes from the Greek words "hieros," meaning sacred, and "glypho," meaning inscription, according to Omniglot. The earliest hieroglyphics, pictorial representations of events, ideas, names and objects, date back to 3,400 B.C., making it one of the world's oldest writing systems. Hieroglyphics, or glyphs, were divided into phonograms, which represented one or more sounds, and ideograms, which represented ideas or objects, according to Ancient Egypt, Hieroglyphics. This writing system lasted 3,500 years before it disappeared. With a little practice, you can learn how to write hieroglyphics.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Hieroglyphics chart
Say a word and listen to how it sounds. Hieroglyphic writing is based on how a word sounds, not on how it is spelt. For example, say the word boat. While the word contains four letters, you only hear three sounds ('b', long "o" and "t"). Because hieroglyphic writing only uses consonants, you would omit the long "o" sound.
Match the individual sounds to the corresponding hieroglyphic. Using a hieroglyphic chart, find the glyphs for the "b" and "t" sounds in the above example. Glyphs can be written singularly or combined into two or three consonant groupings.
Write hieroglyphics in rows and columns. Glyphs are written from left to right, right to left or top to bottom without spaces or punctuation. To read hieroglyphics, look at the animals, people and plants. If they face left, start reading from the left. Conversely, if they face right, start reading from the right.
Combine phonograms and ideograms to form words. In the above example, you would combine the glyphs for boat with a "determinative" --- which in this case would be a picture of a boat. Since hieroglyphic writing doesn't use vowels, the same sets of consonants represent different words. Not only does a determinative clarify the word meaning, it classifies the word into categories like motion words or animal words, for example. If you saw the glyphs for "b" and "t," you wouldn't know if the glyphs meant boat or bat or bit. By adding a determinative, a picture of a boat, the reader knows the "b" and "t" glyphs mean the word boat.
Tips and warnings
- The English alphabet contains sounds that are not found in the ancient Egyptian alphabet. For example, there is no corresponding hieroglyphic for the "th" sound. In this case, you would substitute the closest sound, which would be the "d" sound.
- The same hieroglyph can represent different sounds. For example, the hieroglyph for the "f" and "v" sounds is the same.
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