The Latest Secrets of Hieroglyphs: In 1822, Jean-François Champollion became the first person to decipher hieroglyphs in over a thousand years. Now, a new generation of Egyptologists is learning more about the people who wrote them. The great history of Egypt is inscribed on its monuments, temples and tombs, but hieroglyphs – the written language of the ancient Egyptians – fell silent until 1822 when a young French scholar, Jean-François Champollion, became the first person to decipher their texts for over a thousand years. Champollion’s insights and the work of other scholars helped bring an entire civilisation back to life.
Today, researchers are increasingly interested in the authors who created these hieroglyphic works. Near Luxor, The Latest Secrets of Hieroglyphs follows a new generation of Egyptologists as they unlock the texts inscribed inside a richly adorned tomb, revealing the beliefs and lives of the priests, scribes, painters, engravers and builders who created this grand funerary monument.
The Latest Secrets of Hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, used for writing the Egyptian language. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with some 1,000 distinct characters. Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing, as was the Proto-Sinaitic script that later evolved into the Phoenician alphabet. Through the Phoenician alphabet’s major child systems (the Greek and Aramaic scripts), the Egyptian hieroglyphic script is ancestral to the majority of scripts in modern use, most prominently the Latin and Cyrillic scripts (through Greek) and the Arabic script, and possibly the Brahmic family of scripts (through Aramaic, Phoenician, and Greek).
The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age, around the 32nd century BC (Naqada III), with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late survivals of hieroglyphic use are found well into the Roman period, extending into the 4th century AD.
With the final closing of pagan temples in the 5th century, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost. Although attempts were made, the script remained undeciphered throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The decipherment of hieroglyphic writing was finally accomplished in the 1820s by Jean-François Champollion, with the help of the Rosetta Stone.