Translation Of The Rosetta Stone
The translation of the Rosetta Stone was the key to learning ancient hieroglyphics, a language used for over 3500 years. Learn the story of its discovery and how it was deciphered.
The Rosetta stone was the key to learning ancient hieroglyphics, a language used for over 3,500 years. These hieroglyphics covered almost everything from ancient Egyptian times. Without the Rosetta stone, we would still know almost nothing about the time of the Pharaohs.
While tearing down an old fort near Rosetta, Egypt, in 1799, one of Napoleon's soldiers found a piece of black basalt half-buried in mud. This stone was about 3 feet 9 inches by 2 feet 4 inches, and it was about 11 inches thick. This piece of stone came to be called the Rosetta stone.
The Rosetta stone was carved by priests in honor of Ptolemy E. Euiphraites V's crowning. This Pharaoh was only 13 when the Rosetta was carved.
The Rosetta stone was written in three horizontal bands. Each band was written in what seemed to be a different language. The first band was in hieroglyphics, the language of the ancient Egyptians. The second band was Demotic, a language used by later Egyptians. The third, final, and most important band was written in ancient Greek. The reason that this band was so important was because ancient Greek is still known well by scholars.
A French scholar named Jean Francois Champollion was the first person to decipher the Rosetta stone. Champollion could speak Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldean, and Syrian by the age of fourteen. Champollion started his work deciphering the Rosetta stone when he was eighteen. Even though Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphics, he was never able to work on the original Rosetta stone. He had to work on one of the many replicas made because the original was stolen during the Napoleonic War.
Champollion deciphered the last two lines of Greek and Demotic and saw that they were the same. From that, he realized the message in all three bands had to be the same. Since he knew that all three bands were exactly the same, he was able to decipher the last two lines of hieroglyphics. From only these two lines, he could decipher the whole stone.
Champollion then sent a famous letter with his findings to the French Royal Academy of Inscriptions. He also wrote a few books about the Rosetta stone and hieroglyphics. It took Jean Francois Champollion fourteen years to decipher the Rosetta stone. Champollion died at the age of forty-two.
Another person who helped decipher the Rosetta stone was Thomas Young. Young was a British physicist, physician, and a great Egyptologist. He had a small competition with Jean Francois Champollion on who would decipher the entire Rosetta stone first. Champollion completed the task first.
After thousands of years of being buried in the earth and linking us to ancient Egypt, the Rosetta stone is now preserved in the British Museum in London, England. The museum is famous for having many Egyptian artifacts, but the Rosetta stone is, by far, the most important.