Monday, January 26, 2015

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone Inscribed with Decree in Three Scripts 

The Rosetta stone is written in three scripts since at the time of writing, there were three scripts being used in Egypt. It is a granodiorite stele which is inscribed with a decree that was issued in 196 BC at Memphis, Egypt on behalf of King Ptolemy V. Presently the Rosetta Stone is 112.3 cm high at its highest point, 75,7 cm wide and 28.4 cm thick weighing approximately around 760 kg. The decree appearing in three scripts has the upper text in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, while the middle is Demotic script and the lowest in Ancient Greek. Since it presents the same text in all three scripts, it gives the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The first script being hieroglyphic, was the script being used in Egypt when it was written while demotic was the common script of Egypt, The third being Greek was the language of the rulers of Egypt during that time. The text was written in three scripts to enable the priest, government officials as well as the rulers of Egypt to read and understand the contents.

Discovered in Small Village – Rosetta - Rashid

The Rosetta stone was found by French soldiers in 1799, who had been rebuilding a fort in Egypt which was in a small village in the Delta known as Rosetta – Rashid and was so called since it was found in the town of Rosetta. The text on Rosetta stone was written by a group of priest in Egypt in honour of the Egyptian pharaoh which lists all the things that the pharaoh had done for the good of the priests as well as for the people of Egypt. Several people had contributed on deciphering hieroglyphs over hundreds of years but the structure of the script was a difficult task to work out. Study of the decree was in progress, as the first full translation of the Greek text appeared in 1803. Thereafter twenty years later, on studying the Rosetta stone together with other examples of ancient Egyptian writing, it was Jean-Francois Champollion who deciphered hieroglyphs in 1822 in Paris.

The Stone a Focus of Rivalry among Nations

Champollion was capable of reading both Greek and Coptic and could figure out what the seven demotic signs in Coptic meant. By observing how these signs were used in Coptic he could work out what they stood for and thus he began tracing these demotic signs back to hieroglyphic signs. On working out what some of the hieroglyphs meant, he managed to make educated conclusions about what the other hieroglyphs meant. Since its rediscovery, the stone was the focus of rivalry among the nations which included its transfer from French to British possession during the Napoleonic Wars. The Rosetta Stone is on display in the British Museum since 1802 with only one break. When the Museum was in danger of heavy bombing in London towards the end of the First World War, in 1917, it was moved to safety with other portable important objects. The Rosetta Stone then spent the next two years on the Postal Tube Railway station, some 50 feet below the ground at Holborn.

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