Greek name for the pictographic script of the ancient Egyptians. Hieroglyph means 'sacred carved (signs)', because the Greeks noticed that this script was only used on temple walls and in other sacred texts. The writing system was used from late in the 4th millenium BC until the 4th century AD. The latest datable hieroglyphic inscription, on the gate of Hadrian in Philae, is 24 August AD 394. The meaning of the signs was then gradually forgotten, until in the early 19th century, the Frenchman Champollion deciphered the script, mainly using the Rosetta Stone, which had not only hieroglyphs but also Demotic and Greek carved on it. The hieroglyphic script has thousands of signs, most of which were introduced in the Graeco-Roman Period. The language phase known as Middle Egyptian used only about 750 signs, some of which were very rare.
There are three types of signs: