Rosetta Stone

RedditThe back side of the Rosetta Stone : AlternateAngles

    There really is a Rosetta Stone, and it is one of the most important finds in the history of archaeology.

    First, some history. Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 led a French army to Egypt and conquered it. The army brought along a sizable number of scholars, who investigated many aspects of Egyptian culture and history, especially anything concerning ancient Egypt. 

    In 1799 a French officer discovered the stone, called the Rosetta stone because it was found near a village by that name. Napoleon escaped from Egypt, which had been blockaded by the British navy, abandoning his army. Napoleon led France in a series of epic wars, eventually crowning himself Emperor of France. 

    The abandoned  French army remaining in Egypt surrendered in 1802/ The British acquired the Rosetta Stone. What is unique about the stone is that on its surface are carved three scripts in two languages. It was carved in 196 BCE, and the text is essentially propaganda for pharaoh. 

    The languages are Greek and Egyptian. Greek was spoken by the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty then ruling Egypt  (think Cleopatra). The scripts are Greek, hieroglyphic and demotic (the writing used by most Egyptians then).    

    It took the efforts of several scholars to decipher hieroglyphics, but the Rosetta Stone was the key. The most famous is the French Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) who deciphered them in 1822. Almost all we know about the ancient Egyptian world is based on being able to read hieroglyphics.

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