OLD TESTAMENT & The History of Egyptian Hieroglyphs and the Rosetta Stone

by Vladislav Tchakarov, The Collector, December 27, 2019.

…Although the ancient Egyptian script does looks complicated, it is actually quite clear and simple. There were three main groups of signs that include logograms, phonograms, and definitive signs. Logograms were used to depict morphemes while phonograms were used to depict sounds. Definitive signs were used to aid the two other groups and make them clearer.

The Ancient Egyptian script consisted of only consonants which is the case with all ancient scripts from the Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic periods of Egypt. Undoubtedly, they used vowels in spoken language for pronunciation. Nevertheless, they did not include any in their writing system which made it extremely difficult for archeologists and historians to pronounce the hieroglyphs. This lead to the creation of a reading protocol which was used artificially to interpret the words. This explains why most people think that Egyptians used vowels in their script.

The ancient Egyptian writing system consisted of about 700 characters. Hieroglyphics were mainly used for religious as well as solemn purposes. They continued to be used in Egypt until about 400 AD, after which they were replaced by Coptic, another form of written language.

Coptic alphabet
Coptic alphabet

At first, there were 24 letters that were borrowed from the Greek writing system. Later on, they added six more that represented specific Egyptian sounds. Today, these two scripts have long been forgotten and the official language in Egypt is Arabic.

The Rosetta stone

Scientists and archeologists had little success in the interpretation of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs until the Rosetta stone was discovered in 1799 on accident by soldiers in Napoleon’s army.

The Rosetta stone is a fragment of a large black basalt stone engraving found near the city of Rosetta in the Nile Delta. The same text is engraved on the stone in two languages but in three ancient scripts – Egyptian hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. This was because, at that time, these were the three scripts that Egyptians used.

Both the demotic script and the ancient Greek language were well known to 19th-century Egyptologists who worked on deciphering the stone. As the text in the vernacular and the Greek language coincided, the significance of the Egyptian characters became clear.

The discovery and translation of this text are very important because it helps to interpret many other early written sources of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Rosetta Stone Text Decryption

All three texts refer to a decree adopted by the Memphis council of priests. It confirmed the royal cult of Ptolemy V of Egypt, one year after his coronation. The text on the Rosetta stone begins with a great appraisal for the achievements and dominions of Ptolemy V.

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