someone mentions the word 'hieroglyphics,' most people think of Egypt,
the sphinx, pyramids and mummies. Some people think about those words
being on the spelling test they failed last year. But does anyone know
what hieroglyphics really are, and why they are such an important part
of the history of communication?
The word hieroglyphics actually comes from the Greek word meaning sacred carvings. This term refers to the beautiful inscriptions on Egyptian monuments.
Hieroglyphics may be one of the first forms of communication. It was first used in 3200 BC, when the Egyptians were thought to have begun speaking old Egyptian.
were some of the few people at the top of the hierarchy table who
wrote using hieroglyphics. This was mainly because they took time
to learn and paper (made of a plant called papyrus) was
expensive. Scribes recorded important dates and aspects of the religion
for people in years to come to read. They worked for the pharaohs, and
it was usually a hard job to obtain. Only scribes' children became
scribes and so on.
hieroglyphic system used between 7 and 8 hundred symbols, both
phonograms and ideograms. Phonograms represent sounds, like th, bl, or
ch. Ideograms represent actual nouns, verbs and adjectives, such as
motion, joy or bird. A picture of an eagle could mean bird, but a
picture of a bird with the glyph meaning the sound ‘ch’ could mean
chick. The Egyptians did not use vowel sounds, so they must have added sounds
like ar, or, or ur to define some words.
They also added specific symbols stating belonging which included words such as of or from. For example, once some archaeologists found a mummy case stating in the inscription: “I am the daughter of the great king Xerxes.” But when the inscription was closely inspected, the stonemason had missed a vital part of the dedication. It really said, “I am the daughter Xerxes great king”, and was immediately found to be a fake. (The adjectives come after the noun or proper noun.)
first person to decipher hieroglyphics was Jean-Francois Champollion.
Some diggers found a slab of rock with writing in three
different languages: the two forms of Egyptian, Demotic and
hieroglyphics, and Greek! Both the hieroglyphics and demotic text were
unreadable, but after surrendering the stone to a British museum,
Champollion was able to decipher the text through the Greek words and
read inscriptions on tombs, scrolls, etc.
used hieroglyphs also. That was called calligraphy.
It was especially popular in
the Yuan dynasty. Just like hieroglyphics, calligraphy was considered an
important part of the scholar-gentleman’s training; samples of it were
often given to friends or relatives as an acknowledgement of hospitality
or kindness, or to mark a special occasion. Just like we use greeting cards today!
Calligraphers painted like the Egyptians; holding the brush vertically.
Characters were illustrated in a variety of styles, ranging from the
ancient glyphs to the more modern freeform glyphs of the Zen painters.
language you may not have heard of is Sumerian.
These people, originally from Mesopotamia, were the first to use
cuneiform, an alphabet using short wedge shaped strokes. The
civilization most known for using cuneiform were the Babylonians.
Unlike Egyptian hieroglyphics, each symbol stood for a word. But
Sumerian has many words that sound alike, making its cuneiform difficult
cultures used picture and symbol writing.
For a period of 2.5 thousand years, the Egyptians used
hieroglyphics in honor of their gods and goddesses, and this was the
birth of many languages around the earth.
Book and Online Sources
Guterbock, Hans G. "Cuneiform." Encarta. 1999th ed. N.p.: n.p. CD-ROM.
Hare, Thomas. Egyptian Gods, Goddesses and More. Oct. 2001. Nov. 2004.
Nelson, Dianne M. Encarta. 1999th ed. N.p.: n.p., 99. CD-ROM.
Andrew, and Rafe Kinsey. Alphabet Superhighway. Nov.
Fincham, J. Speech. G.I.S, Auckland. Aug. 2004.
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