Rosetta Stone

Archeologist spend countless hours a year digging, picking, shoveling and sorting various types of rocks and stones; many of which are no more than simply a piece of earth. Never would I have thought that a broken slab of black granite inscribed in two languages and three scripts would be an important document to the Egyptian’s history, but in so many words “an important document to the Egyptian’s history” is what we now call the Rosetta Stone.

The Rosetta Stone was a discovery of French soldiers in 1799, it was originally displayed in a temple and later used by the soldiers as construction material for a fort at Rashid (Rosetta) located in the Nile Delta in Egypt. Two years after the discovery the French army was thrown out of Egypt by the British army and under the rules of the Capitulations of Alexandria, all antiquties collected by the French were now the property of the British; this included the Rosetta Stone.The Stone was then transported to London in 1802, and still to this day remains in the British Museum.

Next on the list was to translate the inscriptions on the Stone. The three inscriptions have the same meaning, a complete translation of the Greek text was published in 1803, but I find it crazy that it would take 20 years before the two Egyptian versions to be deciphered. The two Egyptian languages are hieroglyphics; used for monumental and sacred texts, and demotic; used for everyday text. In all, since the Greek version could already be translated the Rosetta Stone was the key to reading and understanding both Egyptian. During the process of deciphering the two unknown text it was clear to the many scholars that both hieroglyphics and demotic share one main similarity, this was the usage of phonetic characters to spell. Although ther were many people working to make sense of the texts, Jean-Fransois Champollion; a French schoool teacher, was the one to finally connect the Egyptian  phonetic characters for the two text to most of the Greek letters. This two decade process of deciphering was completed in 1822. Because of Champollion’s breakthough for the Rosetta Stone, it gave countless opportunities to international scholars to provide Egyptian history from what were impossible texts to comprehend, this made it possible to construct a chronology for the whole ancient East. The ancient choronicals from Egypt provided lists of pharoahs and their reigns and became the  basis for dating the entire Eastern Mediterranean archaeolgical record.