On July 15, 1799, some French soldiers were digging near the coastal city of
Napoleon failed to take control of Egyptian society. He abandoned his army in
The Rosetta Stone is a piece of granite which is 45 inches high, 29 inches wide, and 11 inches thick (114 x 72 x 28 cm). It weighs about 1700 pounds (750 kg). It is actually the surviving piece of an even larger stone.
On it was a single text inscribed in 196 BC. But this same text was written three times, in two different languages, using three different types of writing. The language of the first text was ancient Egyptian and was written in hieroglyphs. The language of the second text was also ancient Egyptian but was written using Demotic letters. The language and letters of the third text were ancient Greek.
Excitement in the Rosetta Stone was great from the moment of its discovery. In 1799, no one on earth could figure out the meaning of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. No one could read any of the thousands of words written in hieroglyphs on stone, clay, and papyrus. The meaning of ancient Egyptian culture remained a frustrating mystery. But scholars knew how to read ancient Greek. The great hope was that the ancient Greek text on the Stone could be used to rediscover, at last, the meaning of the hieroglyphs.
Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) did the most significant work on rediscovering the meaning of hieroglyphs. In September 1822 he presented his own eight-page dictionary of hieroglyphs to a public meeting of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in
The Rosetta Stone remains on public display at the
Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.