The ancient Egyptian language, a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family, was written in four scripts ? hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic, and Coptic ? and evolved through numerous grammatical phases: Old Egyptian, Middle (classical) Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic, and Coptic. The earliest attestations of Hieroglyphic Egyptian are the ivory tags used to label burial goods in tomb U-j at Abydos ca. 3200 BCE.

Egyptian hieroglyphs can be read as logograms, glyphs that represent the word for the image depicted (e.g. a sun disk glyph is the written word for ?sun?), as phonograms, in which a glyph represents one, two or three sounds (e.g. the owl glyph represents the sound ?m?), or as ideograms, also called determinatives. Determinatives are glyphs that do not have sound values, but which serve to illustrate the meaning of the preceding logo- and/or phonograms. Thus, a ?seated man? determinative will follow the glyphs spelling out a male personal name in order to indicate that the preceding signs relate to the semantic category ?man.? Altogether, there are more than 700 hieroglyphs.

Overview of Egyptology
  Conservation of Artifacts, Monuments and Mummies
  Experimental Archaeology
  Museum Curation
  Underwater Archaeology
The Ancient Egyptian Language: Not Just Hieroglyphs
Becoming an Egyptologist

The last hieroglyphic inscription, known as The Graffito of Esmet-Akhom (or Philae 436), was written in 394 CE at the Temple of Isis at Philae. However, the Coptic language continues to be used today in the liturgy of the Coptic Church. After almost 1500 years of obscurity, Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered in 1822 following years of fervent research by Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion.

Today, all phases of the Egyptian language, especially Middle Egyptian, are taught at numerous colleges and universities worldwide, as well as through correspondence and online courses. The ARCE Orange County chapter also periodically offers introductory courses in hieroglyphs. Watch the ARCE-OC website at for announcements about future classes.




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