The word hieroglyph has been applied to the scripts of the Indus civilization and of the Hittites, who also possessed other scripts, in addition to the Mayan, the Incan, and Easter Island writing forms, and also the signs on the Phaistos Disk on Crete, but the strict meaning of the word is used only to describe the carvings on Egyptian monuments. The most ancient hieroglyphs can be dated back to the end of the 4th millennium BC. They describe scenes and are cut in relief, or into the stone, mostly in chapels or tombs.
Although it is impossible to know, but these early signs are probably based on the same system that the later set of hieroglyphics, known as classical hieroglyphics is based. Hieroglyphic signs were representations of living beings or inanimate objects by simplistic drawings. Over the years, some of the representations fell out of meaning, such as clubs, which at one time were used as weapons, and other weapons took their place. But they glyph stayed. Sometimes the object described by the glyph completely fell out of daily use and the meaning eventually became lost or it was distorted beyond recognition.
Always only a few people in a limited circle understood the script. Only those who needed the knowledge in their professions were able to acquire the task of writing and reading the glyphs. These people were, for example, officials, doctors, and priests. Since the glyphs were too complex for everyday use, hieratic script was developed. Easier abbreviated script was developed for writing by brush stroke on a medium such as papyrus. Classical hieroglyphics evolved through the need to identify a pictorial representation of an event, such as a hunt or a particular battle.
Hieroglyphs were added to scenes to signify that the work of art was not just an unknown war or such, but a specific one. This also one of the first times that we see people interested in preserving their history for others to learn about in later times. It was this new attitude toward time and toward history as unique events in time led to the invention of hieroglyphic writing. Hieroglyphics dominated monumental and sacred writings and was accepted in the Greece until the situation was altered with the conversion of the area to Christianity in the nd and 3rd centuries AD. The new religion fought against the Egyptian polytheism and traditions, and with its victory, the Greek script triumphed. The ability to understand the script was lost for many hundreds of years until the failure of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt turned up the Rosetta Stone on which was written the same statement in three languages, Classical hieroglyphics, Hieratic script, and Greek. With the discovery of this asphalt tablet, archeologists were finally able to begin to unlock the key to understanding the long dead written language of hieroglyphics.