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How Did Writing Evolve in Ancient Egypt

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Writing quickly evolved through the Early Dynastic Period and by Egypt’s Old Kingdom (c. 2686-2125 BC) the texts were longer, more complex, and much more common. The most developed writings from the Old Kingdom also happened to be the texts that reveal the most about ancient Egyptian religion during the period. Beginning in the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2494-2345 BC), the scribes began inscribing the interiors of the pyramids with religious texts known today as the <i>Pyramid Texts</i>. The <i>Pyramid Texts</i> relate the importance of the afterlife as well as the primacy of many of the deities, including Osiris, Re, Isis, and Seth. <ref> Malek, Jaromir. “The Emergence of the Egyptian State (c. 3200-2686 BC).” In <i>The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt.</i> Edited by Ian Shaw. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 78</ref>
But religious inscriptions were not the only important texts created during the Old Kingdom; a genre of writings known as “didactic literature” or “instructions” also became popular. These texts, such as “The Instruction of Ptahhotep,” instruct the reader how to live life as an upstanding, moral and ethical Egyptian. <ref> Lichtheim, Miriam, ed. </i> Ancient Egyptian Literature</i>. Volume 1, The Old and Middle Kingdoms. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006), pgs. 5-7</ref> The <i>Pyramid Texts</i> and the didactic texts of the Old Kingdom provided a base for writing and literature in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055-1650 BC), which is considered by many modern scholars to be the classical age of the ancient Egyptian written language.
===Writing in the Middle Kingdom===
[[File: Edwin_Smith_Papyrus.jpg|300px|thumbnail|left|The So-Called “Edwin Smith Papyrus.” It Was Written on Papyrus in the Hieratic Script]]
The Middle Kingdom proved not only to be the high point of the ancient Egyptian language and writing system, but it was also the period when some of the greatest literary works in the civilization were created and new literary genres were invented. The linguistic flowering in the Middle Kingdom was particularly marked during the reign of Senusret I (ruled c. 1919-1875 BC) in the Twelfth Dynasty. The Egyptians expanded on the monumental and religious inscriptions and didactic texts of the Old Kingdom, and they introduced new genres of literature while refining the written language. <ref> Grajetski, Wolfram. </i> The Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.</i> (London: Duckworth, 2009), pgs. 44-45</ref>
Didactic literature continued to be written, but the compositions were longer, more complex, and written better overall. One of the best known Middle Kingdom didactic texts is actually also a fictional tale known as <i>The Eloquent Peasant</i>. It tells the tale of a peasant who was robbed by a noble and although lower in class than his adversary, is quite articulate and able to gain an audience with the pharaoh, where he ultimately wins his case. <ref> Lichtheim, pgs. 169-84</ref> Other notable fictional prose stories that were first written in the Middle Kingdom include <i>The Shipwrecked Sailor</i>, <i>The Story of Sinuhe</i>, and <i>Three Tales of Wonder</i>.

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