Writing in Ancient Egypt
Quatr.us answers questions
Upgrade /Log in
Options /Log out
Print
About
Africa
Egypt
Mesopotamia
Early Europe
Greece
Rome
China
India
Central Asia
Medieval
Islamic Empire
Native Americans
S./Central America
American History
Biology
Chemistry
Geology
Math
Physics
Weather
Food
Judaism
Christianity
Home

Writing in Egypt

Book of the Dead
Book of the Dead

Writing in Egypt goes back to pretty much the earliest writing anywhere. Nobody really knows yet whether the Egyptians figured out how to write for themselves, or whether they learned it from the Sumerians, who also began writing about the same time, about 3000 BC. The Egyptian form of writing, hieroglyphs, does not look the same or work the same as the Sumerian form of writing, cuneiform. So if they did get the idea from the Sumerians, the Egyptians certainly changed it a lot.
What we have left of Egyptian writing, like Egyptian art, mostly comes out of tombs. Because of this, most of what we have left is prayers (because that is the kind of thing you put in people's tombs). Other kinds of writing like laws, letters to your mom, and lists of who gave their fair share to the temple mostly have rotted away, over the years.

The most famous prayer from Egyptian tombs is the Book of the Dead. The Book of the Dead was a set of instructions for how to get from the world of the living to the world of the dead. In the New Kingdom, starting about 1500 BC, people put copies of the Book of the Dead in their tombs to help them along the way.

One well-known story whose earliest version comes from ancient Egypt is the story of Cinderella.

To read actual stories from Ancient Egypt, try this book:

Tales of Ancient Egypt, by Roger Lancelyn Green

Hieroglyphs
Papyrus
Egypt
Quatr.us home


Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

Help support Quatr.us!

Quatr.us (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Most donors give about $10. Can you give $10 today to keep this site running? Or give $50 to sponsor a page?

Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?