Hieroglyphics were the pictographic writing of the ancient Egyptians. It was a complicated syste, Any given glyph could be used in one of three different ways. They could be used as an 1) ideogram, 2) phonograph, or a 3) determinative, although very few were used for all three. Phonograms formed the basis of a developing alphabet. Even in ancient Egypts, few could read Hieroglyphics. This knowledge was reserved primarily to the priests and nobility. A developing cursive form the hieatic was more commonly used in the Middle Kingdom. This was supplemented by the demotic which although based on hieroglyphics was so conventionalized that it was not apparent. A primitive form of hierogluphics was already in use in the 1st dynasty. They were used less in the Middle Kingdom and by the New Kingdom they were no longer well understood. The last known glyph was incribed 394 AD. It may seem strange that a script used for three millenia so completely disappeared. The reason of course is that even when used, the secrets of its meanings were shared by only a small number of priests and aristocrats. [Vernus] When Emperor Theodosious banned the ancient religion (394 AD), knowledge of hierglyphics quickly disappered. For centuries the meaning of hieroglyphics was lost until French scholar Jean-François Champollion using the Rossetta Stone dechipered it.
Vernus, Pascal. A History of Writing from Hieroglyophs to Multimedia.
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