Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics appeared in the 4th millennium BCE. Hieroglyphs are picture forms that, unlike other ancient picture-form writing, have survived the ages. "Hieroglyph" is a Greek word that means "sacred writing" or "sacred carving." Remarkably beautiful, hieroglyphs are drawn with typical Egyptian precision. Hieroglyphs depict objects, actions, sounds and ideas, and they are the form of ancient Egyptian writing that was carved into stone monuments.

Write ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs using the hieratic form. While hieroglyphs were written mainly on large stone monuments and wall reliefs, the hieratic script is essentially the "cursive form" of the ancient Egyptian language that was used by scribes for manuscripts and other documents.

Write in a selected direction. You can write hieroglyphics from left to right, right to left or even top to bottom. The direction that the first human or animal faces at the beginning of a line determines what direction readers follow the script. Symbols at the top are read before lower symbols.

Write alphabetic symbols to represent one sound or use syllabic symbols which combine two or three consonants. An example of Egyptian alphabet writing is "ttnkhmn." Each letter has a corresponding symbol. This set of characters would have been carved or written into a cartouche (an oval-shaped pattern), because it is the name of royalty. The aggregate symbols refer to Pharaoh Tutankhamen. There are no vowels. Ancient Egyptians did not use vowels or "v."

Use word-signs to depict objects that are the hieroglyphic "words" for what the character symbolizes. Word-signs are followed by an upright stroke, which indicates that the word is complete. Word-signs include symbols for eating, man, woman and the sun.

Write a determinative, which is a picture of an object that will guide readers. For example, a picture of a roll of papyrus tied up and sealed symbolizes that the meaning of the word is expressed in cursive writing.

Items you will need

  • Pen

  • Ink

  • Paper

  • Hieroglyphics chart (see Resources)

Tip

  • Accompanying images show hieroglyphic forms. Play with hieroglyphics. They make attractive art forms.