Over the past semester, one aspect of Ancient Egyptian society that has stood out to me is the amount of documentation and writing left depicting Ancient Egyptian culture. The inscriptions of Pharaohs and Gods/Goddesses in temples, papyri demonstrating the use of pi when constructing pyramids, and the infamous Rosetta stone – a decree made by Ptolemy V written in three languages – Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek.
As a history major, the existence of such written materials is really interesting – especially since the topics of the writing are so diverse. Through written materials and inscriptions, we can learn about science and technology in Ancient Egypt, religious culture, decrees and governmental organization, and one of the most fundamental features of culture – language.
I feel like we touched on a lot of the larger archaeological finds regarding written works, and the use of language in Ancient Egypt in this class, and I admire that decision. When talking about archaeology and Ancient Egypt, it’s easy to get caught up in the mummies and the statues and forget about the importance of language and the written evidence left behind.
One topic that I would have liked look more into was the use of language in everyday life, especially in regards to trade. Was it common for people to speak more than one language, and what languages were more popular? Was this division separated by social classes? How did Egypt’s use of language differ from that of other societies, like the Syrians and the Nubians?
While we can learn a lot about Ancient Egypt from human remains, mortuary contexts, and other archaeological finds, we can infer additional information from written documents. Someone – probably an Ancient Egyptian – had to write those legal documents or carve/paint the inscriptions in the temples.