The Rosetta Stone

The Discovery of 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" thick. 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 Greek. Eventually the stone found its way to the British Museum, and scholars set to work to decipher the two unknown languages.

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Deciphering the Rosetta Stone

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.

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Some Bibliographic Resources for the Rosetta Stone

Ira M. Price, The Monuments and the Old Testament, ed. 1925, pp. 15-17;
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.

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