Early Writing in Ancient Egypt

The aspect of the reading in Chapter 5: The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization that I found to be most interesting is early writing and formal art found in ancient Egypt.  It turns out that hieroglyphic writing was invented in Egypt before the 1st Dynasty and that its earliest stages are unknown.  The earliest known writing sample is the labels related to the mortuary context from late Predynastic Tomb U-j at Abydos.  Early Dynastic writing, similar to the writing that can be found on the late Predynastic Tomb U-j at Abydos, is very much related to the earliest hieroglyphs.

But what encouraged Ancient Egyptians to transform their hieroglyphics into an early form of writing?  Anthropologists believe that this change may have been for economic and administrative purposes.  Hieroglyphics have been known to appear in a variety of objects commonly used in everyday life in ancient Egypt such as, labels, seal impressions and potmarks that were used to identify the goods and materials of the king or state.  Labels from the Abydos royal tombs that are dated to Dynasty 0 and the 1st Dynasty allow archaeologists to learn more about the earliest evidence of recording “year names” of a king’s reign.  It has also been suggested that these “year names” represent a royal annals system.  Although there has not been evidence from excavations to support “evidence of state taxation based on agricultural surplus, such as granaries, recording years by a king’s reign would also have been useful to officials who collected taxes and levies (119).  However, we do know that the king directly owned large land-holdings throughout Egypt because of the evidence found on/near the royal tombs.

Early writing has also been known to appear on royal arts, such as the Narmer Palette, and has been integrated into representational art.  Writings found in variety forms of art confirm beliefs in the mortuary cult, which later achieved a much fuller expression in tombs and pyramid complexes of the Old Kingdom.  In conclusion, hieroglyphics were changed to a more formal writing style for economic and administrative purposes and early forms of writing can teach us a lot about life in ancient Egypt.


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About dovialli

Hey everybody! My name is Allison and I am from Fairfax Station, VA. I am graduating from Michigan State University this summer with a BS in Psychology and an additional major in Anthropology. Woot woot! Then, I'm off to Texas to get my PhD in School Psychology from University of Houston!

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