Said to have been created in Ancient Egypt, the Rosetta Stone is arguably one of the single greatest discoveries from the Ancient Egyptian civilisation. This artefact, a stone “bearing inscriptions in several languages and scripts”, played a key role in deciphering the ancient Egyptian script known as hieroglyphics, the understanding of which had so long eluded historians.
The Rosetta Stone was said to have been found accidentally by the French who were at the time under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. However, after the defeat of the French by the British in 1801, the Rosetta Stone remained in safe hands as the responsibility of the stone fell under the purview of the British under the “terms” of the “Treaty of Alexandria”.
The stone, made of the material granitoid, refers to a part of a decree, ordered by Ptolemy V, an Egyptian ruler along with his council of priests on the first anniversary of his coronation. The stone was considered a mark of his magnanimity and religiousness. It is said the stone was initially put on display in a temple, before it was relocated centuries later, during the construction of a fort taking place in the city of Rosetta. It was several years later that the Rosetta Stone was excavated from this very location.
The stone is said to have three different scripts inscribed on it- hieroglyphics, an ancient Egyptian script which was commonly used by the upper class/priests, Demotic, which was the language of common use in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greek.
Yet, post the 4th century, the use of hieroglyphics grew obsolete, and became a mystery to scholars who later attempted to study it. A British scientist named Thomas Young began his study on the Rosetta Stone, in 1814, suspecting that the text contained phonetic spellings of people along with symbols to depict an event. It was later confirmed by the French linguist Jean-Francois Champollion, who deciphered the puzzle of the stone, that the stone did not only contain “symbolic picture writing” but also “ideographic text” to describe the event. Today, Champollion is hailed as “the father of Egyptology”.
Today, this historic stone has been preserved and is currently in the possession of the British Museum in England. It remains, to this day a valued artefact to historians and enthusiasts alike that has given us a deep insight into the Egyptian Civilisation and what life was like several millennia ago.