What are hieroglyphics-?

Updated: 8/19/2022
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Hieroglyphics Hieroglyphics were the method of writing used in ancient Egypt. (Sometimes, people refer to other people's bad handwriting as "Hieroglyphics"). It is a form of picture writing, or, as the answer below says, "Egyptian writing through symbols". Each symbol is an hieroglyph. Each cluster of symbols represented a word or idea rather than simple sounds like the symbols in an alphabet.

Some hieroglyphs were alphabetic sounds. Others were "determinatives". The latter helped the reader distinguish between different words that had the same basic set or cluster of symbols (hieroglyphs). Thus, there were many different symbols. The large number of symbols perhaps reflects the changing nature of the Egyptian language over many centuries. For example, imported words regularly entered the vocabulary because of commerce, migration, colonization or conquest.

"Hieroglyphic" is actually the adjective used for the type of writing. Hieroglyphic writing, in contrast to alphabetic writing, is a form of writing where pictures and drawings serve as representations of words.

It might be worth noting here that the Rosetta Stone helped to decode or decipher the Hieroglyphs using the Greek and Coptic words also found on that stele. On that stele, the scribes attempted to write the same message in three different languages but as translators know that is a very difficult task even when the three languages are well known and understood by all the people involved in the project so there was much scope for error or poor translation which modern investigators would find very hard to detect.

Anyway, the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stele probably represented meanings current around the time of the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt (from 300 BC). The words in hieroglyphs may have simply been words in Coptic or 3rd Century BC Greek but written using the hieroglyphs, instead of Greek letters, as the alphabet or writing language. As such, the Rosetta Stone may therefore not tell us much at all about the ancient Egyptian language (or languages) of the early dynasties when a language more akin to ancient Hebrew was spoken (e.g., in 2000 BC). Furthermore, there is a debate regarding the status of hieroglyphs and to what extent meanings changed over time. For example, hieroglyphs on a 12th dynasty monument may have represented words that on a 19th or 26th dynasty monument were quite different in meaning.

One example is the meaning of "Memphis". This city was still important under the Ptolemies (in 300-200 BC) although other cities like Alexandria were probably rising in importance as Memphis began to wane after circa 300 BC. "Memphis" is composed of two syllables or "Mem-Phit" where the 's' is probably a Greek reading of the Egyptian 't'. We hear that, for example, in the "Shabbas" (Ashkenasi) and "Shabbath" (Sephardi) of the Hebrew. If we reverse this we get "Phit-Mem". The reason for reversing the syllables is that ancient middle eastern languages were often written in different directions; e.g., right to left.

Foreign observers probably did not understand the cluster system of hieroglyphs and the way in which direction pointers instructed the onlooker to read them. If the cluster was to be read as an acrostic, one simply looked at the group of symbols as a whole. So people started reading "Mem-phit" instead of "Phit-Mem" or "Pithom" which is why the whereabouts of the ancient city the Jews (or "Israelites") "built for the Pharaoh" (Exodus 1:11).

We can further analyse the sounds in Mem-phit or Phit-mem this way: Pi-Th-M (or 'em'). In ancient times (1500 BC), the Israelites had made the bricks, or brick foundations, for this place and one of William Flinders Petrie's excavation reports (1908-1914) shows these bricks in a photograph.

But "Pi-Th-M" is probably the representation of "Pi-eM-Ha-T" or the Place (Pi) of Amen-em-hat. Since ancient Israelite scribes probably ignored the foreign god 'Amen' (or 'Amun'), they simply called 'Memphis-Pithom' "The place (Pi) of the leader chosen by God (em-Hat)" or "Pi-em-hat". In those days, they believed God (in the womb) "chose" the leader or king (or "Divine Right of Kings"). Thus, Pithom or Memphis was the dwelling-place of the god-king. It was the place where the king chosen by God (by virtue of the conception and birth process) ruled Egypt.

As is still believed by many Bible students and modern British supporters of the monarchy, the people obeyed the King's laws because they were seen to emanate from, or be delegated by God. However, these meanings have been lost in translation (or transliteration) because the Rosetta Stone does not give us a good enough understanding of the meanings of hieroglyphs from very ancient times.

Really, we need to know the historical circumstances around any set of hieroglyphs. Unfortunately, with a massively distorted chronology of ancient Egypt's history, we are unable to link those historical circumstances with those of other countries where people corresponded with counterparts in Egypt, e.g., kings and governments. Thus an important second- or third-party account that might cast light on the Egyptian records, or any propoganda or "bombast" contained therein, is usually lost. For example, the circumstances surrounding Hatshepsut's unusual career on Egypt's throne are significantly explained by the Jewish record of the Queen of Ophir who sheba'd (or ruled/administered) Ophir.

That record is found in the last verse of I Kings 9 and in the first half of the following chapter (10). That Jewish record points out that Solomon's sailors sailed to Ophir with Hiram of Tyre's sailors. Then chapter 10 tells us that the queen who "sheba'd" Ophir came to visit Solomon. One meaning of "Sheb" in Hebrew, and in Semitic generally, means to sit and judge or administer. The related word "shep" is derived fom the word scribe (s-p-r).

Or there might be a double meaning implied ('shep' and 'shep') because the 'p' and 'b' sounds in ancient and modern Egyptians' speech are often hard to distinguish. In this case the sound 'shep' in Egyptian ('hieroglyphic writing', see below) is represented by a picture not a symbol for an alphabetic sound. Thus the queen who visited Solomon could well have been both ruler/administrator and scribe-lawmaker of Ophir; or "Auphirah" in more strictly correct transliteration of the Hebrew. Only the 18th Dynasty Queen Hatshepsut of Ethiopia-Egypt-Africa could ever have claimed those roles.

Using the above discussion, one hopes the reader can get a broader understanding of "Hieroglyphics".

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9y ago

Hieroglyphics are symbols that are used to write. They are used as pictorial characters that create words or messages.

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