Rosetta Stone, c. 196 B.C.E., granite, 114.4 cm x 72.3 x 27.9 cm or 45 x 28.5 x 11 in.
(British Museum, London)
Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
The Professors describe the 3 languages found in the Rosetta Stone:
- The stone said the same thing in 3 different languages…Ancient Greek which is down in the bottom. That was the language of Administration, that was the language of government and the reason for that is because Alexander the Great had conquered Egypt. And had set up a Greek rule in this Hellenistic era.
So the Middle Section is Demotic which actually means the language of the people. And it was this common language used by the Egyptians.
And the top was the secret writing. This was hieroglyphs.
The stele fragment is inscribed, in three languages, with a decree issued by priests in support of the king, Ptolemy V. The top register is written in hieroglyphs, the middle register uses demotic, and the bottom is incised in Greek.
When the stele fragment was found by a Napoleonic soldier in the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in 1799, knowledge of both hieroglyphs and demotic, had been lost. In 1801, the French expedition to Egypt was forced to surrender to British forces and to hand over the antiquities they had collected. The Rosetta stone was put on display in the British Museum the following year.
A full translation of the Greek appeared in 1803 by which time the demotic text was partially translated. By 1822, the French classicist and linguist, Jean-François Champollion, had made significant strides in translating the hieroglyphs, and by 1824, afforded modern scholars the opportunity to read the sacred writing of ancient Egypt.
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