The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was a key archaeological find of the late 18th century which led to the opening up of the lost treasures of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. This may be odd to hear but before 1799, when the stone was found, understanding of the 5000 year old civilisation, its culture, heritage and traditions, was thought to be lost. The secrets hidden within this slab of rock were not immediately understood but they were recognised by the French army led by Napoleon when they accidentally discovered it in 1799 in Egypt.

It is interesting to note that the stone itself did not contain any great wisdom that led to the unlocking of ancient secrets. In fact, it was an official message or decree about the then ruler Ptolemy V written in three different languages or scripts. The first script was written in hieroglyphics, then demotic (the everyday language for native Egyptians) and ancient Greek (the language of the rulers). This was done to allow all peoples, from priests to generals to the public to be able to read the text. As the texts all said the same thing, the Rosetta Stone became the major clue to help us decipher the ancient language of hieroglyphics. The ability to read ancient Greek, unlike hieroglyphs was not lost and served as a starting point to crack the code. It was largely the work of two gentlemen, Thomas Young and Francois Champollion who brought the hidden language to light with the latter being named the ‘father of Egyptology’ and marking the beginning of a new age of scientific discovery.

In the years since, there have been other such clues that have been discovered in Egypt which all related to the ancient civilisation which once stood there. However, the vast riches and wonders of this past world as found in pyramids, tombs, obelisks and other artifacts could not have been put together without the discovery of this rather exceptional stone.