The Rosetta Stone Essay

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The Rosetta Stone

In 1799, when Napoleon’s army was dismantling a wall in Rashid, Egypt, they discovered the Rosetta Stone. Little did they know that this 11-inch thick piece of rock would be one of the greatest discoveries in history! It contained Egyptian scripture, with Greek also on the stone. This was used to decode the once lost Egyptian writing system. Before the 1800’s, attempts at trying to uncover the secrets held by the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics found on walls inside numerous tombs were useless. The pictures were falsely believed to be symbolic, representing some sort of object or idea. Something soon changed all of this misconception. 1799 was the year of a great breakthrough in Egyptology. French troops, under
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Another man who devoted many years of his life to studying the stone was Jean-Francois Champollion. After many years of perseverance, Champollion finally translated the stone in 1822. He accomplished this feat by first recognizing that hieroglyphs were not symbols, but instead were associated with phonetics, as Thomas Young had proved. (Andrews 166) His first major breakthrough in his studies was in 1808, when he resolved those fifteen signs of the demotic script related with alphabetic letters from the Coptic language. From this he concluded that Coptic language must be based on the remnants of the last of the ancient Egyptian language, and written with the Greek alphabet, which is why it was readable to Champollion and other scholars researching the stone. Also, that the hieroglyphic text was a translation of the Greek, not the reverse, as had been previously believed. By 1818, Champollion had successfully concluded that though some signs were basically ideograms, many of the glyphs had phonetic value, meaning the ancient Egyptian script was at least partially alphabetic. (Giblin 83) He came to this conclusion after referring back to three other different forms of Egyptian writing and also using Coptic as a reference. Recognizing the name 'Ptolemy' and 'Cleopatra' in the Greek and demotic sections of the stone allowed him to identify those same names in hieroglyphics. Still wondering, he didn't think that hieroglyphs were…