Writing in the West

7. Hieroglyphs - Egypt

Introduction

The first surviving examples of hieroglyphic writing (from the Greek ‘ta hieroglyphica’ – ‘the sacred carved [letters]’) are from the period 3100-3000 BCE. Hieroglyphics had a long history: they continued to be used up to the fourth century AD. It was a mixed system in which some signs acted as ‘thought writing’ and some as ‘sound writing’. For most of the time during which hieroglyphic writing was used, the signs in common use were between 700-1000 in number. There were no punctuation marks, and no division between one word and the next. Lines were usually read from right to left.