The Rosetta Stone is one of the most popular objects on display in the British Museum. It was discovered 218 years ago by a French military squad building a fort on the Rashid (formerly Rosetta) city on the Nile Delta in Egypt. It was written in ancient Egyptian and Greek alphabets. It is also said that there were three ancient languages were used to write on this stone. They were Egyptian morphemes, Demotic letters, and ancient Greek letters used by the Egyptians in the 7th and 5th centuries BC.

 Rosetta stone at the British Museum
Picture: Rosetta stone at the British Museum

The ancient Egyptian alphabet adorning the tombs and pyramids may be still a mystery. If it wasn’t for that Rosetta stone. Here is a letter bit of knowledge about the Rosetta stone which paved the way to read the Egyptian morphology.

The Revealed secret because of the three alphabets

When the Rosetta Stone was discovered, the ancient Egyptian alphabet reading pattern was revealed. The Rosetta Stone, was easy to read because it had the same text in all three languages, Demotic and Egyptian morphemes. A reading of the Rosetta stone revealed that it was written during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy the fifth in 196 BC. Archaeologists who have read and understood this stone have been able to uncover many facts about Egyptian history buried in papyrus and morphology. This added several new chapters to world history.

Ancient Egyptian morphology
Picture: Ancient Egyptian morphology

The Rosetta Stone, now in the British Museum, was taken thereafter the French surrendered to the Ottomans. As a result, there is a marking on the left side of the stone saying it was “captured by British troops in Egypt in 1801”. Also, there is a marking saying “gifted by King George III” in the left corner. Egypt has also requested that the stone be returned.

What exactly is Rosette stone?

At 44 inches high, it measures 30 inches wide and weighs 762 kilograms. The roughness of the back suggests that it may have been fixed somewhere. It is made of black granite found in the city of Aswan. It was further concluded that the granite which is used to make the stone was found in a mine south of the city of Aswan during the reign of Ptolemy.

A replica of the Rosetta stone in the British Museum Library
Picture: A replica of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum Library

According to John Ray, a professor of Egyptian science at the University of Cambridge, the Rosetta stone depicts a joint statement made by the King and the Egyptian Priesthood. It is stated that the clergy agreed to acknowledge King Ptolemy as Pharaoh and to declare him a god on the condition that the temples and priests not be taxed by the priesthood. It was also mentioned that this should be written in sacred letters, script letters and, Greek letters and, should be placed near the statue of the King in the temples all around.

Demotic letters written on papyrus
Picture: Demotic letters written on papyrus

The sacred letters here are the Egyptian Morphology. It has been in use for nearly three millennia and was only used by a group of expert priests by 196 BC. Demotic letters were widely used among the common people. During the reign of King Ptolemy, the Greek language also came into use and became widely used. This is because Ptolemy was a descendant of a general of Alexander the Great of Greece.

Is it part of a huge stone pillar?

Although found in the city of Rashid, the Rosetta Stone is recognized as a piece of a stone pillar in a temple erected near the ancient Egyptian Chais. Archaeologists estimate that it was about 58 inches high and that the upper part was decorated with images of the king and gods. Two-thirds of the morphology remains, and it is gratifying to note that a considerable number of Greek and demotic letters also remain in the stone.

Attempts to read the Rosetta stone
Picture: Attempts to read the Rosetta stone

The city of Rashid near the sea was not located at the time of the formation of the Rosetta stone, so it was concluded that it was created in another city and later brought to Rashid after its collapse.

Young and Champollion read the Rosetta Stone

Thomas Young and Joshua Champollion the Frenchman, have the honor of reading the Rosetta Stone in the 19th century when Egyptian morphology was completely absent.

At the time of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, Young was a multifaceted scholar who holds patents for many discoveries in the fields of mechanics, optics, phonology, physics, acoustics, and nautical sciences. The young Champollion, an Egyptian scientist, was trying to make a name for himself in the field.

 Thomas Young
Picture: Thomas Young

Young’s focus was on reading demotic letters. By that time, scientists knew that demotic language was being used to express sounds and letters. Their view was that symbols are represented by Egyptian morphology. However, the discovery of the word “Ptolemy” allowed Young to conclude that Egyptian morphemes represented letters and sounds. In 1819, Young compiled an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica, which provided guidance on the Egyptian alphabet and how to read it.

François Champollion
Picture: François Champollion

Joshua Champollion, who was interested in Young’s findings, continued to study morphology and found that Young was not entirely accurate. Accordingly, he pointed out that morphology represents not only letters and sounds but also sometimes words. He also discovered that Rosetta’s writings were not written in Egyptian and translated into Greek but translated from Greek into Egyptian. His discovery played a major role in the process of recovering the history buried by reading Egyptian morphology.


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