The Egyptians began to form a pictographic written language about 5000 years ago, which they continued to use for more than 3500 years, until about 400 AD. Eventually, the pictures they used to represent words came to represent sounds. These symbols, hieroglyphs, or "sacred inscriptions" were adapted for use in everyday life, in addition to their important religious/mystical identity.

Education was limited and narrow in scope.

Only rich males had access to education.

Education was almost always limited to religion.

Center of education was the city of Heliopolis.

After 400 AD, the Egyptian language was written in the Greek alphabet, with the addition of several extra letters to represent Egyptian sounds that didn't exist in Greek. This form of Egyptian is called Coptic, and was in turn eventually replaced by Arabic, the language spoken in Egypt today. The ancient Egyptian tongue died out - only the hieroglyphics remain to remind us that it ever existed.

The development of Egyptian writing was among the first in history. Egyptian writing was known as Hieroglyphics (sacred writing). Hieroglyphics were made up of over 600 ideograms and phonograms. Two simplier forms of Hieroglypics existed and were known as Hieratic and Demotic scripts. Hieroglyphics were written on a parchment made from a reed plant known as Papyrus.

The translation of Egyptian Hieroglyphics did not take place until the mid 19th century. Napoleon's soldiers found a black basalt rock near the Egyptian city of Rosetta containing hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek writing. This stone was taken back to Paris and became known as the Rosetta Stone. Hieroglypics were translated by Francois Champollion in 1826. This translation was the beginning of modern study of Egyptology.

In 1822 Jean Francois Champollion (1790-1832) made the decisive discovery concerning the decipherment of the hieroglyphs and became the founder of Egyptology. The multimedia project named after him and presented below aims to further the accessibility of collections of Egyptian objects in European museums for scholars, students and the interested public.

Jean-France Champollion

The ancient Egyptians were possibly the first civilisation to practice the scientific arts. Indeed, the word chemistry is derived from the word Alchemy which is the ancient name for Egypt.

Where the Egyptians really excelled was in medicine and applied mathematics. But although there is a large body of papyrus literature describing their achievements in medicine, there is no records of how they reached their mathematical conclusions. Of course they must have had an advanced understanding of the subject because their exploits in engineering, astronomy and administration would not have been possible without it.

The Hieroglyphic Phonetic Alphabet

Symbol Meaning English Sound
vulture short A, as in cat
forearm long A, as in table
leg hard B, as in big
basket,hillside hard C (K), as in call
hobble rope CH, as in children
hand hard D, as in dog
two reed leaves long E, as in lead
vulture short E, as in met
horned viper F, as in flower
pot stand hard G, as in gap
cobra soft G, as in generous
shelter, rope H, as in he, who
reed leaf short & long I, as in him, I'm
cobra J, as in jelly
basket, hillside hard C or K, as in kind, Christmas, lack
mouth L, as in lisp, linger
owl M, as in milk, dumb
water N, as in none
quail chick long O, as in lose, moon
vulture short O, as in brought, got
stool P, as in pretty
horned viper PH, as in pharaoh
+ basket + quail Q, as in queen
mouth R, as in red
folded linen S, (soft C), as in silly, peace
lake SH, as in shilling
loaf of bread T, as in talk
cow belly soft TH, as in moth
(not known) hard TH, as in there
quail chick short U, as in lull
+ reed + quail long U, as in rule
horned viper V, as in villain
quail chick W, as in will, where, when
+ basket + linen X, as in fox
reed leaf short Y, as in yes
two reed leaves long Y, as in tarry
door fastening Z sound, as in xylophone, zany


HIEROGLPHIC MENU In this section you will find a basic description of ancient Egyptian writing.
EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHS AND WRITING The Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system consists of several hundred picture signs. The signs can be divided into two classes, phonograms and ideograms.