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The Origin of Writing December 20, 2015

Posted by anagasto in history.
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When Napoleon and his army were in Egypt to fight the British, they thought it would be over in no time. But the British destroyed their ships, and the French could not go back to France for three years. So they began to dig themselves in and when they enlarged their defenses near the harbour of Rosetta they discovered this strange stone :

The painting by Jean Luis Gérôme is in public domain at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Luis Gérôme.jpg
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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rosetta_Stone.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rosetta_Stone.jpg

The Rosetta Stone

It is a large block of black basalt with very old engravings of a decree issued by the Pharaoh and written in classical Greek and in two Egyptian languages. It was originally about six feet tall and had been set up in 196 BC. A stone of this kind is called a stela.

The photo by Hans Hillewaert was published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rosetta_Stone.JPG. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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The Hieroglyphs

By comparing the three texts, the scientists were able to decode the hieroglyphics they had seen on the walls of Egypt’s royal tombs.

It was a complex system that gave a lot of power to those who knew how to read. Some of those shapes can still be seen reflected in the letters of our alphabet :

The zig-zag line represented water, and it evolved into our letter M

and this ox head stood for a glottal stop, but the Greeks used it to represent their letter alpha which later became our A.

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According to Wiki, “hieroglyph” is from Greek ἱερογλύφος and means “sacred carving”.

To get the complete set of letters click on the thumbnail below from the web page of http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/alphabet.html

fragment-boeree-alphabet

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Why is so much made of writing ?

Written records are the only way to transmit knowledge accurately across time and space for a long time. —

Even now most people learn from hearsay. Most are happy that way, and if they aren’t, there is little they can do about it, but they are at a disadvantage.

They cannot get the information they would need to profit from modern life. For most, it is too late to learn how to read, though some become good at deciphering words letter by letter and guess at the meaning.

This enables them to take short messages.

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Albert Anker in public domain

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Comments»

1. Carl D'Agostino - December 11, 2011

One matter that seems to puzzle scientists is that they have found mummified cats in most households of everyday Egyptians that they have escavated. Thousands and thousands of cats ! They don’t know the significance. It seems fairly logical to me. If the grain is destroyed everyone starves esp grain that is stored long range for times of famine. Who destroys the grain ? Rats with their toxic droppings. The cats are to be worshiped because they control the rat population which would invest cities all along the Nile. What do you think of my theory?

2. cantueso - December 11, 2011

I think it is a little too materialistic.
When in that region they find a bone, they hope it is maybe Cleopatra’s, and if the bone looks more like a man’s, they hope it belonged to the pharaoh who developed monotheism or learned monotheism from the Jews who lived nearby. — Similarly, you see a cat and think of the mice (rather than rats). But there must be other connections. What about the Sphinx. Is it also a cat?
I don’t know a thing about history.

3. Alastair Savage - November 11, 2012

And don’t forget that you can see the Rosetta Stone itself in the British Museum in London.

4. The Understanding of Hieroglyphs from Roman Times Onwards: An Overview « GraecoMuse - November 13, 2012

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