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Hieroglyphics, derived from the Greek meaning priest's carvings, was a pictorial method of writing used in ancient Egypt, and elsewhere. The symbols could represent an entire word, even an entire phrase (ideograms), a sound (phonograms), or as a means to classify words. Often carved in stone, they were also sometimes written in ink on papyrus.

Hieroglyphics Egyptian hieroglyphics existed as far back as the First Dynasty about 3000 BC, and apparently only began to decline by the time of the Middle Kingdom (see The Ancient Egyptians), but still remained in use for centuries afterward.

There were slightly over 600 symbols commonly used in various ways, some logically straight forward, others more complex. For example, a picture of a man represented a man, while a picture of an owl meant the sound of an "m" because the Egyptian spoken word for owl had the sound of an "m" as its dominant consonant.

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient inscribed stone slab from Egypt that made possible the understanding of hieroglyphics. It was discovered in 1799 near the town of Rosetta (Arabic Rashid) in northern Egypt, about 30 miles / 48 kilometers from Alexandria. Discovered by the French, it was transferred to the British in 1801, and is now in the British Museum.

The Rosetta stone is an irregularly-shaped piece of black basalt, measuring about 45 inches / 114 centimeters long, and 28 inches / 72 centimeters wide. Broken long ago, the single piece is all that has been found.

The stone's inscriptions, as written by the priests of Memphis, listed contributions of Ptolomy V Epiphanes (see The Ptolemies). It was written in the ninth year of his reign (i.e. about 196 B.C.) to mark his accession to the throne.

The Rosetta Stone's importance to history and archaeology are the consequences of its identical records having been written in two languages, Egyptian and Greek, and three alphabets - hieroglyphic, demotic (a form of Egyptian hieroglyphics) and Greek. With two already known, understanding of the third was then made possible.

The actual painstaking work of deciphering was done by Thomas Young of England and Jean-Francois Champollion of France. It was largely through their efforts that the translation of all ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was made possible.

Fact Finder: In what part of Egypt did the Israelites live for over 4 centuries until the Exodus?
See The Land Of Goshen

This Week's Bible Quiz

Who's the missing person? (all from the book of Luke)

1. "In those days a decree went out from Caesar _______ that all the world should be enrolled."

2. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of _______ Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee"

3. "the word of God came to _______ the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins"

4. "He took with him _______ and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became dazzling white"

5. "After this He went out, and saw a tax collector, named _______, sitting at the tax office; and He said to him, "Follow Me." And he left everything, and rose and followed Him."

6. "Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even _______ in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these"

7. "Now there was a man named _______ from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus."

8. "but Jesus said to him, "_______, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?"

9. "And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered, and His raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with Him, Moses and _______"

10. "And _______ said to the chief priests and the multitudes, "I find no crime in this man."

For the answers to this May 8 2001 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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