The Rosetta Stone
The discovery of the stone. For many centuries travelers
to Egypt saw on the ruins of ancient
temples, palaces, or tombs, or on the walls, pillars, or
ceilings of old buildings, many inscriptions
which were in the old hieroglyphic or pictorial language
of old Egypt, which no scholar knew
how to read. When Napoleon invaded the land of Egypt in
1798, he took with him scholars who
were assigned the task of investigating the ancient
Egyptian monuments. In 1799 Boussard, his
French engineer who was excavating near Rosetta, at the
mouth of the Nile River, uncovered a
black granite stone 3`9" high, by 2`4 ½" Wide, by 11"
At the top of the rock were 14 lines of the Egyptian
hieroglyphic language seen so often on ruins
of ancient buildings. Below this were 32 lines of another
script, and at the bottom of the stone
were 54 lines in Greek letters. The Greek words were read
and understood, and it was surmised
that the other languages told the same story as did the
Eventually the stone found its way to the British Museum,
and scholars set to work to decipher
the two unknown languages.
Deciphering of the stone. A young Frenchman by the name of
Champollion, using the method of
comparing the known (Greek) with the unknown (Egyptian),
succeeded in the year 1818 in
deciphering the Egyptian languages. The middle writing on
the stone was a cursive type, and was
the vernacular of the common people. The top language was
the picture writing, or hieroglyphic
(sacred) language of Egypt. Following this discovery,
scholars were able to read hundreds and
thousands of old Egyptian inscriptions hitherto a mystery.
Much of the history of ancient Egypt
was suddenly made known to the world.
Ira M. Price, The Monuments and the Old Testament, ed. 1925,
J. A. Hammerton,
ed., The Wonders of the Past, ed. 1937, pp. 250, 251.
George G. Cameron, "Darius Carved History on Ageless Rock,"
The National Geographic
Magazine, Dec. 1950, pp. 825-844.