Right now you are sitting at a computer - you probably use it to write homework assignments and other projects. If you lived in ancient Egypt, you probably wouldn't know how to read or write! If you did, it would take you many years to learn! Ancient Picture Writing . . . Hieroglyphs , one of the oldest forms of writing, are found on monuments almost 5000 years old! There were around 700 different hieroglyphic signs -- no wonder only about 1% of the population knew how to read and write! Some signs, or pictures, stand for words; others simply stand for a sound and are joined with other signs to make a word. Hieroglyphs were carved on buildings and written on papyrus documents. For letters, business contracts, and other documents, scribes used another form of writing called Hieratic . Later, an even quicker form of writing developed called Demotic .
Breaking the Code . . . Although hieroglyphs were used by Egyptian writers for over 3000 years, the Egyptian language gradually died out. Most Egyptians eventually spoke Arabic. The ability to read hieroglyphs was lost until an amazing clue was discovered in 1799!