Week Three: Ideography in History and the Alphabetic Form

Visual descriptions of written communication systems based on this week’s lecture. 


Pictured is a cave painting of a hyena found in the Chauvet Cave, which is now known to be 32,000 years old. In it’s earliest forms of print publishing and communication, this painting signifies pre-alphabet ideography. The use of picture forms to communicate ideas and thoughts is very literal and takes on a simplified form of publishing.

511px-Papyrus_Ani_curs_hieroThis picture is identifiable hieroglyphics taken from the Papyrus of Ani. The Ancient Egyptian language itself dates from 3200BC – 400AD which combines both ideographic elements as well as alphabetic. Therefore they are not as literal, although still using pictures, but use a form of symbols throughout their comprehensive alphabet. Much of our information on Ancient Egyptians is provided through the hieroglyphics which were inscribed on walls and written on papyrus. During the Ancient Egyptians rule, this form of publishing was an important religious practice.


dnprin2The modern English alphabet is widely practiced today and has been since the 5th Century AD. Developed from latin script, the English language utilised syllabaries and phonetics whilst rejecting former ideography systems. Although the English alphabet has been altered much over the past 1,600 years, the core ideology of the alphabet has remained. The continuation of the alphabet over the years has enabled greater understanding of past eras with minimal confusion. The English alphabet is the most widely understood system in the world and in publishing.




Sampson, Geoffrey (1990) Writing Systems: a Linguistic Introduction, Stanford University Press,  p. 78.

Simson Najovits (2004) Egypt, Trunk of the Tree: A Modern Survey of an Ancient Land, Algora Publishing, pp. 55–56.

Spassov, Stoytchev (2004) The Presence of Cave Hyaena in the Upper Palaeolithic Rock Art of Europe , Historia naturalis bulgarica, 16: 159-166.

 All pictures are under licensing under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License. They have been shared through Flickr and in no way do I assume ownership.

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