photo geoff clements
The Rosetta Stone is the object that is most frequently looked at by visitors to the British Museum. It was found in 1799 by a French soldier as part of a wall in the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile delta. Its importance was immediately recognised. (Virtually) The same text is written in three different sets of symbols: from above Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script and Ancient Greek, but they are incomplete as the stone was found broken. Much of the upper part of the stone with the hieroglyphs is missing. It is a decree by Ptolemy V in 196 BP and the stone had originally been placed in a temple. At the time of the discovery of the stone ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were undeciphered so it was of immense importance. There is still controversy about the deciphering of the stone’s message by Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion, a very difficult process which took twenty years to establish a basic understanding. Foreign names were written phonetically in both the Demotic script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs, providing an important key to the transliteration. It has taken much longer to learn to understand Egyptian hieroglyphs more completely. The use of Egyptian hieroglyphs had ceased and their understanding forgotten after the banning of non-Christian cults by Emperor Theodosius I in 391. This understanding has allowed a study of Egyptian life and history.
The term ‘Rosetta Stone’ is used to describe a bit of information that is the key to solving a problem.
Egypt has issued a request for the return of the Rosetta Stone.