Behind any stone in Egypt, there is a story that goes back thousands of years ago. It is hard to imagine how a simple rock can change the course of history, often recognized as the most important archeological artifact in modern history. “The Rosetta Stone” was the key to deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and shed light on the hidden mysterious secrets of the ancient Egyptian civilization. The ancient Egyptian writings system of hieroglyphics was the subject of great debate since its death in the 2nd century BC but in the early 19th century AD it was raised from the dead with wonders and miracles in hand.
The Rosetta Stone Facts
The rosetta stone is an uncompleted grey and pink granodiorite stela dating to 196 BC which holds a decree of king Ptolemy V of Egypt in three languages: Hieroglyphics, Domatic, and Greek, all containing the same texts and meaning which was the key to decipher and fully understand the ancient Egyptian language and writing system of hieroglyphics. The hieroglyphs were known to be the language of the priests, demotic texts, was the common language of that time and greek was used for administrative purposes. The Rosetta stone measures 112.3 by 75.7 cm tall and 28.4 cm thick. It contains 14 lines of hieroglyphic, 32 lines of demotic texts and 54 lines of Greek texts. The two top corners and bottom right corner of the stela are missing. The back of the stone is rough while the front is smooth and filled with different scripts.
The Rosetta Stone History
It was created in the Hellenistic period during the Ptolemaic dynasty on behalf of King Ptolemy V in 196 BC by a priestly council of Memphis that affirms the royal cult of king Ptolemy, one year directly after his coronation. It was displayed in a temple during ancient Egypt near the city of Sais and then was moved in the medieval period, then to the town of Rosetta in the Nile delta where it was lost forever or that’s what we sought. The stone was miraculously discovered at port saint Julien in the city of Rosetta (El-Rashid) in 1799 AD an officer engineer Bouchard of Napoleon’s army. The stone was extracted from an old wall that was under renovation. The stone was later seized by a British general turner after the defeat of napoleon in 1801then in 1802 the stone was moved to the British Museum in London where it still resides and is considered one of the most-visited object in the museum till today.
The Rosetta Stone Texts
The texts on the rosetta stone talks about the achievements and the justice & productive rule of Ptolemy V. the texts talk about the prosperity brought to Egypt, the construction of temples and water canals and the restoration of old ones, the reduction and elimination of taxes, the release of many prisons who were considered enemies of the state and the expansion of the Egyptian empire. The texts also showcase Ptolemy as the god Ptolemy, beloved of Ptah. The rosetta stone detail that the king’s birthday and coronation on the last day on the 17th of each month were celebrated as festivals. These decrees were written in three writing systems and then the stones were set up in all the temples next to the statue of this great king.
Rosetta Stone Deciphering Hieroglyphics
The deciphering process of the rosette stone was largely accomplished by Thomas Young an English physicist and Jean François Champollion of France. The rosetta stone held six identical cartouches (oval figures enclosing hieroglyphs), Young was the first person to show that some of the hieroglyphs on the stone wrote the sound of the royal name of Ptolemy. He deciphered the cartouche and proven the cartouches found in other inscriptions were the names of royalty, he also discovered the way in which hieroglyphic signs were to be read. Then came Champollion who cracked the hieroglyphs code by realizing that some of the signs were alphabetic, syllabic and determinative in 1822. He was able to use his talent and knowledge of ancient languages to show that the link between hieroglyphs and their greek equivalents. He showcased that the hieroglyphics were a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs that represented the sound of the early ancient Egyptian language. Champollion became the founding father of Egyptology.
The history of Egypt is filled with wonder and magic, so don’t miss the chance to explore this incredible beauty of a country by boarding a Nile cruise to the majestic cities of Luxor and Aswan where you will hear the true calling of ancient history among some of the most enchanting monuments in the world.