Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Egyptian Art

What are hieroglyphs?

Hieroglyphs were used by the ancient Egyptians as a formal writing system made up of a combination of pictures and alphabetic letters. The term comes from the Greek word hieros, which means “sacred” and glyph, which means “writing” or “drawing.” The meaning of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs was mostly unknown until the eighteenth century discovery of the Rosetta Stone, an ancient stele made of diorite upon which the same text was written in three languages: ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, another Egyptian script called the Demotic script, as well as ancient Greek. This allowed scholars to finally understand many previously untranslatable hieroglyphic inscriptions. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are found on papyrus scrolls, wall paintings, and carved into stone. They often accompany images and are used to identify scenes and figures.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Art History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App