Research topic

Cursive scripts in Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt, for over 3000 years, there existed simplified forms of writing alongside the more monumental and pictorial hieroglyphs. These scripts varied in their degrees of cursiveness. Their designation under the terms Hieratic, Abnormal or Cursive Hieratic, Demotic, and Cursive Hieroglyphs is rooted in a long history of scholarly study. The ancient Egyptian word root for "script", "write", and "scribe" is represented by the ancient Egyptian writing tool for manuscripts, which consisted of a reed container, a leather pouch for pigment, and a palette with two cups for black and red ink.

Writing instrument, Gardiner, Sign-List Y4 from the false door of Raemkai (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, acc. no. 08.201.1e ) and in its hieratic form from the New Kingdom (pAbbott, Faksimile von Georg Möller)


This tool was used for writing on papyrus, linen, leather, as well as on wooden tablets, coffins, or other objects. Also pottery, stone or ceramic fragments (ostraca), as well as smooth surfaces of walls or stelae, were inscribed with ink. Occasionally, cursive signs were also carved, especially into rock walls (graffiti). The vast amout of text encompasses evidence from all areas: daily life, administration, economy, literature, and fields of knowledge, religion, and funerary culture.

Figures of scribes from a grain storehouse model from the tomb of Meketre, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, acc. no. 20.3.11-SCRIBES (