So far, we have looked at the very first illustrations in cave paintings, then we moved on to Pictograms and looked at semiotics and the relation of an object to its many symbols. This leads us to Typography and the origins of the written languages of today.

However, no one is quite sure why humans made the leap from drawings and pictograms to learned symbols. Within fixed communities writing developed more quickly and this knowledge was passed between them and other nearby communities.

In Ancient Egypt, the written language that we have all heard of today is Hieroglyphics. However, these were actually considered to be mainly for decoration, for writing prayers and religious script on the walls of tombs or palaces. A faster of writing was developed, known as Hieratic, which was the simplified version of the Egyptian language. Hieroglyphics and Hieratic are now thought to be the basis of many languages including Chinese, Latin and some Greek. The Hieratic evolved into the demotic, which bore no trace of the original Hieroglyphs, then was replaced by Greek (Coptic), after which, all knowledge of the language disappeared. It was not until 1798 when the Rosetta Stone was discovered that historians were able to decipher Ancient Egyptian texts. What made this possible was the three sections of text carved onto the stone all translated to mean more or less the same thing, but were written in Greek, Demotic and Hieroglyphic. After many years of study, Champollion was finally able to translate the writing into a memorial to honour the deceased Pharoah.

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I include now a fun image from the Asterix and Cleopatra comic of characters speaking ‘Egyptian’.

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Bibliography

http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/writing/rosetta.html

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/t/the_rosetta_stone.aspx

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