Ancient Symbols & Signs

How do you read hieroglyphs?

How do you read hieroglyphs?

Since Moon Knight hit our screens through Disney+, the interest in our hieroglyphics pages has grown, so we thought it was a good time to explain exactly how you use the symbols that you can learn on our website.

Why are Hieroglyphics so difficult to learn?

Hieroglyphics are a series of symbols known as hieroglyphs, which represent words and sounds.  There are more than 700 ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs representing words and thousands of others in the alphabet.  Not only does that make it an incredibly difficult language to learn, but once you translate the symbols into sounds and words, they are, of course, in Ancient Egyptian!  So that requires a second level of translation to then revert them to English, or your language of choice.

Hieroglyphs are written in rows or columns which, even more confusingly, can be read in either direction depending on which direction the humans or animal figures in the text face!  There are no vowels, no punctuation, and no spacing.  To indicate whether a hieroglyph is a complete word (ideogram) or just a sound (phonogram), the scribes would often carve or paint a line after an ideogram.

How do we know what the symbols mean?

The system of writing began as far back as 3000 BC and was used for around 2600 years.  Our references for this ancient language are often on tombs and in temples where priests and other scribes recorded stories of the gods, ancient kings and queens (Pharaohs) and battles that took place.  Our ability to decipher the meanings is largely due to the discovery of the Rosetta stone, a tablet on which the same text was inscribed in three languages.

How do I learn to read them completely?

There are lots of free resources online, including Bibliotheca Alexandrina – good luck!