Written sources greatly extend the scope of the evidence for Egypt, but in specific areas of life, each with specific histories of writing from the time of the development of Egyptian scripts in the late fourth millennium BC. In order to use any written evidence productively, its context must be borne in mind, and it is important to recognise the gaps in the surviving record, and therefore the limits to this source of information. The tables on this page offers a very general introduction to the variety of written content in Egyptian scripts currently available for each period.
The hieroglyphic script was regularly deployed with formal art; the sacred script and art are interwoven, creating a specific world for inscription - a horizon of eternity.
Categories of content
The vast quantities of manuscript and inscription from ancient Egypt can of course be divided in any number of ways. The seven broad categories proposed here are those suggested by study of the papyrus fragments from the late Middle Kingdom town at Lahun (from roughly 1850 to 1750 BC), applied to all three thousand years of ancient Egyptian history. For each category the table offers one example from the Petrie Museum, or the comment 'examples' where examples are preserved elsewhere but not present in the Petrie Museum.
|3000-2000 BC||UC 32769||examples||UC 16244||examples||UC 14540|
|2000-1500 BC||UC 32097A||UC 32037||UC 32203||UC 32057||UC 32157||UC 32773||UC 32134A|
|1500-1000 BC||UC 32795||UC 19641||UC 32782||UC 39673||UC 8446||UC 39614||examples|
|1000-500 BC||UC 33179||examples||examples||UC 14693||examples||examples|
|500 BC-AD 200||UC 71101||UC 71105||UC 31906||UC 16546||UC 32374||UC 32423||UC 54961A-D|
This table could be broken down into narrower groupings of content and less abstract general periods. This would expose more gaps, such as the following:
For an example of a more detailed tabulation, see the second page on scope of writing.
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