Funerary stela of Renefseneb, Middle Kingdom
Champollion's decipherment unlocked 3000 years of Egyptian written
texts, but this was only the beginning of 'reading' Ancient Egypt.
Written language is part of the cultural 'code', as subtle and
complex as any code for writing secret messages. Over 3000 years,
the language changed, as did its social and historical context,
and different versions of the language and script were used for
different purposes (as is true today). Hieroglyphs were reserved
for monumental and ritual purposes, as seen on this funerary
stela recording an invocation
for offerings to be made for the deceased. Other more everyday
texts, ranging from letters complaining about the behaviour of
relatives, to medical and mathematical treatises and ritual texts,
were written in more cursive scripts.