Egypt in South Africa

Role of Egyptian scribe

Most of the population of ancient Egypt could not read or write and therefore those who could were treated with respect. Scribes held a high position within their communities.
In the hieroglyphic script the word for scribe, ‘shesh’, was written with a sign depicting the writing equipment of the scribe. Young scribes did not learn hieroglyphs when they started their formal education, but would first be taught hieratic. For many years after that, they would practice copying old stories on ostraca - small fragments of clay pots or just limestone flakes. Only then would the fledgling scribe graduate to papyrus. Because so many Egyptian people were illiterate, most villages had a scribe to write letters and draw up legal documents on their behalf.


Statue of the scribe Amenhotep, son of Hapu, found at the Luxor Museum in Egypt. (c) Iziko Photo Archives.