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Part 1

The Hieroglyphic Script


Contrary to popular believe, hieroglyphs do not necessarily mean what they depict. In fact, there are three different ways in which they used:

Many hieroglyphs are however not limited to a single use, what means that it can be possible for one sign to, depending on the context, be used as either an ideogram, a phonogram or a determinative.

Reading direction

Hieroglyphic text does not have a set reading direction like most modern languages. Depending on the context, it can be read left to right or right to left. Yet when text is written vertically, it is always read from top to bottom. A handy trick to discern the reading direction of a source, is to look at the anthropomorph and animal-shaped sign: these signs will always look towards the beginning of the sentence. So for the following examples below, the reading direction goes as follows:

Types of signs

There are three types of phonetic signs: the uniliteral signs, which compose one consonant, the biliteral signs which compose two and finally the triliteral signs that are made up of three different consonants. On the page โ€œSign listโ€, you can find a complete list with a phonetical signs in the Ancient Egyptian language, ordered into uni-, bi- and triliteral signs respectively.