The Rosetta Stone was one of the most important and major advances that we have seen in language in our history. During Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaign in Egypt, a small slab of black basalt was found near Rosetta, a town about 35 miles north of the great city of Alexandria. The slab, which was found by a French soldier, contained passages that were written in three different scripts, but all said the same thing.
Archaeologists determined that it was written by priests in honor of Ptolemy V, the king of Egypt sometime around the 200 B.C. One of the scripts was written in Greek, which was the script that stated that all three passages were the same. The other two were Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. This was the major importance of the Rosetta Stone. It held the key to figuring out what Egyptian hieroglyphics were saying and the meaning behind the written language that was reported as dead for almost 2,000 years. This would help mankind learn more about where we originated from.
Napoleon, who was French, invaded Egypt in 1798 and brought with him a handful of very intelligent scholars. The meaning behind this was because he was very well-known for his interest in education, art and culture. His goal was to save any important artifacts that can be seen as highly cultural, that way it can be saved for France. One of Napoleon’s soldiers, Pierre Bouchard, knew of his goals in Egypt and kept that in mind when he stumbled upon what would later be known as the Rosetta Stone. The stone was almost two and a half feet wide and four feet long. The stone was handed over to the British once they took over Napoleon three years later.
Once the stone was found, many scholars and archaeologists lined up to take a look and take a stab at fully understanding it. Thomas Young, an Englishman, first made good progress with his analysis. However, it wasn’t until Jean-Francois Champollion combined his knowledge of Greek with his knowledge of ancient languages that the code was finally deciphered. This was a huge leap for man finally understanding the history and culture of Egypt.
Hieroglyphics are pictures that represented certain sounds, objects and groups of sounds, which created a written language for Egyptians. Now that we understood Hieroglyphics, we could start to decode everything outside of the Rosetta Stone and really translate their language and culture like we’ve never been able to before.
Since 1802, with the Rosetta Stone in British control, it has been housed at the British Museum in London. However, there was a brief period in the middle of World War I that the stone was kept underground secretly to protect it from being stolen, lost or destroyed by bombs, etc.
The Rosetta Stone has been one of the most interesting and important finds that our history has ever seen and has helped us advance in understanding language from around the world. It’s even caught the name of a language-learning software now-a-days.