Writing Reading and writing were important skills in ancient Egypt. Scribes—official record-keepers—were among the few people who could read and write, and they held high positions in society. Royal scribes often advised pharaohs, helping them create laws.
Writing tools Instead of paper, Egyptians used papyrus, which was made from a reed-like plant that grew on the banks of the Nile River. The plant’s stem was cut into thin strips, which were pressed together to make sheets. Writing brushes were also made from reeds that grew on the banks of the river.
Hieroglyphics was a writing system in which sounds, objects, and ideas were represented by pictures called hieroglyphs. It was used on tombs and monuments, and in religious texts.
The demotic script is a simplified hieroglyphic script used c. 700 BCE–250 ce for both business documents and legal works.
Greek was introduced by the Ptolemies. It is the source of many modern alphabets.
Rosetta Stone The Egyptians wrote in different ways, using hieroglyphs in formal situations and the demotic script for daily use. However, the ability to read these scripts was lost for nearly 1,500 years. Then, in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was found, on which the same text was written in three different scripts—hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. By reading the Greek script, scholars eventually translated the other two and so deciphered these ancient writing symbols.
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