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How Writing Began

From Hieroglyphics to the Internet

Each time you use the Internet, you need to read and write. Have you ever thought about who invented writing, and what the first kind of writing looked like? You might be very surprised to know that when writing was first invented, people didn't use letters like our modern alphabet at all. They used pictures to show what they meant.

Although people like to fight about it, most historians agree that the Ancient Egyptians were the first people to write words. They did this by joining pictures together. They had two types of writing. One was very fancy, and took a very long time at school to learn, this was used for religious writing. Only very important people stayed at school long enough to use the fancy kind of writing. The other kind was much easier, and was used for making lists, writing journals, and writing letters. If you were at school in Ancient Egypt, you would probably do your homework using the easier kind. The fancy kind is called hieroglyphic and the other kind is called demotic, and looked a little bit more like writing. The Egyptians liked to write on walls (maybe you could say they invented graffiti, too) and they also used to write on something called a papyrus. This was a little bit like paper, but was made from reeds that were pressed together and dried, to form a thick, hard sheet, that wasn't very bendy.

The Egyptians stopped using hieroglyphics and demotics nearly 2,000 years ago, and gradually people forgot how to read them. Then, in 1799, some French soldiers found a stone when they were digging in Egypt. They were building a fort in a place called "Rosetta" and so the stone is called the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone is sort of like the world's very first dictionary.

The stone had three different types of writing on it. One of the languages was Greek, and the other two were the two different types of Ancient Egyptian writing. Scholars realized that all three languages said the same thing. Even though they couldn't read the hieroglyphics, they could all read the Greek, so pretty soon one of them worked out how to read the hieroglyphics, too. After all, they were scholars, so they were smart.

Eventually people invented paper and printing presses, and then lots of books were written. Then came typewriters, and lastly the computer. With the computer came the Internet. The Internet is almost like a giant book, full of all sorts of wonderful things to read, and do, and find out about. You can find out lots more about hieroglyphics, and you can even write your name using hieroglyphics.

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