Who found the Rosetta Stone?

Collage: David Rohl
The top third of the Rosetta Stone consists of hieroglyphic script, the middle is Demotic
(a cursive writing of the older hieroglyphs), whilst the bottom section carries the easily-read
classical Greek. The name of King Ptolemy is located on Line 6 of the hieroglyphic script.

In July of 1799 a group of French engineers from Napoleon's army
were getting ready to demolish an ancient wall outside the small
Egyptian village of Rosette (Raschid), which is near Alexandria, in the
western delta of the Nile. A young French officer named Pierre-Francois
Bouchard found a block of black basalt stone. It measured three feet nine
inches long, two feet four and half inches wide, and eleven inches thick,
and had the same message on it in two languages (Egyptian and Greek),
using three scripts (hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek). The Rosetta Stone was
the key that unlocked the mysteries of Egyptian hieroglyphics. It especially
represented the "translation" of "silent" symbols into a living language.

Dating from 196 BC., the Rosetta Stone was inscribed by the ancient Egyptians
with a royal decree praising their king Ptolemy V. Many people worked on
deciphering hieroglyphs over several hundred years. However, the structure of the
script was very difficult to work out. Thomas Young, a British physicist, and Jean
Francois Champollion, a French Egyptologist, collaborated to decipher the
hieroglyphic and demotic texts by comparing them with the known Greek text.
Champollion correctly identified the names of Cleopatra and Alexandrus and
verified Ptolemeus which had previously been identified by Young.

In 1822 new inscriptions from a temple at Abu Simbel on the Nile were
introduced into Europe and Champollion correctly identified the name of the
pharaoh who had built the temple. That name was ‘Ramses.’ Utilizing his
knowledge of Coptic he continued to successfully translate the hieroglyphics
opening up an understanding of the Ancient Egyptians.

From this meager starting point a generation of Egyptologists eventually
managed to read most everything that remains of the Egyptians' ancient
writings. Today the Rosetta Stone is kept at the British Museum in London.

~From: Minnesota State University E-Museum

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