The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing

By A. C. Moorhouse | Go to book overview

IV
pre-alphabetic scripts: part ii

1
EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS

EGYPT WAS A CLOSE NEIGHBOR OF THE COUNTRIES USING cuneiform, which we have examined in the last chaper. Ancient Egyptian writing consisted primarily of three connected scripts --the hieroglyphic, which was no doubt the original form and already well developed in the First Dynasty (? about 3000 B.C.), the hieratic, and the demotic. The name hieroglyphic, which was applied to it by the Greeks, means the sacred engraved writing.1 This form was especially monumental and was carved on stone or wood. But it also was written with pen (of frayed reed) or brush and ink on papyrus sheets or other soft material, particularly in religious use. The manufacture of sheets and rolls from papyrus, a plant growing in the Delta area, was itself a highly important contribution made by Egypt to the development of writing. The latest hieroglyphic inscription known was made in 394 A.D. The script is remarkable for the beauty and transparence of meaning of many of its signs, which were made with the greatest care. It had, for example, over seventy signs representing birds, all of which are well distinguished.

It must, however, have been felt too laborious in the ordinary

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1
Hieroglyphic is also extended to describe other scripts in which pictography is evident, as in Cretan, Hittite, and Aztec forms of writing.

-70-

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The Triumph of the Alphabet: A History of Writing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Part I - The Form of Writing 1
  • I - The Development of Writing 3
  • II - The Work of Decipherment 28
  • III - Pre-Alphabetic Scripts: Part I 46
  • IV - Pre-Alphabetic Scripts: Part II 70
  • V - The Semitic Alphabet and Its Orgin 94
  • VI - The Extension of the Alphabet 126
  • Part II - The Use of Writing 157
  • VII - The Functioning of Writing 159
  • VIII - The Historical Influence of Writing 178
  • IX - Writing and the Spread of Literacy 199
  • Bibliography - A Selected List of Works in English 216
  • Index 221
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