The Ancient Egyptians left many writings in the form of pictures on the walls of tombs and pyramids. These were untranslatable until the finding and deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in the early 1800s. With the Rosetta Stone as a starting point, linguists were able to decipher writings on the tomb walls. This has led to a large body of material giving historians insight into early Egyptian life.
The tomb pictorial writing found on the walls of ancient Egyptian monuments is known as hieroglyphs. Hieroglyphs date back as far as 3100 B.C. Hieroglyphs, meaning “sacred carvings” (David 1998, pg. 192) is a Greek translations of the Egyptian phrase, “the gods’ words.” Hieroglyphs were written in columns from left to right. Hieroglyphic writing was used in tombs and for religious purposes.
Two other languages developed in Egypt for business and everyday use. These languages were known as hieratic and demotic. They were cursive scripts that were easier to write and use for more everyday purposes. From these two languages, a later language, known as Coptic, developed. Once linguists made the connection between the Coptic and the two earlier languages, it opened up much in terms of translating old texts.
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