A story full of twists and turns

A story full of twists and turns

Recognizable at a glance and the star of the souvenir shop British Museum, the Rosetta Stone has a history full of twists and turns. The translation of his texts would forever change the knowledge of ancient Egypt. A look back at the history of an iconic archaeological artefact.

The stele was discovered in the town of Rosette in 1799 – or Rashid – in Egypt. It had been more than a year since the Egyptian military campaign led by General Bonaparte had begun there. During the mission, a certain Pierre-François-Xavier Bouchard noticed this strange black stone and summoned the mission’s scientists to try to learn more. It was quickly decreed that the stone would be interesting because it had several threads: one HieroglyphsThe Demotic one, which evolved from a simplification of the hieroglyphic system, was finally a text in ancient Greek.

In addition, the dimensions of the stone are not insignificant. At over a meter tall and weighing 760 kilograms, the Rosetta Stone turns out to be incomplete. In fact, this is a part of the work that is very imposing, but other parts are not discovered during the work. The stone begins its journey by first being placed in the Cairo Institute founded by Bonaparte, where many scholars and printers work.

The stone of all desires

Soon after its discovery, the stone inspired much greed. French scientists see in it an opportunity to better understand the ancient Egyptian writings, which were still not understood at the dawn of the 19th century.e century Yet, while the French thought they could keep it and bring it home to enrich their collection, it was a military event that would change the Stele’s fate. In January 1800, the Egypt campaign Shocked, and quickly, all the scholars take the boat in the direction of Metropolis with the artifacts in Alexandria. Their escape is slowed down and the scientists are trapped by the English army, which decides to send all the archaeological material to London. This is how the Rosetta Stone arrived in England in 1802.

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Decryption of texts

The main interest of the Rosetta stone lies in its three threads. At the beginning of XIXe century, we can understand ancient Greek, but not hieroglyphs or Demotic. Many Orientalists and linguists, thanks to the various copies of the texts, will try to take up the challenge. It was only in 1822 that the French Jean-Francois Chambolion He succeeded in a difficult translation and published it in 1824 Accuracy of the Hieroglyphic System of the Ancient Egyptians. Its discovery would give birth to Egyptology as a science, and shed light on writings that had been misunderstood for centuries. By comparing the Greek text with the other two, Champollion realized that the hieroglyphs were ideograms, but could also have some phonetic value. This text is a royal decree dating back to 196 BC known as the “Edict of Memphis”.

The Rosetta Stone was digitized in 3D

The Rosetta stoneAlways exposed British Museum Subject to multiple refund requests. Will the iconic object return home one day? The future will tell.

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