Talk like an Egyptian

How do hieroglyphs work?

Hieroglyphs are the 2000 written characters that make up the Egyptian language. "Hieroglyphs could represent the sound of an object or an idea associated with that object". Hieroglyphs also come with their own set of grammatical rules, such as vowels are spoken but never written. Biliterals are hieroglyphs which were subsituted in place of pairs of alphabet characters. Determinatives imply meanings for symbols that could have multiple meanings; for example, a drawn heart could mean a literal heart or the idea associated with hearts (love). Determinatives are used to eliminate that confusion. Hieroglyphs could be written left to right, right to left, or in columns. The direction they were to be read was determined by the direction the characters faced- if a bird was facing left, you read the hieroglyphs from left to right. Numbers were based upon units of ten, with a symbol for each unit.

What does Rosetta Stone have to do with it?

Rosetta Stone, a slab of rock covered in Egyptian hieroglyphs, was discovered by French soldiers as they were clearing the way for an extension of their fort in 1799. It was almost immediately handed over to the British after the French signed the Treaty of Capitulation in 1802. The Stone contains a decree from the general council of Egyptian priests issued in 196 BCE. English polymath Thomas Young was the first to figure out that the hieroglyphs were based upon phonics; however, it was Jean- Francois Champolion who completely deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs in the end.

Where it came from


Brauw, Scott. "Egyptian Hieroglyphs." Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Great Scott, 1998. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.

Singh, Simon. "A Forgotten Script." BBC News. BBC, 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.