The Demotic or popular script, a name given to it by Herodotus, developed
from a northern variant of the Hieratic script in around 660 BC. The
Egyptians themselves called it 'sekh shat' (writing for documents).
During the 26th Dynasty it became the preferred script at court, however
during the 4th century it was gradually replaced by the Greek-derived
Coptic alphabet. The most
recent example of writing in the Demotic script dates from 425 AD.
The Demotic script was used for writing business, legal, scientific,
literary and religious documents. It was written almost exclusively
from right to left in horizontal lines and mainly in ink on papyrus.
Demotic inscriptions on wood and stone are also known. During the Ptolemaic
Period it was regularly carved in stone - the most famous example of
this is the Rosetta Stone, which is inscribed with texts in the Hieroglyphic
script, Greek and Demotic and was one of the keys to the decipherment
of Ancient Egyptian scripts.
It was deciphered mainly by Thomas Young, who also attempted to deciphered
the hieroglyphic script, though without much success.