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There is about 700 letters in the ancient Egyptian writing system. The ancient Egyptians considered this type of writing as sacred and religious writings and most were placed and carved on tombs or wall of temples. The Egyptian writings were considered the "words of the Gods". The ibis-headed god Thoth was considered to be the patron deity of writing and scribes.

Hieroglyphs developed from pictorial representations of flora, fauna, buildings, people and objects of daily use that were familiar to the people. This is a picture of hieroglyphics on a wall of a tomb.

 Hieroglyphs were primarily used for religious and formal secular purposes. Early in the historical period, a simpler cursive script was developed, in which each character was a simplified version of a hieroglyph. This script is today known as hieratic and was widely used until about 800 BCE for business, literary and religious texts. By about 700 BCE another script today called demotic had evolved from the hieratic. Business, legal and literary inscriptions were written in demotic.


Hieroglyphics Alphabetic




Hieratic is an adaptation of the hieroglyphic script, the signs being simplified to make their writing quicker. Hieratic was the administrative and business script throughout most of its history, and recorded documents of a literary, scientific and religious nature. It was most often used on papyrus rolls or sheets, or on bits of pottery or stone.

Hieroglyphs were written with a reed brush and ink on papyrus, leather or wood, and on those surfaces it was harder to attain the crisp quality and detail of the signs as carved on stone. So cursive hieroglyphic was merely a simpler form of each hieroglyphic sign. A hieratic sign was not always as clear a counterpart to its hieroglyphic sign as was cursive hieroglyphic.

Hieratic should not be confused with cursive hieroglyphic script, though the two resemble each other. Cursive hieroglyphic script is usually written from right to left in columns, though just as with hieroglyphic it could vary, and is found almost exclusively in religious texts such as the Book of the Dead. Hieratic could be written in columns or horizontal lines, but it always read from right to left. It also sometimes contained punctuation in the form of a small dot to separate units of thought.



The word "Demotic" comes once again from Greek, meaning "popular script." By the Hellenistic period of the Ptolemies, demotic was the only native script in general daily use. It is a very cursive script, having been derived directly from hieratic, making it difficult to read and almost impossible to transcribe into any hieroglyphic counterpart.

Demotic texts were generally administrative, legal and commercial, though there are a few literary compositions as well as scientific and religious texts. The Rosetta Stone contains a section inscribed in demotic along with hieroglyphic and Greek.

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