A hieroglyph is a picture that represents a word or part of a word. Several ancient cultures, including Egyptians and Mayans, used hieroglyphs as part of their writing systems.
The earliest hieroglyphs archaeologists have found were carved in stone around 3000 BCE, in Egypt. These symbols and pictures were clearly not just illustrations, but part of a true written language . Each hieroglyph stood for an object or action, represented the sound of a syllable, and made the meaning of surrounding hieroglyphs clear. The Greek roots of this word are hieros, "sacred," and glyphe, "carving."