Hieroglyphs…the universal language
Archaeology has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl collecting bits of broken china in the alleyway behind my home. If it’s not at least 4,000 years old, it doesn’t interest me. Mysteries, puzzles, fragments of history and culture left behind in rock and stone and half remembered tales from the dim mists of human knowledge left their mark on my formation.
Ancient cultures fascinate me. I love delving into the clues left behind by people whose descendants no longer walk this earth. Most archaeologists specialize in one people group, one culture, one area of expertise and while I understand the numerous reasons for this, one of the neat things about being an armchair archaeologist is connecting the dots across cultures. Daniel Jackson referred to it as “cross-pollination of cultures.” And if you read enough, research enough, you’ll find there is some basis behind the idea.
Take hieroglyphs, for instance. Did you ever wonder why the Egyptians had three different forms of writing? Oh, I know history tells us hieroglyphs were the first and the Egyptians moved on to “higher” forms of script, but there is nothing in the stone that indicates which came first or whether they weren’t contemporary.
Egypt was the center of everything in its heyday: cultural, economic, global, academic, scientific. With all the cultural hodgepodge pouring into the country, don’t you think they would have come up with a universal language? Something everyone could read and then display it prominently, publically for all the tourists? Hieroglyphs weren’t the beginning of language, hieroglyphs were the culmination of language.
Don’t believe me? Just look on your laptop. Open a window in Word. Check out a Xerox machine. Oh, and those cute little squiggly black and white squares? Strangely reminiscent of Mesoamerican hieroglyphs. In a global culture where everyone speaks a different language, but share technology and products, some sort of universal language is necessary: the language of symbols. The language of hieroglyphs.
It’s just taken us 4,000 years to catch up with the Egyptians.