Commonly associated with Egyptian monuments, tombs, and statues, hieroglyphs are a form of pictorial writing that mostly represent sounds, groups of them or the objects depicted in them.
Hieroglyph is a Greek word that means ‘sacred carving’, but is actually a translation from the Egyptian term ‘the words of the gods’. It became clear with a further historical investigation that those beautiful symbols were made to be carved and drawn in temples and important places, but not for everyday commerce in which the hieratic was handwritten and a much more abbreviated symbol to use. It is often said that the demotic (still used today) is a natural descendant of it. The very strange and important thing to understand about Egyptian art is that it wasn´t conceived as we conceive art today. The most important use given to it was ritual and everlasting, but not especially for the public eye, instead, for the inside of tombs and hallways which entrance was forbidden many times for the artist itself. It was an art not to be shown as the great article by the Khan Academy explains.
Theodosius I was a Byzantine Emperor who shut down all pagan temples in the whole empire around AD 390.
This tremendous action included all Egyptian temples and writing, which lead 4,000 years of writing tradition into a violent ending and the banning of it for almost 1,500 years.
When the first discoveries were made in terms of tombs and temples entering, the writing found there was not legible and very little was known about the inscriptions and their meaning.
The Rosetta Stone
In 1799 the key to unlocking the mystery of the hieroglyphs was finally found. The Rosetta Stone featured the same text in three languages: demotic, Greek and hieroglyphics. The stone itself said that the text would be the same in the three languages and based on the knowledge acquired to that point about the Greek symbols, the code was cracked. There were several attempts to make a proper translation, but it was French prodigy Jean–Françoise Champollion who made the final determination about the phonetic values of each symbol. Champollion could, by age 16, proficiently use Greek as well as six ancient Oriental languages. Since his understanding of the meanings based on the Rosetta Stone, many other studies have been done only refining and emphasizing the Frenchman´s assumptions. This discovery allowed mankind to know more about the old Egyptian society than any other ancient culture.
The importance of hieroglyphs as a form of communication as well as a work of art is key to understanding some of the unsolved mysteries that have driven humankind to believe in alien invasions and superhuman help to build pyramids. As much as it was a milestone to understanding a huge civilization, the legacy remains in modern art through a movement called the Egyptian Revival involving not only in architecture (obelisks and pyramids) but also furniture and many other forms of media.