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The development of writing

Stage 1: Signs are only used as symbols

The interpretation of single signs and early groups of signs is often not possible. There are no clear borders between picture/symbol and what is already a sign in a writing system (specific phonetic content which would be read in the same way by any reader in a group of readers).

Stage 2: The beginning of writing: limited standardisation

The surviving sources indicate that the hieroglyphic writing system followed from the beginning the rules/system which were used throughout Egyptian history. Early developments include the emergence of norms in writing direction, forms of individual signs, orthography of single words, and the gradual tendency towards writing longer inscriptions.
Already in the first dynasties the writing system began to become standardised. Actions are often expressed not by writing a word (verb), but by depicting the action.

Stage 3: developing standardisation

It seems that at the beginning only very few people could write: at these limits, standardisation was not needed. At the point where the writing was used for more people, a fixed system was needed, and soon developed. Even in the Third Dynasty most inscriptions still consist of lists of titles or offerings. The signs and the writing of many words are already those found in the Old Kingdom.

In the Old Kingdom there is already a wider range of use for hieroglyphs, including verbalising sentences.



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