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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Sobhy

The Creation of Writing


Ancient Egyptian Language Egypt Tours

However much Thoth had to do with giving humans their system of writing (and, to the Egyptians, 'humanity' equaled 'Egyptian'), the ancient Egyptians had to work out for themselves what this gift was and how to use it.


Sometime in the Pre-dynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000 - c. 3150 BCE), they began to use symbols to represent simple concepts. An Egyptologist Miriam Lichtheim wrote how this early script "was limited to the briefest notations designed to identify a person or a place, an event or a possession".

Most likely the earliest purpose writing served was in trade, to convey information about goods, prices, purchases, between one point and another. The first actual extant evidence of Egyptian writing, however, comes from tombs in the form of Offering Lists in the Early Dynastic Period.



Death was not the end of life for the ancient Egyptians; it was only a transition from one state to another.

The dead lived on in the afterlife and relied upon the living to remember them and present them with offerings of food and drink.

An Offering List was an inventory of the gifts due to a particular person and inscribed on the wall of their tomb.

Someone who had performed great deeds, held a high position of authority, or led troops to victory in battle were due greater offerings than another who had done relatively little with their lives.


Along with the list was a brief epitaph stating who the person was, what they had done, and why they were due to such offerings. These lists and epitaphs might sometimes be quite brief but most of the time was not and became longer as this practice continued.

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