Why did the ancient Egyptians use hieroglyphics?


Quick Answer

Little is known for certain about the early origins and development of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but scribes used them to keep records (both administrative and religious or cultural), as well as to communicate information. They were typically inked onto papyrus scrolls, incorporated into pottery designs or chiseled into stone, as seen on the walls of tombs. The earliest known examples of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics are attributed to the reign of King Scorpion I, who ruled Upper Egypt around 3250 B.C.

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Why did the ancient Egyptians use hieroglyphics?
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Full Answer

These early hieroglyphics were discovered on linen stored inside earthenware pots within the ancient ruler's tomb at Abydos. Their purpose appeared to be purely administrative, as records of tax revenue and plans for political expansion. There were also a great many ivory tags bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions. These are understood to be cataloging labels for the items in the tomb.

These early hieroglyphics, similar to later examples, consisted of simplified images of the environment, such as wildlife and mountains. The king himself was designated, and identified by contemporary archaeologists, by the image of a scorpion.

Prior to this discovery, which dates ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics as far back as 3,300 B.C. or 3,200 B.C., scholars had assumed that language had been invented in Mesopotamia, which is current-day Iraq, at some point before 3,000 B.C., and that the Sumerians had therefore been the first cultural group to make use of it.

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