The Egyptian language was one of the earliest languages to be written down. It first appeared on stone and pottery dating back to about 3100 B.C and remained in use for almost 3500 years. The last written inscription dates 391 A.D. This was when Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I closed all pagan temples throughout the empire, and the meaning of the language was lost. It was not until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone that historians and archaeologists could figure out the ancient language.
Hieroglyphics are written in rows and columns and can be read from left to right or right to left. This depends on which direction the animal or human figures are facing, because they always face the beginning of the line. In addition, the upper figures are always read before the lower figures.
Hieroglyphic signs are divided into four categories. One of these categories is alphabetic signs that represent a single sound. A second category is syllabic signs that represent a combination of about two or three consonants. The third category is word signs, which are pictures of objects which represent the words for those objects. These are followed by an upright stroke to show that the word is completed in one sign. The fourth category consists of determinatives which are pictures of objects that help the reader.
The Egyptians also used hieroglyphics in their mathematics. Units of numbers were shown by a certain sign. The larger number was always placed in front of the smaller number and was read from the top line down. The number one was represented by a single stroke. Ten was shown by a drawing of a hobble for cattle. 100 was shown by a coil of rope. 1,000 was represented by a lotus plant. 10,000 was a finger. 100,000 was a tadpole or frog. 1,000,000 was represented by a figure of a god with arms raised above his head.
Knowing how difficult it is to convert numbers from our number system into hieroglyphics, the Empires Past team presents this conversion service: enter a number in the field below, then click the "Convert" button, and you will be presented with the hieroglyphic representation of that number.