Most people think about
hieroglyphs as the main form of writing in ancient Egypt,
but many other scripts existed.
It might also come as a shock, as well, to know that
not many people could read and write in ancient Egypt,
perhaps as many as one in a hundred.
Throughout this gallery there’s different examples of scripts that were used in ancient Egypt,
on a wide variety of medium,
from stone through to metalwork, right through to papyrus and coffins.
Hieroglyphs was the most ornate script
and it was used for monumental inscriptions,
such as those found in temples and tombs,
like this granite stela here,
which is a tablet carved of hieroglyphs made about 4000 years ago
in a period of time called the Middle Kingdom.
At the bottom we have a scene here of three men,
but at the top, this really interesting symmetrical arrangement of the hieroglyphs
and it demonstrates how hieroglyphs can read in two directions.
So, the top part of the stela gives us the name
of the two men that it’s dedicated for.
If we start with this owl here we’re reading in this direction
and it says ‘the estate manager Khonsu’.
The second name begins here with this owl facing in the other direction,
so read along here
and he has the same title ‘the estate manager’ but his name is Hotep,
we can see Hotep and Khonsu
down here at the bottom of the stela with some other man
that we presume is their grandfather.
Hieroglyphs were pretty and decorative on the walls of temples and tombs,
but they were slow to carve or paint,
so a more joined up form of writing called ‘heiratic’
was developed for more everyday documents,
like letters and contracts,
but also extraordinary inscriptions,
such as this one we have here on display in the gallery,
which records the confession of a thief –
a thief who robbed the tomb of Ramesses the 6th in the Valley of the Kings.
This is during a time of civil unrest
and what you can see is his confession
and it’s put into this script this heiratic script,
by a scribe in a courthouse, using a reed pen on a sheet of papyrus.
This is actually a really important object,
it’s of great historical importance because it’s unique,
it’s the only documents that we have that
records a robbery in the Valley of the Kings.
Around the seventh century BC
a later phase of script developed to called
‘demotic’ is developed from heiratic
but was closer to the spoken language of the time.
Initially it was used for less formal documents
but later expands into use for religious
and texts and works of literature.
In our gallery we have four amazing little pages from a book,
they’re made from thin pieces of wood.
Each column recalls the observations of planets for a period of 62 years,
this painstakingly accurate information
about the movements of the planets was used by astrologers,
using little books just like this to cast horoscopes.
The modern Western zodiac we still use today
is based on the Egyptian view of the night sky.
Most people think about