rosetta stone

Without the Rosetta stone, we would know nothing of the ancient Egyptians, and the details of their three thousand years of history would remain a mystery.

 

What is the Rosetta Stone?

The Rosetta Stone was discovered by a French captain named Pierre Bouchard in AD 1799, during the Napoleonic wars. Captain Bouchard was supervising the restoration of an old fort near the town of Rosetta when he found a block of basalt 3 ft 9 in. (114 cm) high and 2 ft 4½ in. (72 cm) wide inscribed with two languages (Egyptian and Greek), using three scripts (hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek).

Why is it in three different scripts?

The Rosetta Stone is written in three scripts because when it was written, there were three scripts being used in Egypt.

The first was hieroglyphic which was the script used for important or religious documents.

The second was demotic which was the common script of Egypt.

The third was Greek which was the language of the rulers of Egypt at that time.

The Rosetta Stone was written in all three scripts so that the priests, government officials and rulers of Egypt could read what it said.

When was the Rosetta Stone made?

Ptolemy V’s reign in 205 BC the country was in open revolt and the Rosetta stone was one of many that Ptolemy  commissioned as a piece of political propaganda in 196 BC, to state publicly his claim to be the rightful pharaoh of Egypt.

Who found the Rosetta Stone and When?

It was discovered by a French captain named Pierre Bouchard in AD 1799, during the Napoleonic wars,Captain Bouchard immediately realized its importance to the scholars who had accompanied the French army to Egypt

 

rosetta stone-detail

rosetta stone-detail

Where was the Rosetta Stone found?

The Rosetta Stone was found in a small village in the Delta called Rosetta (Rashid).

Why is it called the Rosetta Stone?

It is called the Rosetta Stone because it was discovered in a town called Rosetta (Rashid).

Who deciphered hieroglyphs?

The decipherment was largely the work of Thomas Young of England and Jean-François Champollion of France. The hieroglyphic text on the Rosetta Stone contains six identical cartouches (oval figures enclosing hieroglyphs). Young deciphered the cartouche as the name of Ptolemy and proved a long-held assumption that the cartouches found in other inscriptions were the names of royalty. By examining the direction in which the bird and animal characters faced, Young also discovered the way in which hieroglyphic signs were to be read.

In 1821–22 Champollion, starting where Young left off, began to publish papers on the decipherment of hieratic and hieroglyphic writing based on study of the Rosetta Stone and eventually established an entire list of signs with their Greek equivalents. He was the first Egyptologist to realize that some of the signs were alphabetic, some syllabic, and some determinative, standing for the whole idea or object previously expressed. He also established that the hieroglyphic text of the Rosetta Stone was a translation from the Greek, not, as had been thought, the reverse. The work of these two men established the basis for the translation of all future Egyptian hieroglyphic texts.

rosetta stone

How did Champollion decipher hieroglyphs?

Champollion could read both Greek and Coptic,He was able to figure out what the seven demotic signs in Coptic were. By looking at how these signs were used in Coptic he was able to work out what they stood for. Then he began tracing these demotic signs back to hieroglyphic signs, By working out what some hieroglyphs stood for, he could make educated guesses about what the other hieroglyphs stood for. 

Why the Rosetta Stone is important?

The content of the inscriptions is not what makes the stone important; the text is simply a decree listing benefits bestowed on Egypt by King Ptolemy V. But so that all the people could read and understand its content it was written in two languages,It was also written in three writing systems, and this is what makes the Rosetta stone such a vital discovery.

In fact the Rosetta Stone is probably the most important archaeological artifact in the world today.