What were hieroglyphs written with?


Hieroglyphs were carved in stone or plaster with copper chisels, hit with mallets. They were then painted with brushes using six main colours (see later). 

This is a stone flake with a drawing of a workman chiselling. A mallet is shown next to it.


Papyrus Scribes wrote on papyrus using the stem of a plant called a rush (click to see a picture), a grass which grows in marshy areas.

The stem was round and contained a spongy material which soaked up the ink. The end of the pen was cut off at an angle to make a sort of nib (see right).

Pen Cases

The reed pens were kept in cases, which usually had round holes with ink cakes, one red and one black. Black was used for normal writing and red for chapter headings, or corrections, just like today!

The scribe also needed a pot of water to mix with the ink cake. The rush pen, paint palette, and water pot, make up the hieroglyph for scribe and for writing:

Colours Six main colours were used in painting hieroglyphs:

Black - made from soot, coal, or charcoal

White - made from gypsum

Blue - made from heating a mix of copper salts, calcium and sand

Yellow - made from yellow ochre

Red - made from red ochre

Green - made from copper wollastonite

a paint palette