Hieroglyph or hieroglyphics may refer to:
  • Anatolian hieroglyphs
    Anatolian hieroglyphs
    Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous logographic script native to central Anatolia, consisting of some 500 signs. They were once commonly known as Hittite hieroglyphs, but the language they encode proved to be Luwian, not Hittite, and the term Luwian hieroglyphs is used in English publications...

  • Chinese character
    Chinese character
    Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

  • Cretan hieroglyphs
    Cretan hieroglyphs
    Cretan hieroglyphs are hieroglyphs found on artifacts of Bronze Age Minoan Crete . Symbol inventories have been compiled by Evans , Meijer , Olivier/Godart...

  • Cursive hieroglyphs
    Cursive hieroglyphs
    Cursive hieroglyphs are a variety of Egyptian hieroglyphs commonly used for religious documents written on papyrus, such as the Book of the Dead. It was particularly common during the Ramesside Period and many famous documents, such as the Papyrus of Ani, utilize it...

  • Dongba script
    Dongba script
    The Dongba, Tomba or Tompa symbols are a system of pictographic glyphs used by the ²dto¹mba of the Naxi people in southern China. In the Naxi language it is called ²ss ³dgyu 'wood records' or ²lv ³dgyu 'stone records'. They are perhaps a thousand years old. The glyphs may be used as rebuses for...

  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

  • Hieroglyphic Luwian
    Hieroglyphic Luwian
    Hieroglyphic Luwian is a variant of the Luwian language, recorded in official and royal seals and a small number of monumental inscriptions. It is written in a hieroglyphic script known as Anatolian hieroglyphs...

  • Mayan hieroglyphs
  • Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing
    Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing
    Míkmaq hieroglyphic writing was a writing system and memory aid used by the Míkmaq, a Native American people of the east coast of what is now Canada....

  • Olmec hieroglyphs
    Olmec hieroglyphs
    The Cascajal Block is a writing tablet-sized serpentinite slab which has been dated to the early first millennium BCE incised with hitherto unknown characters that may represent the earliest writing system in the New World. Archaeologist Stephen D...

  • more generally, a character of any logographic or partly logographic writing system.
  • in Neoplatonism
    Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

     (especially of the Renaissance
    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

    ), a pictorial or otherwise physical or artistic representation of an esoteric idea, which actual Egyptian hieroglyphs were thought by the Neoplatonists to be.


Early "Hieroglyphs" were logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

s representing words using graphical figures such as animals.

The characters that are relatively old are believed by many to have been made in Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

; there the original cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 was proto-cuneiform and originally a pictographic form. In ancient Egypt the first uses of hieroglyphs is on the cosmetic palette
Cosmetic palette
The cosmetic palettes of middle to late predynastic Egypt are archaeological artifacts, originally used to grind and apply ingredients for facial or body cosmetics. The decorative palettes of the late 4th millennium BCE appear to have lost this function and became commemorative, ornamental, and...

s, pottery, and labels found in tombs, relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

s and burials. The hieroglyphs that were originally used for recording agricultural products and handicrafts led to the birth of linear and cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 script, widely used by the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians; in ancient Egypt, a similar linear script formed from the hieroglyphs, called hieratic
Hieratic refers to a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system, to which it is intimately related...

, but still equivalent to all the hieroglyph forms. Hieroglyphics can be read now because of the Rosetta Stone.

5000 years ago, ancient Egyptians had started to use other Hieroglyphs in a separate way. The features that are visually well arranged about heavenly bodies, natural phenomena, animals and plants, Gods, humans, residences and households were used for 3000 years for recording Egyptian. Ancient Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 called this system Hieroglyphs, literally "sacred writings", because it was mainly used by religious functionaries who doubled as government bureaucrats.

Hieroglyphs were represented in the form of symbols and pictures. They were mainly written on objects, relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

s, and soon after on papyrus paper. The term "hieroglyphics" came from the Egyptian definition: "Writing the Words of God".Recent excavations at Umm el-Qa'ab
Umm el-Qa'ab
Umm el-Qa`āb is the necropolis of the Early Dynastic kings at Abydos, in Egypt. Its modern name means Mother of Pots, as the whole area is littered with the broken pot shards of offerings made in earlier times...

 by a team led by Günter Dreyer
Gunter Dreyer
Günter Dreyer is an Egyptologist at the German Archaeological Institute. In southern Egypt, Dreyer discovered records of linen and oil deliveries which have been carbon-dated to between 3300 BCE and 3200 BCE, predating the Dynastic Period....

 has shown that hieroglyphics were used in Predynastic Egypt
Predynastic Egypt
The Prehistory of Egypt spans the period of earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt in ca. 3100 BC, starting with King Menes/Narmer....

 as early as 3400 BCE, shaking the predominant view that the oldest form of writing was cuneiform. Interpretations of this early script differ due to the small number of artifacts from this period with these markings. Many early hieroglyphs represent a rebus
A rebus is an allusional device that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words. It was a favourite form of heraldic expression used in the Middle Ages to denote surnames, for example in its basic form 3 salmon fish to denote the name "Salmon"...

 system, in which pictures are used according to the way they sound. To illustrate this sort of phonetic system, a phrase such as "I believe," might be rendered with an eye, a bee, and a leaf.

Hieroglyphs were documented by the Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera
Hecataeus of Abdera
Hecataeus of Abdera was a Greek historian and sceptic philosopher who flourished in the 4th century BC.-Biography:Diogenes Laertius relates that he was a student of Pyrrho, along with Eurylochus, Timon the Phliasian, Nausiphanes of Teos and others, and includes him among the "Pyrrhoneans"...

 while visiting Egypt around 300 BCE. The word hieroglyph comes from two Greek words: 'hieros' which means sacred or holy; and 'glyph' which translates as "carving". Hieroglyphs emerged from earlier neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 proto-writing, and became commonly used for administrative purposes in the agrarian society of Sumer, (proto-cuneiform?). They soon become a complex language in ancient Egypt; in Mesopotamia, the proto-cuneiform also quickly developed into cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 by various peoples/languages. The first written language for the ancient Egyptians and other ancient civilizations, hieroglyphs consist of depictions of animals, symbols, ideas, etc. that stand for objects, sounds, eventually alphabetic letters, and actions.

There are three types of hieroglyphs: 1. ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

 – a picture used to symbolize an abstract idea. For example, a sun used to convey the idea of day, light, or time; (but also the God Ra
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty he had become a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the mid-day sun...

) 2. phonogram
Phonogram (linguistics)
A phonogram is a grapheme which represents a phoneme or combination of phonemes, such as the letters of the Latin alphabet or the Japanese kana...

 – a picture whose name is close to the desired sound as in the above rebus example for "I believe", and 3. pictograph
A pictograph, also called pictogram or pictogramme is an ideogram that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to considerable extent pictorial in appearance.Pictography is a...

: a drawing of something that takes on its literal meaning such as the picture of a cat representing the word cat; the animals: mammals, birds, and reptiles are so represented in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Our alphabet today is to us what hieroglyphics were to the ancient Egyptians. It is important to note that not everyone was schooled to write these beautiful symbols that adorn the walls of many ancient Egyptian temple
Egyptian temple
Egyptian temples were built for the official worship of the gods and commemoration of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt and in regions under Egyptian control. These temples were seen as houses for the gods or kings to whom they were dedicated...

s and pyramids
Egyptian pyramids
The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt.There are 138 pyramids discovered in Egypt as of 2008. Most were built as tombs for the country's Pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.The earliest known Egyptian pyramids are found...

. The reason for this is hieroglyphics became a very complex writing system in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs in Egypt were much more detailed than their predecessors in Sumer. This is probably because the Egyptians valued art so much, as well as their civilization had an abundant supply of stone for building and writing surfaces. The people in charge of writing (or carving) these beautiful symbols were called scribe
A scribe is a person who writes books or documents by hand as a profession and helps the city keep track of its records. The profession, previously found in all literate cultures in some form, lost most of its importance and status with the advent of printing...

s. Scribes were seen as having a very important task in ancient Egyptian society and were very high on the social hierarchy, ranking with the priests and other administrators.

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