• Imagining History

KS2 Students: Write Your Own Hieroglyphs

Updated: Oct 5

What are Egyptian Hieroglyphs?

Hieroglyphs are a form of picture writing used by the Ancient Egyptians.

The Ancient Egyptians created one of the earliest known forms of writing. But they didn’t use letters like modern day alphabets. Instead, they used pictures or symbols.

These pictures were often living creatures (like birds or snakes), everyday objects (such as cups or baskets) and symbols (think zig-zagged lines).

What do they mean?

Unfortunately, these pictures don’t translate easily into the English alphabet. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • The pictures aren’t letters, they are often sounds. So they are more similar to phonetics than they are to our written alphabet.

  • Although some pictures represent sounds, others don’t. Some pictures stand for a full word. Other pictures stand for an object. And occasionally a picture can even stand for an action!

  • The same picture can often be used with more than one meaning. For example, if you see a picture of a lion, it could mean the letter “L” or it could literally mean a lion.

  • They don’t write with vowels (A, E, I, O or U) or punctuation marks.

Which way should these hieroglyphs be read?

Reading Hieroglyphs:

Just to make things more complicated – the writing could be read in different directions. In English, we always read text starting from the left and reading towards the right.

But hieroglyphs vary. Sometimes they are read left to right, sometimes right to left and even top to bottom or bottom to top!

The key is to look at which direction the pictures are facing. For example, if a bird symbol is facing towards the left, you should start on the left and read towards the right.

Yep. Very confusing!

Write Your Own Egyptian Hieroglyphs:

But some clever clogs historians managed to crack the code of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (with a little help from the Rosetta Stone).

As a result, they created a simplified translation of hieroglyphs into English letters.

Why not try writing your name with the guide to the right. Mirror the symbols and write it backwards for an extra challenge.

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