The Demotic Script of Ancient Egypt

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This script was derived from the earlier pictographic and hieroglyphic inscriptions that developed from the cursive, northern variant of the Hieratic script. As one of the languages engraved on the Rosetta Stone along with Greek and the hieroglyphs it enabled scholars to decipher the royal tongue and discover the long history of that great civilization. With the recent publication of a new dictionary in demotic Egyptologists expect to progress in the translation of the documents written in this language. This dictionary is an essential tool to review the social, political and the cultural life of Egypt during this fascinating epoch and to understand the texts drafted by the Egyptians themselves rather than their rulers, while the country progressively integrated the Greek and Roman world. It also gave an insight of how and why this ancient Egyptian language disappeared very gradually but slowly. Traces of this ancient language could be seen in words like adobe, that is derived from “tby” which represents brick in demotic and this term passing from the Arabic “al” became a definite article in Moorish Spain that later integrated in the French and English languages.

In its written form this language is difficult to decipher as these words have no vowels, but merely consonants. Yet by surpassing this peculiarity it is interesting to discern that these translated texts were interesting and fascinating for they gave ample information specifically concerning the role of women in Egyptian society. Hence these writings also gave a detailed account of the money brought as dowry by the wife that was officially recognized by the husband. He also at the same time accepted the responsibility of looking after his wife by providing food and clothing throughout their married years. Other documents attest that women could be owners and they had the right to divorce. Moreover this form of writing was essentially used to draft business and legal documents and other financial reports for these people seemed to have preserved their tax statements and other financial archives that are also sometimes noted on shards of pottery. This language was written almost exclusively from right to left in horizontal lines and mainly in ink on papyrus while demotic inscriptions on wood and stone were also popular.

This demotic language of the streets was slowly replaced by the Greek-derived Coptic tongue during the 4th century that was in use during the Roman times and survived until the 18th century to evolve ultimately as the language of the liturgy.

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Source by Genny Rassendren

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