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Introduction

The inventors of the Egyptian system of picture writing are unknown and it is impossible either to assign a date to the period when it was introduced into Egypt, or to say what people first made use of it ; that it belongs to a remote antiquity is certain. It is a remarkable fact that, whereas the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia, who wrote their inscriptions in cuneiform characters which were originally pictures like the Egyptian signs,1

modified them in such a way that their original forms had disappeared some thousands of years before Christ, the Egyptians preserved the original forms of their picture signs from the time of the first historical king Mena to the period of the rule of the Roman Emperors, that is to say for a space of about five thousand years. . Egyptian writing exists in three forms to which the names Hieroglyphic, Hieratic and Demotic have been given. Hieroglyphic2 or picture writing is the earliest form known, and it remained in constant use in all periods of Egyptian history; it was employed chiefly for monumental purposes, i. e., for inscriptions upon tombs of all kinds, temples, stelae, etc. The oldest hieroglyphic inscriptions are probably those which are found in the mas/aba tomb of Seker-kha-baiu, which MM. Mariette and Maspero believe to belong to the period of the first dynasty or

earlier. Hieratic is a form of writing in which only the most salient features of the hieroglyphics or pictures are preserved.1