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hieroglyphic (hīˌrəglĭfˈĭk, hīˌərə–) [Gr.,=priestly carving], type of writing used in ancient Egypt. Similar pictographic styles of Crete, Asia Minor, and Central America and Mexico are also called hieroglyphics (see Minoan civilization; Anatolian languages; Maya; Aztec). Interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphics, begun by Jean-François Champollion, is virtually complete; the other hieroglyphics are not nearly as well understood. The distinguishing feature of hieroglyphics is that they are conventionalized pictures used chiefly to represent meanings that seem arbitrary and are seldom obvious. Egyptian hieroglyphics appear in several stages: the first dynasty (3110–2884 B.C.), when they were already perfected; the Old Kingdom; the Middle Kingdom, when they were beginning to go out of use; the New Empire, when they were no longer well understood by the scribes; and the late hieroglyphics (from 500 B.C.), when the use of them was a tour de force. With a basic number of 604 symbols, hieroglyphics were written in several directions, including top to bottom, but usually from right to left with the pictographs facing the beginning of the line.

There were in general three uses to which a given hieroglyphic might be put (though very few were used for all three purposes): as an ideogram, as when a sign resembling a man meant “man” or a closely connected idea (thus a man carrying something meant “carrying”); as a phonogram, as when an owl represented the sound m, because the word for owl had m for its principal consonant; or as a determinative, an unpronounced symbol placed after an ambiguous sign to indicate its classification (e.g., an eye to indicate that the preceding word has to do with looking or seeing). As hieroglyphic developed, most words came to require determinatives. The phonograms were, of course, the controlling factor in the progress of hieroglyphic writing, because of the fundamental convenience of an alphabet.

In the Middle Kingdom a developed cursive, the hieratic, was extensively used for private documents where writing speed was essential. In the last centuries B.C. a more developed style, the demotic, supplanted the hieratic. Where the origin of most hieratic characters could be plainly seen in the hieroglyphics, the demotics were too conventionalized to bear any resemblance to the hieroglyphics from which they had sprung.


See A. H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar (3d ed. 1957); N. Davies, Picture Writing in Ancient Egypt (1958); E. A. Budge, Egyptian Language (8th ed. 1966); H. G. Fischer, Ancient Egyptian Calligraphy (1983); W. V. Davies, Egyptian Hieroglyphics (1988).

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1. of or relating to a form of writing using picture symbols, esp as used in ancient Egypt
2. written with hieroglyphic symbols
3. a picture or symbol representing an object, concept, or sound
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Though Gill may have increasingly distanced himself from figures like Epstein and Fry, David Jones grew more open to the possibilities of modern art, breaking free of Gill's hieratic strictures with the move to Capel-y-Ffin.
E.67.1926: Only a single preserved phrase is present on this hieratic ostracon--bch m w3s.t "the inundation in Thebes." To Hagen's general identification of this ostracon as a "literary/religious" composition, one may mention specifically the genre "praise of cities" attested on several ostraca and appearing prominently within the Late Egyptian Miscellanies (Ragazzoli 2008).
All participants agreed that, in accordance with the current canonical restrictions, women are forbidden to enter into the sacramental or "hieratic" priesthood, except the "diaconal" one.
Analyzing voting patterns with techniques of multidimensional scaling and hieratic clustering does reveal alignments and shifts of alignment that simply reading roll calls would miss.
Hieratic inscriptions (a cursive form of hieroglyphs) revealed that most of the mummies in the tomb were related to two pharaohs, Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III, who ruled during the 14th century B.C.
The analysis of the hieratic inscriptions (related to hieroglyphics) revealed that tomb KV 40 contains the mummified remains of at least 8 hitherto unknown royal daughters, four princes and several foreign ladies.
Their hieratic poses reflect an unremitting court protocol, yet the paintings here also recount a tense historical narrative: the ageing and politically beleaguered Philip IV sought a male heir through his second marriage to the 14-year-old Mariana of Austria who, following his death, ruled as regent for 10 years prior to the accession of their son, Charles II.
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Even the inscrutable hieratic gestures (Buddhist, I'm told) seemed to match something analogously inscrutable in Wagner.
He demonstrates an exceptional electicism and a big diversity, as also evidenced by his female figurative compositions, "female cenacles" which, while paying tribute to Giotto and Piero della Francesca by their silent and hieratic figures and clear geometric forms, however, are impregnated with such a modernism that corrodes traditional iconography.
In general English usage, the word perspective is used to signify a particular point of view as in, "From an historical perspective ...," or as, "putting things in their proper perspective." Art Historians may speak of the "atmospheric perceptive" used by Leonardo DaVinci in which cooler colors are used to portray objects at a great distance, or "hieratic perspective" used in both Medieval and Oriental art where the more important personages are rendered larger than the rest, but Belting refers exclusively to the "mathematical perspective," described in Alhazen's original work on optics as titled in the Medieval Latin translation Perspectiva.
The French-born Jean-Francois Champollion, who deciphered the hieroglyphs, mentions an obscure sentence in the hieratic and hieroglyphic texts of the Rosetta Stone.'