Importance of Scribes in Ancient Egypt

Topics: Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Scribe Pages: 3 (954 words) Published: May 4, 2010
Importance of Scribes in Ancient Egypt

In ancient Egypt scribes were thought to be essential to the continuation of their culture. The king and the upper class prized scribes because their ability to read and write was thought to be the highest intellectual achievement that one could attain, thus heightening their social status.1 Developing literacy in any culture is a huge turning point and accomplishment in the development of a more complex society. In “In Praise of Learned Scribes”, written in 1300 BCE, and translated by John A. Wilson, the importance, advantages and disadvantages of being a scribe are further detailed.2 To be a scribe in ancient Egypt was to almost posses a somewhat magical skill.[1] They kept records, recorded daily Egyptian life, activities, culture and history for those of the future, especially by writing down religious texts. They were no ordinary people, their skill took most of their lifetime to master.1 When they died and were gone, their graves were forgotten but their names still pronounced to the limits of eternity.2

In Ancient Egypt, writing was thought to have been created by the Egyptian scribe god, Thoth. Though today we know that it occurred gradually over a period of time. During the First Dynasty, writings were beginning to appear in tombs.1 As early as 4,ooo BCE, hieroglyphics began to arise in Egyptian temples, royal or divine contexts.1 They were a pictographic form of writing that was very complex and took a lot of skill to master and comprehend. Eventually over time, hieroglyphics developed into a simpler and easier writable form known as demotic. This was a type of cursive alphabetic script that was used for administrative record keeping, private forms such as letters, works of literature, narrative fiction, manuals of instruction and philosophy, cult and religious hymns, love poems, medical and mathematical texts, collections of rituals and mortuary books.1 The skill of reading and writing was...

Cited: 1.) Robert Tignor, Jeremy Adelman, Peter Brown, Benjamin Elman, Xinru Liu, Holly Pittman, and Brent Shaw. 2002. Worlds Together Worlds Apart: Volume One. New York, NY : W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
2.) Brians, Gallway, Hughes, Hussain, Law, Myers, Neville, Schlesinger, Spitzer, Swain. Wilson, John A., trans. 2006. “In Praise of Learned Scribes.” Reading About the World. Mason, Ohio : Cengage Learning.
[1] Robert Tignor, Jeremy Adelman, Peter Brown, Benjamin Elman, Xinru Liu, Holly Pittman, and Brent Shaw. Worlds Together Worlds Apart: Rivers, Cities and First States (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2002)
2 Wilson, John A., trans. In Praise of Learned Scribes. Reading About The World: Cengage Learning, 2006.
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