Just about everybody has seen Egyptian hieroglyphs before, whether in a museum, in a book, or on TV. Egyptian hieroglyphics are the earliest form of writing used for the Egyptian language, but over many centuries, the complex hieroglyphic system underwent a slow evolution into an alphabetic script.
The intricate pictograms that most people are familiar with were generally used for large, monumental inscriptions, but they could also be written with pen and ink on papyrus. Cursive heiroglyphs were often written more quickly than the inscribed versions, and with less detail, but they could also be written in exquisite detail, even painted in color.
The example above shows pen-and-ink heiroglyphics written on papyrus. The Egyptian Book of the Dead was a religous text that was a standard inclusion in Egyptian burials. While heiroglyphics are typically read horizontally from right to left, this example uses vertical columns, which would be read from top to bottom, moving from right to left between columns.
An even more simplified form of the hieroglyphic script, known as Hieratic, eventually evolved for use in religious writings such as this. Continue on to see examples of the Hieratic script.