Maybe you have heard about the ROSETTA SPACE PROBE in the news recently? About the spacecraft that was launched in 2004 by the European Space Agency and which reached the comet near the sun just last month.Or maybe you have seen the advertisement for the Rosetta Language School, helping you to learn any language.
The name is used today to show an essential clue to a new field of knowledge, but it all started with a stele found in 1799 in a small village in the Delta called Rosette (Rashid) by French soldiers who were rebuilding a fort in Egypt.
This stele shows a decree issued in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. It was written in two languages – Egyptian and Greek – using three scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek. The reason it was written in three different scripts was that at time there were three scripts being used in Egypt. The first was hieroglyphic which was the script used for important or religious documents.
The second was demotic, used for the common script of Egypt, and the third was Greek which was the language of the rulers of Egypt at the time. All three texts, with minor differences, say the same thing.
Since its discovery many scholars have tried to decipher the text, but it was Francois Champollion in 1822 who did – being able to read both Greek and Coptic helped him to tell the world what the Ancient Egyptians had to say.
The fate of the Rosetta stone was determined after British troops defeated the French in 1801. When Alexandria capitulated, it was taken to England, where it has been on public display in the British Museum ever since. It is the most visited object in the Museum. Originally it was displayed without any protection, but a sign saying ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ did not keep the fingers of the world off. So in 1847 it was placed in a protective glass case, where it is today and where I saw it. Picture taking is allowed but due to the glass this is the best I could do
More from Egypt soon