Egyptian hieroglyphics were grouped by parenthetical separators called cartouches to denote complete ideas. Their meaning had been lost to time until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a tablet containing the same sentences written in hieroglyphics and Greek. (DS9 - Mission Gamma novel: Cathedral)
The meaning expanded to refer to other pictographic languages besides those found in Egypt.
Lee Kelso was an amateur expert on Egyptian culture. In 2264, he could could distinguish between the first hieroglyphics and coptic graffiti developed three centuries earlier. (TOS novel: Strangers from the Sky)
In 2266, when Nyota Uhura attempted to translate panels of a runic script, she noted that they were similar to hieroglyphics, but decided the symbols were phonetic rather than pictorial. (TOS - The Janus Gate novel: Future Imperfect)
In 2270, archeologists Elsa Hoff and Paul Hoff discovered hieroglyphics from an apparently lost civilization on Abaris within a buried pyramid. They spend three years researching and translating the symbols, eventually discovering Abaris natives who were descendants of the lost culture. (TOS comic: "Aberration on Abaris")
In 2368, Jean-Luc Picard inspected hieroglyphics carved on a tower wall in an excavation site on Atropos. A team of Vulcan archeologists spent ten years at the site before they were murdered, with any translation erased. (TNG novel: The Devil's Heart)
In 2371, Picard investigated hieroglyphics from the American southwest region turning up in caverns on the planet Equinox. He discovered a cave containing a long distance transporter and that a group of Hopi once lived in the cave hundreds of years earlier. (SNW short story: "The Peacemakers")
In 2372, Harry Kim translated hieroglyphics on 10,000 year-old pillars in an abandoned city on Urrytha. Without access to USS Voyager's computer, he worked in concert with the universal translator. Some of the information turned out to be dates, which helped him determine that the pillars contained bodily remains. The writing described passage to the afterlife. Eventually, more complete translations were made available with the addition of a tricorder. (VOY novel: Chrysalis)
Cultures with hieroglyphic languages
- Abaris native • Anu'anshee • Beta Promethean • Carthian • Dombraatu • Gorn • Human (Aztec, Egyptian, Hopi, Mayan, Native American, Sumerian) • Kan'ess • Slaver • Urrythan • Vulcan
Locations of hieroglyphics
- Abaris (pyramid) • Argo • Atropos • Beta Cabrini • Beta Prometheus • Earth (The City of the Dead • Arizona • Great Pyramid) • Equinox • Ferenginar (Caverns of Sogg) • Octavius IV • Ryolanov • Scepter of Ket'cha • Vulcan (T'lingShar) • Vulcan (mirror) (The Stone of Gol) • Urrytha
- TOS novel: Dwellers in the Crucible
- TOS comic: "Aberration on Abaris"
- TOS novel: Burning Dreams
- TNG novel: The Devil's Heart
- VOY novel: Chrysalis
- ENT novel: What Price Honor?
- SNW short story: "The Peacemakers"
- SNW short story: "Shanghaied"
- TOS novel: Strangers from the Sky
- TOS novel: Legacy
- TOS novel: Best Destiny
- TOS novel: The Fearful Summons
- TOS - The Janus Gate novel: Future Imperfect
- TOS - Constellations short story: "Devices and Desires"
- TNG - Typhon Pact novel: Seize the Fire
- DS9 - Mission Gamma novel: Cathedral
- VOY novel: Cybersong
- VOY novel: The Black Shore