Interested in Egyptology? Find out the best books about hieroglyphics and how you can learn about this ancient Egyptian writing system.
Best books about hieroglyphics
One of the most fascinating aspects of ancient Egypt is the unique writing system known as hieroglyphics. Studying hieroglyphics is crucial for Egyptology, offering insights into Egyptian art, language, and history of ancient Egypt.
If you want to learn more about hieroglyphics, this article will list the best books on the subject.
What are Egyptian hieroglyphics?
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are the key elements of the ancient Egyptian writing system. It’s more than five millennia old, and the most prominent feature is that it relies on ideograms and pictures (e.g., the floods of the Nile). Therefore, it’s not a precursor to the modern English alphabet.
Those who used hieroglyphs were known as scribes. It took them quite a while to write anything with this method, which is why they developed a simplified form—Demotic script.
Nevertheless, the hieroglyphic script remained complex. Even though archeologists recognized hieroglyphs on tombs and pyramids, they couldn’t read them at first. They knew the symbols represented something but had no way of interpreting them.
The problem persisted until 1799, when Napoleon invaded Egypt. His army found an ancient stone called the Rosetta Stone, which helped 19th-century archaeologists decipher hieroglyphics.
Although it comprised pictures, it was phonetic. It also had three kinds of symbols (glyphs), which served as letters. Each type of glyph served a particular purpose. For example, logographic glyphs denoted short words, prefixes, and suffixes. Determinative glyphs narrowed down the meanings of other kinds of glyphs.
There were a few more scripts in ancient Egypt, including hieratic and Coptic Egyptian. Additionally, the ancient Egyptian language was distantly related to Arabic, Hebrew, and some other Semitic languages.
Must-read books on Egyptian hieroglyphics
Here are some books you can read to learn more about hieroglyphics:
Hieroglyphs: A Very Short Introduction
This is an exciting study of hieroglyphics by Penelope Wilson. She explores the significance of this writing system while placing a particular emphasis on cryptography, modern decipherment methods, and other neglected areas.
The author covers many fascinating topics, such as the beginning of writing in ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics and art, scribes, and modern writing. She also examines why hieroglyphics remain fascinating to this day.
Egyptian Hieroglyphics: How to Read and Write Them
Stephane Rossini takes you on a journey exploring hieroglyphics, teaching you how to transcribe them through 130+ phonetic elements. The work contains an introduction, word analysis, enlarged pronunciation tutorial, tables of signs, and many more valuable insights.
The highlight of the book might be the large illustrations. They allow you to gain a better understanding of each symbol and how to transcribe it.
Egyptian Hieroglyphs for Complete Beginners
This is a guide to hieroglyphs that starts by introducing you to Egyptian monuments. It assumes you have no knowledge about the subject, showing you how to interpret the writing on the monuments and Sphinxes using easy-to-understand language.
The book analyzes text on about 30 artifacts, ranging from obelisks and coffins to stelas.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
If you want to teach yourself hieroglyphics with an eerie guide, The Egyptian Book of the Dead might be your best choice. This collection has numerous mortuary texts with magic formulas and spells. Their purpose was to protect the deceased and aid them in the afterlife.
Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt
Another book you should check out is Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt. It’s a well-written title that explains hieroglyphs and their meaning. It also takes you on a journey through history by discussing how the writing was deciphered.
The Riddle of the Rosetta
As previously mentioned, the Rosetta Stone was instrumental in decoding hieroglyphics. This book is an enlightening take on the deciphering process. It features a large number of historical images, illustrations, and symbols to help you gain a better understanding of glyphs.
The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts
The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts is a seminal work by Susan Brind Morrow. She transforms the ancient symbols into something more coherent. The author also tells you how you can read hieroglyphs and contextualizes the symbols.
How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs
When admiring hieroglyphs in The British Museum or visiting Egyptian monuments for the first time, the writing is probably puzzling. You can shed light on the meaning by reading this title by Bill Manley and Mark Collier, two of the most renowned Egyptologists on the planet.
E.A. Wallis Budge wrote the original textbook at the turn of the 20th century, but Manley and Collier incorporated modern findings into their new book.
The authors take a unique approach to teaching hieroglyphs, drawing on their extensive experience in this topic. You don’t have to be an expert to understand this book. On the contrary, the authors wrote this piece for casual readers and non-specialists.
Using immersive drawings of various inscriptions, they focus on the symbols you may face in multiple environments, such as tomb scenes and funerary writings.
You’ll have a hard time putting this book down because each chapter adds more value to the experience. It introduces a fun aspect of hieroglyphics and middle Egyptian grammar while encouraging you to improve your ancient Egyptian language skills with various exercises.
Hieroglyphics is unlike any other book on this list. Rather than teaching you the correct way to read glyphs, it talks about family struggles.
This masterful title by Jill McCorkle explains what being a parent truly means. It also reflects on the struggles children face when figuring out the world around them. This unfamiliarity is similar to decoding hieroglyphics.
Listen to Hieroglyphics on Speechify Audiobooks
Reading about hieroglyphics is great, but you can elevate the experience by listening to this topic in the audio format. That’s where you could use Speechify Audiobooks.
Speechify is the best alternative to Amazon’s Audible. It has a curated library that contains one of the above titles, Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle. You can check it out on any device and enjoy the immersive narration on the go.
You can find many other historical titles and bestsellers on Speechify Audiobooks. The list includes A Brief History of the United States, A School History of the Great War, A Short History of Wales, and Ancient Egypt.
Test Speechify Audiobooks for an unforgettable hieroglyphics adventure.
What is the best way to read hieroglyphics?
The best way to read hieroglyphs is from top to bottom. The people or animals in this method are always at the start of the sentence, indicating where you should begin.
How do I start learning hieroglyphics?
You can start learning hieroglyphics by reading a book about this writing method.
How hard is it to learn to read hieroglyphics?
Learning to read hieroglyphics is hard because the writing is nothing like the English alphabet.
What are hieroglyphics for?
People first used hieroglyphics to carve inscriptions on temple walls. They typically wrote funeral texts using glyphs, as they thought they had magical powers.
Who was the first person to learn hieroglyphics?
The first person to learn and decipher hieroglyphics was Jean-Francois Champollion.