Recognizable at a glance and the protagonist of the souvenir shop of the British museum, the Rosetta Stone has a history full of twists and turns. The translation of the texts from him will forever change the knowledge of ancient Egypt. A look back at the history of an iconic archaeological artifact.
It was in 1799 that the stela was discovered in the town of Rosette, or rashid – Egypt. More than a year has passed since the Egyptian military campaign led by General Bonaparte began there. During the work, a certain Pierre-François-Xavier Bouchard noticed this strange black stone and called in mission scientists to try to find out more. It is quickly decreed that the stone may be interesting since it has several texts: one in hieroglyphsone in demotic that comes from a simplification of the hieroglyphic system, and finally a text in ancient Greek.
Also, the dimensions of the stone are far from trivial. Standing over one meter tall and weighing over 760 kilograms, the Rosetta Stone turns out to be incomplete. In fact, it is a fragment of a more imposing work, but the other parts were not discovered at the time of the work. The stone begins its journey being deposited first in the Cairo Institute, founded by Bonaparte, where several scholars and printers work.
The stone of all wishes.
As soon as it was discovered, the stone aroused much greed. French scientists see in it the possibility of better understanding ancient Egyptian writings that had not yet been deciphered at the dawn of the 19th century.me century. And yet, although the French believe they can keep it and take it home to enrich their collections, it is a military event that will change the fate of the stele. In January 1800, the Egypt campaign he shudders and, quickly, all the scholars board the artifacts in Alexandria to take the ship to the Metropolis. Stopped in their escape, the scientists are trapped by the English army who decide to recover all the archaeological objects to send them to London. This is how the Rosetta Stone arrived in England in 1802.
The decryption of texts
The greatest interest of the Rosetta stone lies in its three texts. at the beginning of the XIXme century, we can decipher ancient Greek but not hieroglyphics or demotic. Many orientalists and linguists, thanks to the various copies of the texts, will try to accept the challenge. It was in 1822 when the French Jean Francois Champollion achieved the difficult translation and in 1824 published the Summary of the hieroglyphic system of the ancient Egyptians. His discovery will give birth to Egyptology as a science and will finally shed light on centuries of undeciphered writings. Comparing the Greek text with the other two, Champollion understood that the hieroglyphs were ideograms but that some could also have phonetic value. The text is a royal decree dating from 196 BC. C. known as the “Memphis Decree”.
the Rosetta Stonealways exposed to British museum been the subject of several requests for reimbursement. Will the iconic object ever come home? The future will tell.