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Personal amateur research shows The Epic of Giglamesh to be the earliest work of literature. I am curious if ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depicted histories, warnings or tales? Are any simple stories which may predate those and can be as simple as a warning or a "we were here"?

edit: I understand that there's a massive difference tEoG and mere evidence of existence. To be clear I am not necessarily looking for something as complex and comprehensive as tEoG. Merely a form in which one generation/civ/society depicted information for posterity. In my opinion this information acts as a simple form of story telling. I would be happy with any examples, from the famous Ugarit tablet plea for assistance (postdating tEoG) to the Vinča symbols which, though ancient and simple, are not well understood.

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    As it stands, it's a little unclear what you are asking exactly. Can you clarify, perhaps with an example or two? There's a big difference between the Epic of Gilgamesh and 'we were here'... – Lars Bosteen Apr 12 '18 at 5:54
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_myth likely predates it, if you're actually interested in the earliest stories rather than the earliest pieces of literature. – Denis de Bernardy Apr 12 '18 at 5:58
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    Depends on your definition of "literature". It's entirely possible that cave paintings from 40,000 years ago may have formed as narrative illustrations for verbal stories. It's also possible that religious/shamanistic drawings could be a form of literature. – Snow Apr 12 '18 at 14:47
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Hieroglyphic writing systems generally were all initially used to record the accomplishments of kings in a very simple way. The problem they have is that true literature requires using a lot of the language, and logographic systems are really only extensible by adding a new symbols, or tacking other types of systems onto them. To tell an actual story with any kind of evocative language requires development of thousands of unique glyphs, or something more akin to an alphabet.

Egypt followed this pattern. Slowly their writing system started to adopt more advanced concepts (such as phonograms and determinatives), but that didn't happen until around the time of the writing of the Epic of Gilgamesh, so they can't really be said to predate it.

For example, what is considered the oldest known sentence in Egyptian is just the 5 symbols for "unite", "upper and lower Egypt", "son", "king of upper and lower Egypt", and a particular king's symbol, along with a few assorted determinatives written on them. That translates out to roughly "He united upper and lower Egypt for his son, King of Upper and Lower Egypt Perisben". This was probably about 500 years before the Epic of Gilgamesh, depending on how you mesh the two chronologies.

By the time of Middle Egyptian they had expanded the system to include about 900 different hieroglyphs, at which point they could begin to tell proper stories. However, this (barely) post-dates tEoG. Most of the more famous examples of Hieroglyphs on monuments are from this period. There was also a related written form (initially called Hieratic) which slowly over the centuries evolved into a proper alphabet*. Coptic is a living descendent of this system.

* - Abjad technically, since Semitic languages like Egyptian had no real need for vowel glyphs.

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    Wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to make this great response as well for the very helpful information. – Mike. O Apr 13 '18 at 18:14
  • "For example, what is considered the oldest known sentence in Egyptian is just the 5 symbols for "unite", "upper and lower Egypt", "son", "king of upper and lower Egypt", and a particular king's symbol, along with a few assorted determinatives written on them. That translates out to roughly "He united upper and lower Egypt for his son, King of Upper and Lower Egypt Perisben"." The african ancient egyptian "hieroglyphics" have never been "translated", "deciphered" or "transliterated". Stop spreading the falsehood that Chompollion "deciphered" the african ancient egyptian "hieroglyphics" – guest271314 May 5 '18 at 17:29
  • "but that didn't happen until around the time of the writing of the Epic of Gilgamesh, so they can't really be said to predate it." "what is considered the oldest known sentence in Egyptian is just the 5 symbols for "unite", "upper and lower Egypt", "son", "king of upper and lower Egypt", and a particular king's symbol" You cannot prove any such claim "depending on how you mesh the two chronologies" The African Ancient Egyptians never wrote a chronology of themselves The invention of "Mesopotania" chronology by western academia does not predate the African Ancient Egyptian civilization. – guest271314 May 6 '18 at 7:49
  • "For example, what is considered the oldest known sentence in Egyptian is just the 5 symbols for "unite"" This answer is patently false. There are no vowels in the African Ancient Egyptian alphabet. The Latin letters "u", "i" and "e" are not African Ancient Egyptian letters. "Strictly speaking, all the letters of the Egyptian Alphabet are consonants... In reading a text the Egyptian reader himself supplied the vowels, and it is for this reason that we shall never know accurately how the reader pronounced their words." The Rosetta Stone by E. A. Wallis Budge – guest271314 May 6 '18 at 16:36

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