Guide to Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Understanding the script
References


Egyptian Hieroglyphs and dynasties




Hieroglyphs were in use for over three thousand years

Hieroglyphic writing appeared in Egypt in about 3150 BC and was used until the Graeco-Roman period (the last known texts, found at Philae, date from the fourth century AD). The chronology of ancient Egypt may be divided into 10 periods containing in total thirty one dynasties:

Date Period Dynasty
Fourth millennium B.C.  Predynastic period  
3110-2686 B.C. Protodynastic Period  First to third dynasties
2686-2181 B.C.  Old Kingdom Fourth to sixth dynasties
2181-2040 B.C. First Intermediate Seventh to tenth dynasties
2134-1786 B.C. Middle Kingdom Eleventh to twelfth dynasties
1786-1570 B.C. Second Intermediate Thirteenth to seventeenth
1570-1087 B.C. New Kingdom Eighteenth to twentieth
1087-716 B.C. Third Intermediate Twenty-first to twenty-sixth
716-332 B.C. Late Period Twenty-seventh to thirty-first
332-30 B.C. Ptolemaic Greek Period  


The first known instances of writing are Sumerian (Mesopotamia c. 3300 BC). The abstract cuniform symbols may be seen at various stages of development from pictograms illustrating the objects they depict to a more mature phonetic system.
In contrast the Egyptian writing, which appeared a few hundred years later, seems fully formed complete with ideograms and determinatives. Perhaps the Egyptian myth of their being a gift from Thoth is not so!

The four main stages that Egyptologists identify in the development of the Egyptian language are Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian and Coptic.
Old Egyptian was used from Dynasties 1-6. Middle Egyptian was regarded as the classic period, when the written form was close to the spoken.

From the 18th Dynasty, Late Egyptian was used which differed substantially from the spoken form. The final incarnation, Coptic is useful in that its vowel sounds are written and can be used to suggest how the previous forms were articulated.

Timeline

c. 3100 BC Pharaoh Narmer (Menes) unified Egypt with a capital at Memphis,
The Great Pyramid and Sphinx are built at Giza around 2500 BC.

In about 2000 BC Pharohic rule fails and Egypt has two rulers from Memphis and Thebes.

From about 1500 BC to 1300 the country is again under the rule of Pharohs from Thebes.
The Royal tombs are built there in the Valley of the Kings.

c. 1352 BC Akhenaten bans all gods except the sun god Aten and creates a new capital of that name.
With the rule of Tutankhamun the capital moves back to Memphis.

After about 1000 BC Egyptian civilisation declines, the Assyrians invade in 671 BC, the Persian empire occupation occurs from 525 BC and in 332 BC Alexander the Great brings it under Macedonian rule.

c. 30 BC Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire and finally in 642 AD the Arab conquest leads Egypt to become a Muslim country.