Hieroglyphic Writing

Cemetery U at Abydos contains the earliest evidence for phonetic hieroglyphic writing in Ancient Egypt.  Recently, the Naqada IIIA tomb U-j was discovered at Cemetary U, contributing very important information to this research.  Commodity labels attached to oils and textiles tell the quantity or provenance of these goods, which suggests that commodities were imported from other parts of Egypt at the time.  Excavators have identified what they think are estate names of early rulers on ink inscriptions on ceramic vessels.  These inscriptions are a variety of specific signs in addition to a plant sign.  Hieroglyphic writing then became a system of administrative control.  Even though it was largely used for religion and administration, writing was also used in private circumstances like funerary inscriptions or to show ownership of estates or goods.

Hieroglyphic writing was a large part of the administration of the centralized bureaucracy in Egypt.  It was a way for the administration to collect revenue in the form of taxes and surplus gained from industries, as well as recording inventories and document expenses.  As far as early titles, one of the most important was a royal seal bearer, which appears in Dynasty 1 in the written form.  There may be evidence prior to this, such as royal seals from the Naqada IIIA/B site called Helwan.  Evidence also points out that there was a structured hierarchy by the Early Dynastic period that included defined institutions and allocated personnel.  The personnel described appear to have kinship relations with the ruler, which would have most likely granted them high social status.  They also may have acquired this special status through professional competence, ability, and skills.

Hieroglyphic writing was obviously a significant part of the bureaucracy in Ancient Egypt because it helped both administrations and private practices document and record necessary items.  Writing also probably strongly added to the increasing social complexity since not all people would be able to read or have the opportunity to learn how to read.

One thought on “Hieroglyphic Writing

  1. After reading your post, I agree with your position in that the hieroglyphs were used by the administrative and business parties that operated in ancient Egypt. Before I understood how the hieroglyphs operated, I assumed that every picture represented the sound of that picture. However, although this is the case in some aspects, there are plenty of rules that change how an image sounds. It is this change that would make the language difficult for someone to learn if they had no knowledge of the language during the time. I would have thought the language could be easy to pick up in ancient Egypt because of the pictures used. For instance, the English language does not have the letter “A” for instance occurring in nature. However, the hieroglyphs had pictures such as birds, snakes, and people for their alphabet which one would see on a regular basis. I imagined that this method of writing would have been easier to understand, but after reading more as to how the combination of two/three images will yield a totally different sound or picture, I can see how it would be difficult.

    The use of this method of writing in the business sense would have been extremely useful and communication between those who could have read would have made business very discreet. The same applies to the actions of the government as well. In contrast to this though, any written action would make no sense to the subjects involved if they would not be able to read/write and thus the system of writing would fall through to communicate down the social class.

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