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Ancient writing form with pictographic or ideographic symbols - used in Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc., especially a pictorial script used by ancient Egyptians from the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC until the end of the 4th century AD. A hieroglyph was a single character or pictorial element used in hieroglyphics. Literally, in Greek, it means 'sacred carved letters'. The script consisted of three basic types of sign: phonograms, logograms, and 'determinatives' arranged in horizontal and vertical lines. The script was used for funerary and monumental inscriptions as well as more strictly religious ones. The script's development seems to have been so rapid that it may have been in some sense an imitation of the earliest writing of Mesopotamia in its Uruk phase. In both scripts three classes of symbol were used, each a single picture or geometric figure. Pictograms or ideograms represented whole words in pictorial form. Phonograms represented the sounds of words, the picture of an object pronounced in the same way as the desired word being used in its place (this was made easier by the fact that the vowels were disregarded). Determinatives told the reader the class of word spelt by the phonograms, necessary where these were ambiguous. Often all three classes of symbol were used in conjunction. No attempt was made in its long history to simplify the system, even when the more cursive forms of it, hieratic and demotic, were introduced. More loosely the term has been applied to other pictographic writing systems, particularly those of Minoan Crete, the Hittites and the Maya. Many of the symbols consist of a conventionalized picture of the idea or object they represent. Egyptian hieroglyphs were deciphered by Jean-François Champollion in 1822, through his study of the bilingual inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone and an obelisk from Philae. Some 700 signs were employed.