Anniversary Post: Rosetta Stone

Rosetta StoneOn this day in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was rediscovered. It contained more or less the same text in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian script language Demotic, and ancient Greek. It was a big deal, because no one at that time could read hieroglyphs. So it was important in the rediscovery of that language.

Written in 196 BC, it established the cult of the King Ptolemy V for all the world. He was in his ninth year as king — a position he took at the age of five. Apparently, his father died. To avoid any problems, his father’s favorites killed his mother and more or less took control with Ptolemy V as a puppet. But they too were soon murdered. You know how these things go.

The Rosetta Stone was original displayed in a temple to celebrate Ptolemy’s divinity, I assume. It was later used as a building material for Fort Julien, which was built in the 15th century. But in 1799, the French found themselves in control of the fort. Pierre-François Bouchard was an engineer with the French Army, and he was put in charge of rebuilding the fort. Lucky for us that he was. When the stone was found, he immediately saw it for the important artifact that it was. And he saved it.

Eventually Fort Julien was taken by the English in 1800. They took the Rosetta Stone back home and it has been there ever since. Happy anniversary Rosetta Stone!

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Rosetta Stone

  1. I was reminded of the Rosetta Stone years back when I was installing this wierl little video RAM module in a computer I was building. A slot 1 Pentium 2, so this was a while ago. Anyway, the instructions for the thing, which I can’t imagine anyone needed, were printed in probably twenty languages. But probably that could never be of use to archeologists in the far future unless it were made of something more durable than paper. And how much of a language can you decode with just a few paragraphs of text from which to extrapolate?

    • That’s a great observation! I have some books around here that are in five+ languages. They would certainly provide enough content to nail down a language. But I think we create enough metal and stone rosettas today. I think you will see that kind of thing at World’s Fairs and old Olympic areas and even Disneyland. We’re so connected now, how could we not. But I certainly can image a total breakdown in which future generations would wonder what that English language was like.

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