The Rosetta Stone

From before the fall of the Roman Empire (408 A.D.) until 1799, no one was able to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.  On July 15, 1799, all of that changed.  Soldiers in Napoleon’s army while rebuilding a fort near the Egyptian port city of el-Rashid, stumbled across a stone marker made of black granite.  What made this marker unique was that it had writing on it — in 2 languages but in 3 scripts:  ancient Greek, Egyptian Demotic script and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

Viewed as a curiosity by the French, it was promptly acquired by the British in 1801 when the British defeated the French in Egypt.  And the Rosetta Stone has been in the British Museum since 1802.   Over the course of the next 25 years, the Rosetta Stone was translated – and the secrets of (and “key” to) Egyptian hieroglyphs were revealed. 

The Rosetta Stone was carved around 196 B.C. during the reign of Ptolemy V.  It is called the “Rosetta” Stone because that is the town where it was found — Rosetta (Rashid).  It stands as one of the most amazing “finds” in world history.  Today, if someone uses the term, it will most likely refer to a “key” (“The spectrum of hydrogen atoms has proven to be the Rosetta Stone of modern physics. . . “).  Someone ought to write a book about it. . . .   

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