Just like every part of evolution, everything had to start somewhere. In regards to the alphabet, that somewhere was Egypt. After having cave paintings as the only form of communication around the world, the Egyptians created the Hieroglyphic script in 3200 BC. By the end of 2700 BC the Egyptian people had come up with around 22 characters out of which each one would represent a syllable beginning with a consonant. A native speaker would then either leave it as is or combine it with one of their vowels while speaking. This process was a guide for the further use of hieroglyphics in larger sequences and words like grammatical inflections and names. This, however, was not considered a proper alphabet as it had no vowels but also no system or rules. The word hieroglyphics is a Greek word, meaning ‘sacred carvings’. The term use by Egyptians was ‘medu-netjer’, which translates to ‘the god’s words’, as it was believed that they received their writing from the ancient God Thoth. They also believed that their words could damage, heal, condemn, elevate, destroy and even go as far as bring people back from the dead. Author, professor and Egyptologist and Rosalie David stated in one of her texts:
“The main purpose of writing was not decorative, and it was not originally intended for literary or commercial use. Its most important function was to provide a means by which certain concepts or events could be brought into existence. The Egyptians believed that if something were committed to writing it could be repeatedly ‘made to happen’ by means of magic.”
After the Hieroglyphics, the Hieratic script was developed in Egypt around 3150 BC. This name of this script translates from Greek to ‘Priestly’ because at the time it was mainly used for sacred texts. It was also used for things like catalogues and letters and it had a larger significance than that of Hieroglyphs and it was also taught in school at much younger ages. The script was first written in a vertical sequence but then evolved into being written horizontally, from right to left. This is the reason why the writing on most of the old papyrus scrolls that have been found is in columns. An interesting thing to point out is that they had come up with ligatures while using the Hieratic script, so that they could write two characters in one stroke. This script was usually found written with ink on papyrus or other kinds of flat surfaces.
Many years later, around 700 BC, the Demotic script came about and replaced the Hieratic script in most departments. Hieratic was now used purely for all kinds of religious texts. Demotic also gets its name from Greek, meaning ‘for the people’. This script has a lot in common with the one it replaced but their exact relationship was never exactly decided. It was originally created to only be used by people within the government, but a few years later it was used by others too, for letters and literary texts. Unlike the Hieratic script, this one was mostly found carved into wood or stone.