Science Activities for 9-12

Hieroglyphs

Photo of heiroglyphs in stone

Hieroglyphic writing first began around 5,000 years ago. Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphs into the Fifth Century CE. Hieroglyphs are like word pictures. There are more than 2,000 hieroglyphic characters.

It has been almost 2,000 years since people used hieroglyphs to communicate. So how do we know how to read the characters? In 1799, in a town in Egypt called Rosetta, a soldier unearthed a large black stone. The stone came to be known as the Rosetta Stone because of where it was found. On the stone, there were three different types of writing that seemed to say the same thing and one was definitely Greek, and the other two were scripts used in Ancient Egypt. Even though people could read the Greek words, many years went by before anyone could understand the hieroglyphics. Finally, in 1822, a Frenchman named Jean François Champollion cracked the code.

Photo of the Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone is 114.4 centimeters high, 72.3 centimeters wide, and 27.9 centimeters thick. It weights approximately 1,676 pounds. Since 1802, the Rosetta Stone has been kept at the British Museum in London, England. If you visit the museum, you can see this incredible artifact on display.

There were a few different types of hieroglyphs. Some stood for entire words, others were used for individual sounds, and still others represented groups of sounds or syllables. Egyptians also used hieroglyphs for math.

Hieroglyphs Today?
While no one communicates using hieroglyphs today, scientists and mathematicians use symbolic representations all the time. The key to becoming fluent in science and math is to understand the signs and symbols used in the fields.

Just as some Ancient Egyptians could look at a hieroglyph and immediately know what it meant, scientists and mathematicians can instantly translate the symbolic representations of their work. At the high school level, this understanding of symbolic representations is particularly important.