Ancient Egyptian Writing

Hieroglyphs are a picture of an object standing for a word, idea or sound used by the ancient Egyptians. There are over 700 hieroglyphic symbols. For example, the hieroglyph for "writing" or "scribe" is formed as a brush pigment bag, and a palette. For everyday work scribes used a more joined-up version like handwriting. It is called hieratic and it was written quickly.

Paper was made from the papyrus reed, which is a water or marsh plant, with tall straight hollow stems. The rind was peeled from the stems and the soft pith inside was cut into strips which were laid side by side. The strips were pounded with a mallet, and were dried into tough sheets. The sheets were then joined into rolls. This is what scribes wrote on. Schoolboys wrote on broken bits of pottery or wipe-off boards, which could be used again. They wrote on this because it was cheaper than papyrus.

Some tools that Egyptians used were a pot for grinding pigment. Pigment is powder from plants that makes paint or ink when it is mixed with a liquid. Another tool used is a brush holder. Another tool was a pen case. It had two paint holes and a slot for holding a pen.

A scribe was a person whose business was the copying of writing.Often a son of a scribe learned his skills from his father. If more scribes were needed, schools were set up for trainees, where they learned hieroglyphics and hieratic writing and arithmetic. Scribes kept careful records of everything produced. Scribes also recorded the state's share of taxes, and ordered supplies for temples and the Egyptian army. They also worked out amounts needed to feed workers and they kept accounts on big estates. If someone could not write they would come to their local scribe and pay him to write a letter.

Most people could not write so if you were a scribe, you had an excellent career. Scribes became Egypt's top managers. They were good enough to hold almost any position. In all careers you started off as a scribe.

If you knew the right people you could have become a priest or army officer.

If you were a scribe your employer would not be that pleased if you said you had a good idea, that was not expected of you. A clever scribe made it seem as if his master had thought of the idea even if he did not. The master might tell the scribe's idea to the Pharaoh, but the Pharaoh always got credit, as if he had thought of it (although the scribe might get a reward).

The Nile River affected the way the Egyptians wrote. They needed the river because papyrus reeds grew by the Nile River and also clay was by its side. If the Nile River was not flowing through Egypt, the Egyptians would not have had some writing materials like clay boards and papyrus. Also it was helpful that the Nile River was in Egypt because it attracted wildlife. One example is birds, because the birds need water. Birds get water from the Nile River, and if the river would not be there, the Egyptians would not see the birds. If the Egyptians would see any birds they could not make a symbol out of them. The reason why the Egyptians might have used birds for hieroglyphic symbols could be because the birds were part of the physical environment.

By Christy, Julianne and Kerstin