Hieratic

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Demotic
  → Coptic
  → Merotitic
    → Old Nubian

Hieratic is a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs in Egypt and Nubia that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system,[1] to which it is intimately related. It was primarily written in ink with a reed brush on papyrus, allowing scribes to write quickly without resorting to the time-consuming hieroglyphs. The word hieratic derives from the Greek phrase γράμματα ἱερατικά (grammata hieratika; literally "priestly writing"), which was first used by Saint Clement of Alexandria in the second century AD,[2] as at that time hieratic was used only for religious texts, as had been the case for the previous thousand years.

Contents

Development

Hieratic was first used during the Protodynastic Period, developing alongside the more formal hieroglyphic script. It is an error to view hieratic as a derivative of hieroglyphic writing. The earliest texts from Egypt are produced with ink and brush, with no indication their signs are descendants of hieroglyphs. True monumental hieroglyphs carved in stone did not appear until the 1st Dynasty, well after hieratic had been established as a scribal practice. The two writing systems, therefore, are related, parallel developments, rather than a single linear one.[1]

Hieratic was used throughout the pharaonic period and into the Graeco-Roman period. However, after about 660 BC, the Demotic script (and later Greek) replaced hieratic in most secular writing, but hieratic continued to be used by the priestly class for several more centuries, at least into the third century AD.

Oldest remaining surgical document

The Edwin Smith papyrus is the world's oldest surviving surgical document. Written in hieratic script in ancient Egypt approximately 1600 BC, the text describes anatomical observations and the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of forty-eight types of medical problems in exquisite detail.

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